Locked in my room, I recite the characters’ parts passionately and study my voice: its inflections, the tempo and pauses, in short the emphasis a man uses when he’s at the mercy of his passions. I then identify the right tempo and melody in order to allow the singers to express those passions by the means of harmony. I put the ideas on paper, try them on the harpsichord. When I feel the same emotion I wanted to express I judge I have succeeded; if I don’t, I look again for inspiration until I feel I’ve achieved my goal”.
Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci is a opera of tremendous energy and impetus, up to the final scene, one of the most gripping of Italian opera. The aria”Vesti la giubba” “put on your costume” is one of the best-renowned tenor arias of the whole repertoire. It is in fact both an expressive and a vocal test for any lyric tenor.
The protagonists of romantic operas live love differently than those of the eighteenth-century repertoire. For them love is a complete emotional enrapture. They share this incontrollable passion with a public who generally has a more ordinary life and now, through this new music drama, can experience a total emotional involvement.
La Serva Padrona, composed on a libretto by Gennaro Antonio Federico in 1733, is an intermezzo divided into two interludes. It was originally designed to be performed between the acts of the opera seria Il prigioniero superbo by Pergolesi himself, staged at the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples on the occasion of the birthday of the empress Elisabeth Christine of Brunswick, wife of the emperor Charles VI and mother of the empress Marie Therese of Augsburg. That very same libretto had been used by almost every composer in Naples and therefore was already popular in a number of successful versions. The definition of believable characters and the solid realism of the short story, revolving almost entirely around the characters’ psychology made of the libretto a success. Pergolesi’s genius turned it into a masterpiece.