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 is regarded as one of the most moving arias in the operatic repertoire. Italian tenor Enrico Caruso’s 1904 recording has been 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.
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 told 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
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!
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t’avvelena il cor!
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!
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!
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