1981-1990Franco ZeffirelliItalyMusicalPerformance

Franco Zeffirelli – I Pagliacci (1982)


IMDB User Comment:
Viva Pagliacci! Viva Zeffirelli!
27 August 2006 | by Marcin Kukuczka (Cieszyn, Poland)

Ruggero Leoncavallo’s dramatic libretto, PAGLIACCI, has been brought to screen several times. The sad story of Canio, a traveling entertainer betrayed by his wife, Nedda, has touched the audiences for years. Let us mention the famous Enrico Caruso and the significant role of this opera in his career. Yet, nowadays, when you want to find a good operatic direction, particularly its form on screen, look for Franco Zeffirelli’s works. While seeing his works, you can expect nothing less than a masterwork. The talented Italian-international director Zeffirelli, in case of opera, is probably most known for his ultimate masterpiece, the screen adaptation of Giusseppe Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA (1981). What crowds there are who say that they began to love opera thanks to this one! Nevertheless, PAGLIACCI is equally worth attention, not only for opera fans and not only due to the fact that the same classical pair are cast (Teresa Stratas and Placido Domingo).

The entire story, perhaps quite over-dramatic for these days, is treated with a perfect reference to today’s needs. There are no long moments, events take place in a natural pace (though the text is sung) and the viewer’s curiosity is kept. We see the story of Canio, Nedda and her lover, Silvio, as directly linked to audience and their reactions since Zeffirelli retained one significant factor: it is a performance, a performance that is supposed not to deal with real life and yet, finally, it occurs to do so…

The music and voices are perfect. I think that it is enough to say there are Placido Domingo as Canio and Teresa Stratas as Nedda. Thanks to them, the music does not occur to be less sublime than the original. Placido is equally great as Caruso must have been. Stratas is a terrific soprano as Nedda. In this case, there is no difference between TRAVIATA and PAGLIACCI. In both of them, the couple are magnificent! The moment Placido sings “Laugh, Pagliaccio, laugh” is really unforgettable! Except for these two, it is worth considering Juan Pons as lustful Tonio. The way he shows a mean-spirited, down-to-earth desire to Nedda is very well portrayed. His character is contrasted to Silvio (Alberto Rinaldi), Nedda’s gentle friend and lover whose name remained secret for long.

PAGLIACCI is a highly recommended classical piece. It constitutes three most important aspects of a classic: art (seen in performances, music and sets), universal story (so that it can be seen by many generations), and emotions (so that it can be experienced). You don’t have to be an opera fan to love PAGLIACCI. As a matter of fact, I also hadn’t been…until I saw this.

Watch, PAGLIACCI, watch, ladies and gentlemen;

watch and adore the classic tragedy of all time;

Since we all have some part in the ambiguous performance that life occurs to be;

Watch and adore…bravo, bravo, bravissimo!


Subtitles:English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese

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