Pagliacci/Carmina Burana September 24, 26, 30, October 2, 2010

Begin with Pagliacci—one of Opera’s most powerful punches! Canio the clown always has townsfolk chuckling as the cuckold in the traveling play. But when his wife has eyes for another man—in real life—fantasy and reality collide in a fury of passion.

And end with Carmina Burana—the triumphant celebration of life, love and lust. With its famous pounding rhythms and lyric beauty, it drives to a full-throttle finale with BodyVox dancers, singers, and chorus coming straight at you!

Sung in Italian and Latin with English translations projected above the stage.

Performances held at the Keller Auditorium.

Performance time is approximately 3 hours, including 2 intermissions.

Audio Description Services provide at the 9/26, 2pm performance.

Download the Study Guide (pdf)


Did you enjoy BodyVox's performance in Carmina Burana? Check out what's next for BodyVox!



Nedda Emily Pulley
Canio Richard Crawley
Silvio Marian Pop
Tonio Mark Rucker
Conductor John DeMain
Stage Director Christopher Mattaliano


The evening begins with a prologue delivered directly to the audience by the singer who will play Tonio, a hunchback character from the story that’s about to unfold.  He asks the audience to see beyond the façade of the performers’ costumes and make-up, and remember the human being there, who suffer the same trials and tribulations as everyone else.  He then orders the show to begin.  

Act I
In a village in southern Italy, a crowd welcomes a traveling troupe of players.  Canio, their leader, greets the villagers and invites them to a play that evening.  The men urge Canio to join them for a drink at a nearby tavern, but they teasingly warn him not to leave his young wife, Nedda, alone with Tonio, who—they say—might make the same kind of romantic advances to her in real life that his character will in the play.  Canio answers that while his role as a jealous husband on stage creates comedy, the same situation in real life would end differently.  He then departs with the villagers.

Thinking she is alone, the young Nedda reflects on the potential danger of her husband's jealousy.  But she refuses to be burdened by such fears.  The sight of birds flying overhead triggers the memory of a song she once heard in childhood, and she begins to dream of a life more free.  Tonio overhears her fanciful outburst and takes the liberty of declaring his love for her.  Even though she scorns him and ridicules his deformity, he tries to kiss her. When he persists, she grabs a whip and strikes him.  Cringing with pain, Tonio swears that she will pay dearly for her actions.

No sooner has Tonio gone off than Silvio appears.  He is a young villager with whom Nedda has been having an affair.  He wants her to leave her husband and run away with him.  Nedda at first refuses, but finally she gives in to Silvio's impassioned pleadings.  Tonio, returning from the tavern, catches sight of the lovers and, seeing the opportunity for revenge, runs off to fetch Canio.  The enraged husband arrives just in time to hear his wife promise to meet Silvio later that night.  At Canio's approach, Silvio escapes unrecognized into the woods.  Canio demands that Nedda reveal the identity of her lover.  She refuses.  Canio, beside himself with rage, is about to kill her

when Beppe, another member of the troupe, stops him.  He reminds Canio that the villagers are assembling for the performance and tells Nedda to get dressed for the play.  Canio reflects ironically that he now must go on stage as Pagliaccio—the Clown—and make people laugh, even though his heart is breaking.

Act II
The villagers gather excitedly to see the performance.  The play presented by Canio and his troupe is a mirror of the previous, real life, events.  Tonio plays the part of the stupid servant Taddeo, who declares his love for Columbine (played by Nedda).  She scorns him to make way for her real lover, Harlequin (played by Beppe), who arrives for an intimate supper.  This cozy scene is interrupted by the unexpected arrival of the husband, Pagliaccio (played by Canio).  Harlequin escapes as Columbine promises to meet him later that night, using the same words that Nedda used to Silvio that very afternoon.  

As Canio proceeds to play his part, the tragic reality of the situation begins to overshadow the make-believe.  He insists that Nedda name her lover.  She laughs him off and tries to continue the comedy.  But Canio, carried away, reproaches her for her ingratitude and her betrayal.  Some of the spectators begin to wonder whether the actors are playing parts or are actually in earnest.  Nedda reminds Canio that she has never been a coward and persists in her refusal to name her lover.  Pushed beyond the breaking point, Canio seizes a knife and stabs Nedda.  With her last breath she cries out for Silvio, who has been watching the play.  He runs onto the stage and Canio, now aware that Silvio is his wife's lover, stabs him to death.  Amid the agitation of the horrified onlookers, Tonio ends the “performance” (and Leoncavallo’s opera) by stating simply:  “The comedy is finished.”




