The legendary American tenor and Hollywood film star of Italian origin, Mario Lanza sings “Vesti La Giubba”, a famous tenor aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera Pagliacci (Clowns). From “For the First Time”, Lanza’s final film, was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1959.

Vesti La Giubba

Vesti la Giubba from the opera “Pagliacci” by Ruggero Leoncavallo is regarded as one of the most moving arias in the operatic repertoire. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso’s 1904 recording has sold more than one million copies, the first “million seller” in history.

The aria is sung at the conclusion of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife’s infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because “The show must go on”. The pain of Canio is portrayed in the aria and exemplifies the entire notion of the “tragic clown”: smiling on the outside but crying on the inside.

The title “Vesti la Giubba” translates to “Put on the costume” or more directly, “Put on the jacket”. In this heartrending aria, Canio expresses his anguish and the irony of the situation he’s in, a clown who must make others laugh while he himself is consumed by despair. It’s a powerful commentary on the human condition, where people often hide their true feelings behind a facade.

The most famous line in the aria is “Ridi, Pagliaccio, sul tuo amore infranto!” which translates to “Laugh, clown, at your broken love!”. This line encapsulates the essence of the aria and the dramatic climax of the act.

Leoncavallo’s “Pagliacci”, first performed in 1892, is one of the most popular works in the verismo tradition, a style of opera that focuses on everyday life and the emotional experiences of ordinary people, as opposed to the high drama of traditional opera.

For the first time

Filmed on location in 1958 in Capri, Salzburg, Berlin, and at the Rome Opera House, it is Lanza’s last film. The film tells the sentimental story of an operatic tenor (Tony Costa) who finds love for the first time with a young German woman (played by Johanna von Koczian), who happens to be deaf.

The film was directed by Rudolph Mate and featured Kurt Kasznar and Zsa Zsa Gabor in supporting roles. Critics singled out Lanza’s singing of “Vesti la Giubba” from Pagliacci and the Death Scene from Otello for special praise.

Vesti la giubba lyrics

Italian

Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,
non so più quel che dico,
e quel che faccio!
Eppur è d’uopo, sforzati!
Bah! Sei tu forse un uom?
Tu se’ Pagliaccio!

Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.

E se Arlecchin t’invola Colombina,
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto
in una smorfia il singhiozzo e ‘l dolor, Ah!

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!

English Translation

Act! While in delirium,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it’s necessary… make an effort!
Bah! Are you, not a man?
You are a clown!

Put on your costume and powder your face.
The people pay to be here, and they want to laugh.

And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbina,
laugh, clown, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face – Ah!

Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

Sources

M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened andantemoderato.com to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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