Italian tenor Enrico Caruso was the first gramophone star to sell more than a million copies with his 1904 recording of “Vesti la giubba” from the opera “Pagliacci” (Clowns) by Ruggero Leoncavallo. Here are his recordings from the 30th of November 1902, the 1st of February 1904, and the 17th of March 1907.
Vesti la giubba (English: Put on the costume) is a famous tenor aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo’s 1892 opera Pagliacci (Clowns) and is regarded as one of the most moving arias in the operatic repertoire. It 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 (Caruso) is portrayed in the aria and exemplifies the entire notion of the ‘tragic clown’: smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. This is still displayed today as the clown motif often features the painted-on tear running down the cheek of the performer.
Pagliacci is the only Leoncavallo opera that is still widely staged.
Vesti la Giubba lyrics
Italian: Vesti la Giubba
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!
English Translation: Put on your costume
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!
One of the most famous Italian operatic tenors in the 20th century, Enrico Caruso (25 February 1873 – 2 August 1921) sang to great acclaim at the major opera houses of Europe and the Americas.
He is usually considered the greatest operatic tenor ever, and he was the first opera star to make best-selling recordings. He sold more than a million records with his 1904 recording of “Vesti la Giubba” from the 1892 opera “Pagliacci” (English: Clowns) by Ruggero Leoncavallo.
His voice had a combination of the full baritone-like character with smooth and brilliant tenor qualities. His range was broadened into baritone at the expense of the higher tenor notes. But, although he reached the high C, Caruso usually transposed in order to avoid it. He shares this habit with other tenors including Mario Del Monaco, Plácido Domingo, José Carreras, Richard Tucker, Beniamino Gigli, Aureliano Pertile, etc.