Opera Scotland

Original score cover

Pagliacci in Scotland

Posted 5 May 2012

Scottish Opera's forthcoming concert performane of Pagliacci prompted us to write about its first performance in Scotland, at the Edinburgh Lyceum on Monday 11 September 1893.  Sir Augustus Harris's Italian Opera company were paying their first visit to Scotland for around six years, involving many of the best singers from Covent Garden.  In that first performance, in Italian, Gluck's Orfeo was performed before Pagliacci.  Nedda was played by Lucille Hill, Canio by Signor Morello and Tonio by M. Dufriche.  Silvio was played by Richard Greene and Beppe by Signor Guetary.

Carl Rosa Opera toured Scotland with their English language version just weeks later, the Russian tenor Philip Brozel playing Canio.  The Rosa performed it often,  the well known Canadian tenor, Charles Hedmondt playing Canio many times.  Canio's aria 'Vesti la giubba', ('On with the motley') remains well known. For opera buffs it has a special place in history, as Caruso's 1904 recording of it was the first-ever sound recording of any kind to sell a million copies.

Before long, Pagliacci was paired with Cavalleria Rusticana. They were so frequently played together that they are spoken of as  "Cav and Pag".  The pair bacame a staple offering of Carl Rosa Opera until its end in the 1950s.

Sadler's Wells brought a staging to Edinburgh on its final visit in 1972, using a modern setting for the first time.

Scottish Opera presented a medium scale tour in 1989, unusually giving Pagliacci first.  In recent years Ellen Kent have toured with the double bill.

Pro-am companies have frequently presented the work.

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