Cavalleria rusticana, I Pagliacci

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September 2023 Next

Program and cast

State Opera Chorus
State Opera Orchestra

For over 120 years, Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) and I Pagliacci (Clowns), the most famous operas of Italian verismo, a genre that brought to the stage contemporary characters, portraying the life of country folk and low social classes, have been extremely popular among audiences all over the world as magnificent dramatic spectacles featuring impressive chorus scenes, prepossessing arias and ensembles, as well as Mascagni’s beautiful symphonic intermezzo. When, in 1888, the Italian music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno announced a competition for young composers to submit a one-act opera, he could not have had the slightest inkling that the victorious work would become an immortal hit. The 25-year-old Pietro Mascagni sent to the jury his brand-new piece Cavalleria rusticana.  The premiere of the opera, in 1890 in Rome, was a resounding success, which would secure him global fame. Ruggero Leoncavallo, six years older than Mascagni, wrote his debut opera, I Pagliacci, in the verismo spirit too. Its premiere, in 1892 in Milan, earned the virtually unknown composer great acclaim. In 1893, Rome saw Cavalleria rusticana and I Pagliacci performed as a double bill, which has ever since been customary worldwide. I Pagliacci depicts the tragedy of Canio, an ageing principal of a travelling troupe who, driven out of his mind with jealousy, kills his unfaithful young wife Nedda and her lover on stage during a performance. In Cavalleria rusticana, the frivolous Lola begins an adulterous affair with her former lover Turridu, who, in line with the age-long Sicilian vendetta tradition, is murdered by Lola’s husband. The two operas end identically – with a homicide motivated by jealousy. The new production pairing the two operatic gems has been undertaken by Ondřej Havelka, a versatile artist, renowned as a stage director, actor, singer and musician alike.

Prague State Opera

The State Opera today


The State Opera (formerly the State Opera Prague, between 1948 and 1992 the Smetana Theatre, and originally the New German Theatre) has been a part of the National Theatre since 2012. The Opera and Ballet ensembles give repertory performances at the State Opera.




The Prague State Opera resides in the building which on January 5, 1888 was opened as a Prague German stage with the performance of Wagner’s opera, The Mastersingers of Nürnberg. In the 19th century, Prague Germans performed in the Estate’s Theater in alternation with a Czech company. Desire for their own theater led to negotiations in 1883 for the construction of a new theater building for the German Theater Association. Over the next three years, a blueprint was drawn up and handed over to the Vienna atelier of Fellner and Hellmer. Also sharing in the design was the architect of the Vienna Municipal Theater, Karl Hasenauer, while Prague architect Alfons Wertmüller took part in the construction. Financing came from private collections. With its spacious auditorium and neo-Rococo decoration, this theater building is among the most beautiful in Europe.




By car

On Wilsonova street, from the left lane close to the State Opera building take the slip road to the Slovan above-ground garage. The parking fee is 40 CZK/h.


By tram


By daytime tram No. 11 to the stop “Muzeum”, through the underpass beneath Legerova street in the direction of the NationalMuseum, at the crossroads turn right along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.


By daytime trams Nos. 3, 9, 14 and 24 or night trams Nos. 51, 52, 54, 55, 56 and 58 to the stop “Václavské náměstí”, then by foot uphill on the left side of the Wenceslas Square to the traffic lights across Wilsonova and Vinohradská streets. Then turn left along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.


By metro

To the “Muzeum” station, lines A and C (green and red), and then by foot along the NewBuilding of the NationalMuseum.

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