Carmina Burana is a scenic oratorio composed to the texts of Goliard poems from the 13th century.  The manuscript containing these verses was discovered in 1803 at a Bavarian monastery in Benediktbeuern; the term “Burana” in the title is the Latin adjective identifying this location.  The subtitle of the work, “Cantiones profanae cantoribus et choris cantandae comitantibus instrumentis atque imaginibus magicis,” means “Secular songs for soloists and chorus, accompanied by instruments and supplemented by scenery.”  Although there are a number of contexts for human interaction in some of the pieces, there is no plot continuity or overall dramatic action in this series of songs.  Composer Carl Orff envisioned Carmina Burana with optional action and dance, although he did not provide written instructions as to how it should be staged.  Thus, it has been presented in a wide variety of ways.  Although most frequently seen in concert form, the work is extremely theatrical and adapts well for the stage.  Portland Opera’s production has been conceived by Christopher Mattaliano as a fully staged production featuring the dynamic Portland modern dance company BodyVox, with choreography by Artistic Directors Jamey Hampton and Ashley Roland.

The medieval Goliards (the term is a nickname meaning “big mouths”) were scholars, monks and priests who had abandoned conformity to the Catholic church.  Individualists in a time when such behavior was considered heresy, they lived vagrant lives, begging, thieving, and singing.  They wrote their verses mostly in Latin, although portions of their texts are in the vernacular languages of the areas in which they lived.  Their best poetry is a frank avowal of their pleasures, their simple zest in living, and the joys of an earthy existence.

The manuscript discovered in the Benediktbeuern monastery contained the most extensive collection of Goliard poetry ever found.  Its authors were various and anonymous.  It is surprising that a monastery’s library contained a volume of such scurrilous material.  The justification for this is that the volume had originally belonged to a secular court and had been assigned to the monastery for archival purposes.

In Carmina Burana, Orff chose to set only a portion of the manuscript to music.  The melodic language he employed mixes folksong elements from his native Bavaria with a parody of Gregorian plainchant, matching the ridicule of religious forms found in the texts.  The musical fabric is bold and colorful.  Its strong rhythmic emphasis demands an enlarged percussion section.  Although these effects are striking, they are not complicated.  The melodic material is tonal and straightforward, unadorned by counterpoint or formal variation.  The harmonic effects are reduced to bare essentials.  All of these choices magnificently enhance the poetry’s attention to what is simple, sensuous, vigorous, and direct.

Orff chose to organize the texts of Carmina Burana into three contrasting sections: exploring themes of renewal and sexual awakening in Early Spring; alienation, debauchery, and corruption in In The Tavern; and both unrequited and requited love in The Court of Love.  These three groups of poems are flanked by identical musical settings of the same poem “O Fortuna” (Oh Fortune), bemoaning man’s fate as a mere pawn of destiny’s mighty and often cruel hand.

Carmina Burana has won a firm place in the musical repertoire of Western culture.  It has enjoyed enormous popularity and has often been adapted effectively for theatrical purposes for both stage and film.


I.    Fortuna, Imperatrix Mundi
    (Fortune, Empress of the World)
II.    Primo Vere (Early Spring)
    Uf dem Anger (On the Green)
III.    In Taberna (In the Tavern)
IV.    Cour d’amours
    (The Court of Love)
V.    Fortuna, Imperatrix Mundi
    (Fortune, Empress of the World)


Fact or Fiction: On the Tangled Trail of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci

“I remembered, then, the bloody tragedy that had gouged the memories of my distant childhood, and to the poor servant murdered under my eyes; and in not even twenty days of feverish work, I threw down the libretto of Pagliacci.”

—Ruggiero Leoncavallo


When Ruggiero Leoncavallo was 8 years old, his babysitter, Gaetano Scavello, was murdered.  It is highly unlikely that Leoncavallo was actually there, as the murder took place at four in the morning outside of a theater.  For any child, such an event would be a horrific blow, but, perhaps, for the highly imaginative, sensitive Ruggiero, the murder and the subsequent trial metastasized into a graphic paramnesia* which was to germinate his greatest work of art 27 years later.   Or, as in so many cases in Leoncavallo’s life, he wanted to give legitimacy to his claim that Pagliacci was utterly original, and so embellished his involvement in an already tragic and traumatic experience.  One leans towards this last explanation, as yet another letter to his publisher swears that:

“… while my father was a judge at Montalto … a jealous player killed his wife after the performance … [which] made a deep and lasting impression on my childish mind.”


