Sad Clown Opera

Sad clown opera pagliacci

A 7-foot clown walks into a bar. He motions for a soda water and sits there staring at his drink. The year was 1998 and Puddles had wandered into the Star Community Bar in Atlanta, GA where bartender Big Mike Geier first laid eyes on the sad, silent clown. “There was a heaviness about him,” says Geier.

The sad clown opera pagliacci
  • Commedia dell'arte (UK: / k ɒ ˈ m eɪ d i ə d ɛ l ˈ ɑːr t eɪ /, US: / k ə ˈ.t i,-ˈ m ɛ d-/, Italian: komˈmɛːdja delˈlarte; meaning 'comedy of the profession') was an early form of professional theatre, originating from Italy, that was popular in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century.
  • Pagliacci (Italian pronunciation: paʎˈʎattʃi; literal translation, 'Clowns') is an Italian opera in a prologue and two acts, with music and libretto by Ruggero Leoncavallo. It is the composer's only opera that is still widely performed.
Performed by Enrico Caruso, recorded on March 17, 1907
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'Vesti la giubba' ([ˈvɛs.ti la ˈdʒ], 'Put on the costume', often referred to as 'On With the Motley', from the original 1893 translation by Frederic Edward Weatherly) is a famous tenoraria from Ruggero Leoncavallo's 1892 operaPagliacci. 'Vesti la giubba' is sung at the conclusion of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife's infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because 'the show must go on'.

The aria is often regarded as one of the most moving in the operatic repertoire of the time. The pain of Canio is portrayed in the aria and exemplifies the entire notion of the 'tragic clown': smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. This is still displayed today, as the clown motif often features the painted-on tear running down the cheek of the performer.

Sad Clown OperaSad Clown Opera

Enrico Caruso's recordings of the aria, from 1902, 1904 and 1907, were among the top selling records of the 78-rpm era and reached over a million sales.[1][2]

This aria is often used in popular culture, and has been featured in many renditions, mentions, and spoofs.


Caruso sings 'Vesti la giubba'

Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,
non so più quel che dico,
e quel che faccio!
Eppur è d'uopo, sforzati!
Bah! Sei tu forse un uom?
Tu se' Pagliaccio!
Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.
E se Arlecchin t'invola Colombina,
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto
in una smorfia il singhiozzo e 'l dolor, Ah!
Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor![3]

Act! While in delirium,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it's necessary. Force yourself!
Bah! Are you even a man?
You are a clown!
Put on your costume and powder your face.
The people are paying, and they want to laugh here.
And if Harlequin steals away your Columbina,
laugh, clown, and all will applaud!
Turn your distress and tears into jokes,
your pain and sobs into a smirk, Ah!
Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

In popular culture[edit]

  • Both the melody of the aria and dramatic points of the opera from which it comes are referenced by Homer and Jethro in the 1953 Spike Jones song 'Pal Yat Chee' on RCA Victor[4]
  • The melody is set to lyrics about Kellogg's Rice Krispies breakfast cereal in an American television commercial for that product, circa 1970.[5][6]
  • The melody of the song was used by the rock band Queen in their 1984single 'It's a Hard Life' when frontmanFreddie Mercury sang that song's opening lyrics 'I don't want my freedom, there's no reason for living with a broken heart.'[7]
  • The opera is performed in The Simpsons episode 'The Italian Bob' (2005) in which Sideshow Bob sings the final verse of the aria.[8]
  • Verses from the aria are used in both Italian and English in the song 'A Metaphor for the Dead' by the metal band Anaal Nathrakh on their 2012 album Vanitas.[9]

Sad Clown Opera



  1. ^The New Guinness Book of Records, ed. Peter Matthews, Guinness Publishing. 1995. p. 150
  2. ^Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 9. ISBN0-214-20512-6.
  3. ^Ruggero Leoncavallo (1892). Pagliacci – Dramma in un atto. Milan: Edoardo Sonzogno. p. 28.
  4. ^Young, Jordan R. (1984). Spike Jones and His City Slickers: An Illustrated Biography, p. 83. Quote: 'Pal-Yat-Chee' (recorded in 1950 but issued three years later) gave Homer and Jethro an unparalleled vehicle for their homespun humor, and a massive target – 'a fat guy in a clown suit'. Disharmony Books. ISBN0940410737
  5. ^'A wuv affair with arias' by Diane Haithman, Los Angeles Times, 4 December 2005
  6. ^'Rice Krispies Opera' on YouTube
  7. ^'Classical music that inspired pop songs', Classic FM (UK), undated
  8. ^'You think you don't know opera? Here are 19 ways you’re wrong (at least about Pagliacci)' by Helen Schwab, The Charlotte Observer via Opera Carolina, 31 March 2016
  9. ^Fagnani, Gabriele (2012). 'Recensione: Anaal Nathrakh – Vanitas'. Retrieved 24 June 2017 (in Italian).

External links[edit]

Pagliacci Opera

  • Pagliacci, 'Vesti la giubba': Scores at the International Music Score Library Project

Sad Clown Opera Singer

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