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Ruggero Leoncavallo

Composer

Biography

Italian composer and librettist Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857–1919) is best known today for his one-act verismo masterpiece Pagliacci, for which he also wrote the libretto.

Leoncavallo was born in Naples and began studying at the conservatory there in 1866. In the late 1870s he wrote both music and libretto for his first opera Chatterton (first performed 1896). Around that time he moved to Egypt, but on the outbreak of the Anglo-Egyptian War in 1882 he moved to Marseilles and then to Paris, where he worked as a pianist in café-concerts. He found some success with the symphonic poem La Nuit de mai, and was also commissioned by Ricordi to write a planned trilogy Crepusculum (of which only the first part, I Medici, was completed). After the success of Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana he was inspired to write Pagliacci, which was a triumph on its 1892 premiere and led to stagings of Chatterton and I Medici. His La bohème in 1897 was overshadowed by the success of Puccini’s version the previous year. His last major success was Zazà in 1900. Around this time he was increasingly popular in Germany, leading to 1904’s Der Roland von Berlin. He was an early supporter of recording, and that year composed the song Mattinata for Enrico Caruso and the G&T Company. Towards the end of his life he turned increasingly towards operetta, starting with La Jeunesse de Figaro (1906, New York). His later operas included Goffredo Mameli (1916) and the incomplete Edipo re (1920).

Pagliacci was paired with Mascagni’s Cavallaria rusticana soon after its premiere and together they are probably the most enduringly popular operas of the verismo movement.

Videos

News and features

A three-course meal: Puccini’s <em>Il trittico</em> and the tradition of piecing short operas together

A three-course meal: Puccini’s Il trittico and the tradition of piecing short operas together

19 February 2016

Like a collection of short stories or the B-movies of the 1940s and 50s, grouping operas together allows us to appreciate their contrasts.

Recommended Recordings: <em>Cavalleria rusticana</em> / <em>Pagliacci</em>

Recommended Recordings: Cavalleria rusticana / Pagliacci

10 December 2015

With so many DVD, Blu-Ray and CD recordings of Mascagni and Leoncavallo's operas on offer, how do you choose between them?

A happy marriage despite a fiery courtship: <em>Cavalleria rusticana</em> and <em>Pagliacci</em>

A happy marriage despite a fiery courtship: Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci

2 December 2015

Fierce competition may have fuelled the composition of these two operas, but together they now make one of opera’s most popular couplings.

Photos

Production photo of Cavalleria rusticana

Production photo of Cavalleria rusticana

Dimitri Platanias as Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda and Dionysios Sourbis as Silvio in Cavalleria rusticana

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza and Dimitri Platanias as Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Turrido in Cavalleria rusticana

Elena Zilio as Mama Lucia in Cavalleria rusticana

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda and Dionysios Sourbis as Silvio in Pagliacci

Dimitri Platanias as Tonio, Aleksandrks Antonenko as Canio and Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Canio in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda, Aleksandrs Antonenko as Canio and Dimitri Platanias as Tonio in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda, Dionysios Sourbis as Silvio and Dimitri Platanias as Tonio in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda and Dimitri Platanias as Tonio in Pagliacci

Ruggero Leoncavallo

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana

Production photo of Pagliacci

Dimitri Platanias as Tonio, Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda, Aleksandrs Antonenko as Canio and Benjamin Hulett as Beppe in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda in Pagliacci

Pietro Mascagni and Ruggero Leoncavallo

Elena Zilio as Mama Lucia and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana

Production photo of Cavalleria rusticana

Martina Belli as Lola and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Turridu in Cavalleria rusticana

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana

Elena Zilio as Mama Lucia and Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana

Production photo of Cavalleria rusticana

Dionysios Sourbis as Silvio in Cavalleria rusticana

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda and Dionysios Sourbis as Silvio in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda, Aleksandrs Antonenko as Canio and Benjamin Hulett as Beppe in Pagliacci

Aleksandrs Antonenko as Canio and Dimitri Platanias as Tonio in Pagliacci

Carmen Giannattasio as Nedda and Dionysios Sourbis as Silvio in Pagliacci

Production photo of Cavalleria rusticana

Elena Zilio as Mama Lucia in Cavalleria rusticana

Elena Zilio as Mama Lucia and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Turridu in Cavalleria rusticana

Dimitri Platanias as Alfio in Cavalleria rusticana

Eva-Maria Westbroek as Santuzza and Aleksandrs Antonenko as Turrido in Cavalleria rusticana