Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Leoncavallo
LABELS: EMI Réferences
WORKS: Pagliacci
PERFORMER: Jussi Björling, Victoria de los Angeles, Leonard Warren, Robert Merrill Columbus Boy Choir, Robert Shaw Chorale, RCA Victor Orchestra/Renato Cellini
CATALOGUE NO: CDH 5 66778 2ADD mono Reissue (1953)
The new Pagliacci from Chandos is one of its ‘Opera in English’ series, conducted, stylishly and authoritatively as always, by David Parry. It gets off to a good start with Alan Opie’s robust Prologue, though some may find that Edmund Tracey’s translation is at times somewhat too informal. Rosa Mannion is a plausible Nedda, at her best in the dramatic Act II, and William Dazeley makes the most of Silvio. ‘Put on your costume’ is a tame substitution for ‘On with the motley’, but Dennis O’Neill’s intensity of feeling triumphs in the famous aria, and in Canio’s outburst in the finale. The words are clearly enunciated by all in this fine performance.


For those who prefer Pagliacci to The Touring Company (Edmund Tracey’s title), there are two reissues. EMI’s 1953 recording, excitingly conducted by Renato Cellini, scrubs up well in this new remastering. There can be few more stylish or mellifluous Canios on disc than Jussi Björling, who brings a sense of foreboding to the role from his first entrance which is unique. Victoria de los Angeles sings beautifully as Nedda, and the American baritones Warren and Merrill are first rate as Tonio and Silvio.


Muti’s version, dating from 1980, comes as part of a Cav-and-Pag package. If one wants both operas, this is well worth considering. José Carreras is a most moving Canio, Renata Scotto a seductive Nedda and Thomas Allen a striking Silvio. Only Kari Nurmela as Tonio is disappointingly stolid. Muti eliminates all unwritten high notes, and reverts to Leoncavallo’s original ending in which the last line is given not to Canio but to Tonio. Charles Osborne