Accessibility links


Sign In

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Pagliacci. It was last on stage 3 December 2015—1 January 2016.

The Story

The hunchback clown Tonio loves Nedda, wife of Canio, who leads their acting troupe. Nedda rejects Tonio, and in revenge he brings Canio to spy on Nedda with her lover Silvio – though Silvio escapes before Canio can identify him.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, like Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, came about as a commission from the music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno. After the fantastic success of Cavalleria rusticana at its premiere in 1890, Sonzogno was looking for more material of a similar kind. He saw the potential in Leoncavallo and commissioned Pagliacci, which the young composer had in part based on a true story. The opera was another huge success on its premiere on 21 May 1892. Damiano Michieletto’s Olivier Award-winning production for The Royal Opera updates both works to southern Italy in the late 20th century, to a village in the grip of poverty and hypocrisy, where strong passions lurk in the dark.

Right from its spoken prologue, Pagliacci overtly plays with our ideas of what is real and what is not. The culmination is a brilliant finale, in which we watch the onstage audience slowly understand that a tragedy is unfurling before them: ‘La commedia è finita’. The opera’s blistering mix of seedy realism and theatrical drama has made it a key part of the Italian operatic repertory; its many musical highlights include Tonio’s ‘Un nido di memorie’ and Canio’s ‘Vesti la giubba’.

News and features