Pietro Mascagni / Ruggero Leoncavallo

Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci

Jan 8 - Feb 1

Roberto Alagna takes on the leading tenor roles in both parts of opera’s most popular double bill. In Cavalleria Rusticana, Ekaterina Semenchuk is the woebegone Santuzza, with Aleksandra Kurzak as the hot-blooded Nedda in Pagliacci. Baritone George Gagnidze sings Tonio in Pagliacci and shares the role of Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana with Željko Lučić. Nicola Luisotti conducts Sir David McVicar’s production, which heightens the melodramatic action of this timeless verismo pairing.

Production a gift of M. Beverly and Robert G. Bartner, Mr. and Mrs. Paul M. Montrone, and the Estate of Anne Tallman

Major funding from Rolex

Additional funding from John J. Noffo Kahn and Mark Addison, and Paul Underwood

Read Synopsis Read Program
  • Sung In
  • Italian
  • Met Titles In
  • English
  • German
  • Spanish
  • Italian
  • Estimated Run Time
  • 3 hrs 3 mins
  • House Opens
  • Cavalleria 74 mins
  • Intermission 31 mins
  • Pagliacci 78 mins
  • Opera Ends
Jan 8 - Feb 1

This production has completed for the season.

Be sure to check out our remaining productions on the season list.

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All Dates
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Cavalleria Rusticana, World premiere: Teatro Costanzi, Rome, 1890. Met company premiere: Chicago (on tour), December 4, 1891. 

Pagliacci, World premiere: Teatro dal Verme, Milan, 1892. Met premiere: December 11, 1893.

Two tales of passion, jealousy, and death set in southern Italy, Cav/Pag have been all but inseparable on the opera stages of the world since the Met first presented them as a double bill in 1893. The overwhelming success of Cavalleria was crucial in launching the verismo movement, inspiring other composers (including Leoncavallo) to turn to stories and characters from real life, and often from society’s grungier elements.


Pietro Mascagni (1863–1945) and Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857–1919) both had substantial operatic careers but were never able to repeat the success of their two youthful hits. Leoncavallo’s setting of La Bohème (which premiered a year after Puccini’s version) is occasionally seen on stage. The then-unknown Cavalleria librettists Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci went on to provide other libretti for Mascagni, Leoncavallo, and other composers of the day.

Production Sir David McVicar

Set Designer Rae Smith

Costume Designer Moritz Junge

Lighting Designer Paule Constable

Choreographer Andrew George

Vaudeville Consultant Emil Wolk


Pietro Mascagni / Ruggero Leoncavallo


The setting of Cavalleria Rusticana in a Sicilian village is not merely picturesque. The village is, in a sense, a character in the opera—a crude place, untouched by modernity, close to nature’s cycles of life and death and the primitive human rituals associated with them. Pagliacci is originally set in Calabria, the Italian mainland region closest to Sicily. In the Met’s production, the action takes place in the same village across two generations, with Cavalleria set in 1900 and Pagliacci set in 1949.


The score of Cavalleria is direct, unadorned, and honest. The famous intermezzo, often heard outside the opera’s context, summarizes its musical plan: gorgeous, melancholy melody carried by unison strings with very little harmonization. In some ways, Pagliacci expresses verismo ideals even more strongly—most notably in the unity of each scene and the seamless transitions between individual solos. There is, as in Cavalleria, a powerful orchestral intermezzo, but Pagliacci is most noted for its Act I climax, the tenor aria “Vesti la giubba,” one of the world’s most familiar melodies. It was, in Caruso’s rendition, the recording industry’s first million-seller.

Met History

The Met was the first opera company to present Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci as a double bill. The program for that notable 1893 performance shows that the now standard order was reversed. While today the operas are rarely performed separately, there have been other intriguing pairings in Met history. The two works individually shared the stage with, among others, Il Barbiere di SivigliaLucia di LammermoorLa Fille du RégimentIl TrovatoreRigolettoLa Bohème, Rimsky-Korsakov’s Le Coq d’Or, and even Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.