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Classical Composers A-Z: Ruggiero Leoncavalla

Peter Wintersgill introduces us to Ruggiero Leoncavalla, composer and librettist of the famous opera Pagliacci.

23rd April, 1857, in Naples

Graduated in literature from Bologna University and later in music from Naples Conservatory in 1876. The same year he wrote his first opera, Chatterton, but it was never performed.

Adult Life
Planned a trilogy about the Renaissance, but only wrote the first part, I Medici (1893). He was his own librettist for all his operas, including Pagliacci (1892), which was his only real success. He became a celebrity overnight. It is usually staged as a double act with Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana – ‘Cav and Pag’.

His next opera was La Boheme (1897), but Puccini’s version pipped him to the post and overshadowed his altogether. Zaza (1900) is never heard now.

He was one of the first composers to use gramophone records. At least one of his featured Caruso.

He died 9th, August, 1919, aged 62 in Montecatani.


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