Regardless of the facts of Leoncavallo’s presence or absence, it is true that Scavello’s murder had a profound effect on his life and that of his family.  His father, Vincenzo, was the presiding judge at the trial, and the murder must have taken up a huge chunk of the family’s psyche at the time of the killing and subsequent prosecution.  That the composer claimed it as the seed of Pagliacci makes it worth examining the facts of the case.

The file of the case reads roughly:

“Proceedings filed against Luigi and Giovanni D'Alessandro who were charged with premeditated murder committed with weapons and insidious lurking on the evening of 5 March 1865 upon the person of Gaetano Scavello of Carmine.”


At the time of his death, Scavello was twenty-two years old and in love.  Unfortunately, he had a rival for the girl’s affections, Luigi D’Alessandro.  In what seems an extraordinarily convoluted motive for murder, Scavello confronted D’Alessandro’s manservant after the servant had escorted the young woman to a house and demanded to know if she was inside with D’Alessandro.  When the servant declined to answer, Scavello “struck him with a mulberry branch, whereupon Pasquale [the servant] ran away to seek the help of his two employers.”  D’Alessandro and his brother came gunning for Scavello with a whip—Scavello, knowing superior strength when he saw it, threw a couple of rocks at the brothers and hightailed it out of there, the D’Alessandro boys in hot pursuit.  They were unable to catch Scavello at that time, but instead, lay in wait for him (“insidious lurking”) outside of the theater, stabbing him as he left the show, one in the arm, the other in the abdomen.  Scavello died the next day, after fingering the brothers for his murder.  The D’Alessandro’s were brought up on trial and one received a life sentence, the other 20 years hard labor.  Ironically, in Leoncavallo’s explanation of how he had written Pagliacci, he noted:


“… what is stranger still, as I have since learned, the protagonist of my work is still living and having been released from prison is now in the service of Baroness Sprovieri in Calabria.  If the action had come to trial [meaning a plagiarism lawsuit threatened by  French playwright Mendes], he would have been willing to come and give evidence in my favor.  I regret that this did not happen, as we should have had a very dramatic scene during the evidence of poor Alessandro (the real name of my Canio) when he was relating his crime, his jealous fury and his sufferings!”


So much for the facts.  Anyone with a cursory knowledge of Pagliacci might be forgiven for asking, “But where are the clowns?”  Other than a jealous love triangle, a “tattletale” servant (a stretch to equate Pasquale to Tonio, no doubt), an initial escape and subsequent knifing death, there is little of real life in Pagliacci.  One might forgive the composer some creative license in putting the action of the opera on Assumption Day—plenty of local color to be derived from the religious celebration of peasants, not to mention the time honored theatrical juxtaposition of the holy and profane.  But Leoncavallo does significantly more than that—he introduces the element of a play within a play, and even later, at the request of the baritone who was to create Tonio, added the famous “Prologue,” which gives another direct line to the audience, adding another layer of “reality” to the layers of reality and unreality inherent in the original story.

Of course the concept of a play within a play was not unknown to Leoncavallo.   The concept of the “story within a story” is ancient and utilized in literature from One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, as Scheherazade stayed up nights trying to keep her head between her shoulders, to Shakespeare’s Danish prince attempting entrapment of his father’s murderer.  

In the mid-19th century, a volume of the “complete works” of the French 17th century playwright, satirist, charlatan and actor Tabarin brought renewed interest to the commedia dell’arte and the clown himself.  Tabarin had taken his name from a commedia mask—the character was named for the defining part of his costume, his cloak (tabarro, in Italian).  The name given to him by his parents was Antoine Girard.  He would stage “impromptu farces” to peddle his “medicinal” elixirs and draw a crowd.  From 1618 to 1625 he delighted Parisian audiences with his wit, his bawdiness and slapstick, and in the 1850s he posthumously drew a literary crowd of imitators and became the legendary subject of many plays and opéra comique.  Now both the character and the man had a wife, Francisquine, also a commedia mask.  According to Gustave Aventin, who was the editor of 19th century “complete works”:


“This Francisquine figured in jokes played in Tabarin’s theatrics, and if we are to believe some questionable traditions, she did not pride herself on marital fidelity.”


This salacious (and undocumented) tidbit in the forward of a book was enough to inspire several plays about the relationship of the clown and his unfaithful wife, one of which was by Catulle Mendès, entitled Le Femme de Tabarin.  This play had an antecedent in a comedy by Paul Ferrier, who would later accuse Mendès of plagiary, just as Mendès would Leoncavallo.

