Ruggiero Giacomo Maria Giuseppe Emmanuele Raffaele Domenico Vincenzo Francesco Donato Leoncavallo (23 April 1857, Naples, Italy – 9 August 1919, Montecatini Terme, Tuscany) was an Italian opera composer. His two-act work Pagliacci remains one of the most popular works in the repertory, appearing as number 19 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide in the 2012/13 season.
The son of a judge, Leoncavallo was born in Naples on 23 April 1857. As child he moved with his father in the town of Montalto Uffugo in Calabria where Leoncavallo lived during his adolescence. He later returned to Naples and was educated at the city's San Pietro a Majella Conservatory. After some years spent teaching and in ineffective attempts to obtain the production of more than one opera, he saw the enormous success of Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana in 1890, and he wasted no time in producing his own verismo hit, Pagliacci. Pagliacci was performed in Milan in 1892 with immediate success; today it is the only work by Leoncavallo in the standard operatic repertory.
The next year his I Medici was also produced in Milan, but neither it nor Chatterton (belatedly produced in 1896)—both early works—obtained much lasting favour. It was not until Leoncavallo's La bohème was performed in 1897 in Venice that his talent obtained public confirmation. However, it was outshone by Puccini's opera of the same name and on the same subject, which was premiered in 1896.
Leoncavallo also composed songs, most famously Mattinata, which he wrote for the Gramophone Company (which became HMV) with Caruso's unique voice in mind. On 8 April 1904, Leoncavallo accompanied Caruso at the piano as they recorded the song.
Leoncavallo was the librettist for most of his own operas. Many considered him the greatest Italian librettist of his time after Boito. Among Leoncavallo's libretti for other composers is his contribution to the libretto for Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
Works for Winds
- Pagliacci Intermezzo (arr. Glover) (1892/2013)
- Vesti la Giubba from "Pagliacci" (arr. Johnson (2015)