Accessibility links


Sign In

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Pagliacci. It was last on stage 29 November 2017—13 January 2018 as part of the Autumn 2017/18 season.

The Story

Tonio loves Nedda, wife of Canio, who leads their acting troupe. Nedda rejects Tonio, and in revenge he alerts Canio to Nedda’s affair with local boy Silvio – though Silvio escapes before Canio can identify him.

Read more… (Contains spoilers)


Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (The Players), as with Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana, came about as a commission from the music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno. Like its predecessor, Pagliacci was a 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 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 play is ended. 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’, Nedda’s ‘Stridono lassù’ and Canio’s ‘Vesti la giubba’.

News and features

  1. Why film directors love Italian opera

    28 November 2017

    It’s often said that a good film score is one you don’t directly notice, but in Raging Bull and The Godfather, the music is front and centre.