Ruggero Leoncavallo

  • Born: (Naples, Kingdom of the Two Sicilies [now Naples, Campania, Italy])
  • Died: (Montecatini Terme, Pistoia, Tuscany, Italy) age 62

Ruggero Giacomo Maria Giuseppe Emmanuele Raffaele Domenico Vincenzo Francesco Donato Federico Gesù Leoncavallo was an Italian composer, author of operas and operettas.

In 1873 the father was transferred to Potenza immediately after the death of his mother, Virginia. In the meantime, Ruggero studied piano at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella in Naples under the guidance of Beniamino Cesi, and went to Potenza during the summer with his brother Leone, where he worked giving piano lessons to the local children.

Later he moved to Bologna, where he got to know Richard Wagner, who in December 1876 had arrived in the city for the representation of Rienzi and of which Leoncavallo was an admirer, and the young Giovanni Pascoli [5]. He began to work on a project he called Crepusculum (a reference to the Wagnerian Il crepuscolo degli dei), conceived as a trilogy inspired by the Renaissance, but soon abandoned it in favor of Chatterton, a work of romantic subject of which he wrote music and libretto in a few months, but that was not represented for several years because the impresario who was to stage it did not keep his commitment.

In the wake of the great success reported in 1890 by Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana, Leoncavallo composed a realist work destined for great luck, Pagliacci. He wrote his words and music in five months and presented it to Ricordi, who however was not convinced; he then presented the libretto to Edoardo Sonzogno, who purchased the ownership of the work before he even saw the score. It was performed for the first time on May 21, 1892 at the Dal Verme Theater in Milan, under the direction of Arturo Toscanini and enjoyed immediate success and it is, perhaps, the only creation of Leoncavallo that has never left the great lyric repertoire. His most famous aria, Vesti la giubba, recorded by Enrico Caruso, was the first album in the world to touch the million copies sold.

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