There is one opera that is synonymous with the Verismo style popular in Italy during the late 19th and early 20th centuries - Leoncavallo's I Pagliacci.
This sordid little tale of love, betrayal and murder within a troupe of travelling players has been a popular draw card for opera companies ever since it first premiered on this day at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan, 1892. Of course it's usually paired with the equally famous Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni.
Of the many tenors who have sang Canio, the murderous clown, I would have to say that for me, only one truly captures Canio's mania, Mario Del Monaco.
His two studio recordings for Decca, the first from 1952 (pictured right), the second recorded in 1959 still stand the test of time in their sheer strength and when called for it, brutality.
The first recording was also remarkable in that the first issue had the Prologue Si Puo? Si Puo? recorded by Del Monaco instead of the usual convention of it being sung by Tonio. You can listen to it above, interestingly enough, sung in the original key without transposition.
Of course, one couldn't pay tribute to Pagliacci without one of the great Canio's sing his most famous aria, Recitar...Vesti la giubba. The film below was captured in Tokyo in 1961 and show Mario Del Monaco at his most riveting. Enjoy this slice of Verismo nostalgia.
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