Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Giger, Andreas. “‘Svesti La Giubba,’ or, Uncloaking the Genesis of Pagliacci.” 19th-Century Music 41 (Spring 2018): 225-51.

Ruggero Leoncavallo’s account of the creation of his most famous opera, Pagliacci (1892), distorts and obscures the work’s history in order preserve its legacy against charges of overt influence, borrowing, and plagiarism. In the “Appunti,” his incomplete autobiography dictated in 1915, Leoncavallo misrepresents several aspects of the genesis of Pagiacci, including its initial presentation to impresarios and the source of the libretto. Leoncavallo additionally obfuscates earlier fragments of an abandoned opera based on De Musset’s La Coupe et les lèvres. Several passages composed for La Coupe were reused in Pagliacci. The most apparent case is Leoncavallo’s reuse of the cantabile “Esprits! Si vous venez m’annoncer ma ruine” from La Coupe as “Sperai, tanto il delirio accecato m’aveva” in Pagliacci. Moreover, it is evident that Leoncavallo had planned to use “Espirits” in the final scene of Pagliacci while planning the libretto. However, Leoncavallo consistently ignores this self-borrowing and emphasizes originality in his own history of the opera. It is probable that this avoidance was a way for Leoncavallo to preemptively deny charges of plagiarism, a standing concern in Italian opera. In another act of self-historicizing, Leoncavallo attached Pagliacci to the verismo tradition in order to preserve his legacy as a composer.

Works: Leoncavallo: Pagliacci (240-49)

Sources: Leoncavallo: fragments from La Coupe et les lèvres (240-49)

Index Classifications: 1800s

Contributed by: Matthew Van Vleet

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