YMMV / Pagliacci


  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The closing line ("The comedy is finished!") was originally written for Tonio, but was later given to Canio. (It's been performed both ways, with something of a Broken Base among opera fans.) Depending who says the line makes a big difference to the interpretation of both characters. If Canio says it, his message becomes "I'm through playing these Sad Clown theatrical games, this is reality." If Tonio says it, he's revealing himself as the Manipulative Bastard who got everything in the show to work out the way he wanted (and forms a Framing Device with his opening monologue).
    • For that matter, how do we parse the line itself? It's meant to be spoken (or shouted), not sung, so the staging makes many different interpretations possible. "The comedy is finished" could signify "...And now we have to live with this tragedy," or "I've had a psychotic break and can't tell between the stage and real life," or "I've done everything I needed to do for my revenge," or even just "That's our show, ladies and gentlemen..."
  • Awesome Music: It's an opera, so there are many great numbers. "Vesti La Guibba" stands out in particular.
  • Broken Base: Should the last line be given to Canio, as traditionally staged, keeping the focus on the main character? Or should it be given to Tonio, as originally written, forming a Framing Device and emphasizing just how badly Tonio screwed everybody over? It's been staged both ways, with various degrees of effectiveness.
  • First Installment Wins: This is the first opera produced by Leoncavello. It's also the only one that most people will actually witness a live performance of.
  • I Am Not Shazam: The character who sings "Vesti la giubba" is not named "Pagliacci." His real name is Canio and the clown character he plays is named Pagliaccio ("clown"). "Pagliacci" is the plural of "pagliaccio," meaning "clowns," and refers to all the principle characters. Nor does Canio sing "Vesti la giubba" wearing his clown costume that would be his second, lesser-known aria "No! Pagliaccio non son!" which he sings when he snaps during the Show Within a Show in Act II.
  • Magnificent Bastard: Tonio - the closing line was originally given to him, rather than Canio, as he had been the one to engineer the fall of all three of his rivals (Canio for general mistreatment, Nedda for rejecting his advances, and Silvio for being Nedda's preference) without ever getting his own hands dirty.
  • One-Hit Wonder: Leoncavallo composed other pieces, but hardly anyone has ever heard of them. (One of them is a setting of La Bohème, which got good reviews but was Overshadowed by Awesome with Giacomo Puccini's more famous version.) Pagliacci, on the other hand, is one of the most widely performed operas in the repertoire.
  • Title Confusion: The opera is not titled I Pagliacci, just Pagliacci. (i.e. in English, not "The Clowns," just "Clowns.") To confuse matters further, in the original draft it was titled Il pagliaccio (The Clown), but the actor for Tonio persuaded the composer to change the title to the plural to indicate the dramatic interest covered more than one role.


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