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11 April—2 May 2020
Main Stage

Damiano Michieletto’s Olivier Award-winning production sets Leoncavallo’s thrilling opera of a violent jealousy in contemporary Sicily.

When to see it

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’.

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