Actually, Leoncavallo’s and Mendès’ plots are quite similar.  In Le Femme de Tabarin, Tabarin’s wife is in love with another and flirting with him while performing in a play.  Enraged, Tabarin stabs her and weeps bitterly as she drags herself towards him and smears his lips with spilt blood before she dies.  The audience of the play within the play takes quite a while to catch on that something is amiss—indeed, one erstwhile fan tries to give the dying Francisquine a bouquet of flowers and is shocked when his hand is bloodied.  But this is where Mendès’ play ends.  Leoncavallo’s opera creates a whole other level of disquiet with the Iago-like figure of Tonio, who not only drives the action of the opera, but comes out of character to address the audience to tell us not to dismiss the emotions of the players on stage as mere caricature, but to understand it as life, as accurate as our reflections in a mirror.  

Mendès threatened to sue Leoncavallo for stealing his idea, just at the height of Pagliacci’s popularity.  This was supremely irritating for the composer, who was finally basking in the glow of the recognition he felt he deserved.  As it was, he had had to deal with some critics accusing him of “lacking originality.”  And that must have stung, because there was a germ of truth in it, which niggled at him like sand in an oyster.  After the success of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, Leoncavallo co-opted a genre he hated and made it his own.  It was opportunistic, but resulted in a powerful work of art.  A combination of influences and ideas coalesced into one pithy, sleek, brilliant and bloody verismo that is wildly effective.  No wonder he was determined to claim the work as utterly and completely his own!

Mendès dropped his claims when Leoncavallo countered that Mendès himself had borrowed elements of his plot from others.  Some stories and ideas are universal.  Shakespeare was hardly original in his plotlines.  Even the ancients acknowledge that “there is nothing new under the sun.”  Leoncavallo combined his memories with literary devices which stretch into antiquity to create something his own.   Ultimately, Pagliacci has eclipsed all of its antecedents to live on in the opera house and our collective memories.


This article is heavily based upon the work of Matteo Sansone and Konrad Dryden.  Thank you.


*a distortion of memory in which fact and fancy are confused.



Primal Music: The Potent Poetry of Carmina Burana

“Contrary to what conductors tell you … size does matter.”


—Marin Alsop in "Love, Lust and Drinking Stir Carmina
NPR, Morning Edition, 2006


In Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, size does matter.  As of this writing, Portland Opera’s production of Carmina Burana will include nearly 150 people performing on stage and in the orchestra pit.  For Orff’s conception of an elemental, universal, immediate, overwhelming theatrical piece, it is fitting that from its monumental opening chords, the audience is intensely aware of the underlying, primal power of the human voice.  In this context (and perhaps in the bawdy context of the original medieval texts), size does indeed matter.

In 1937, Carmina Burana opened to rather mixed reviews, and in Nazi Germany mixed reviews were anxiety producing.  With the Reich’s rise to power in the early 1930s, Carl Orff’s artistic position was suspect.  He was associated with the free-wheeling modernism of the Weimar Republic, although he didn’t write atonal music or appreciate jazz.  His educational activities did, however, utilize Asian-inspired percussion instruments, and his music was insufficiently respectful of the “Old Masters.”  His revisions of the St. Luke Passion and its stage adaptation were unappreciated by Bach purists, and further branded him as avantgarde.  The undeniably lewd lyrics of his new work, Carmina Burana—as well as its driving rhythmic core vaguely reminiscent of Stravinsky and “black” music (at least to the Nazi mind)—further alienated it from some of the Reich’s music critics.   But there was another wing of the Nazi party who viewed the fanatically simplistic Carmina Burana, with its repetitive, climatic rhythms and folkish melodies as some sort of primordial music of the Volk.  One could be cynical and interpret Carmina Burana’s increased popularity among the party establishment as trending with the unrelenting public popularity of the piece, but that might undermine the genuine and mesmerizing power of the music to win over audiences on its own.  And it is mesmerizing.  And possibly the best known piece of 20th century music the world over.  Is it even possible for a horror or fantasy movie trailer to be made without scoring its opening sequence to “O Fortuna”?

Regnabo; regno; regnavi; sum sine regno.” 
“I shall reign; I reign; I have reigned; I am without a kingdom.”  Inscribed around the frontispiece to the collection that became known as Carmina Burana.


As a minor point of trivia, Orff came upon the poetry which inspired his best known work on Maundy Thursday, 1934.  It is interesting that Orff should be inspired by such vivid, randy, corporeal poems on a high holy day, but it might have tickled the fancy of the Goliards and vagantes that wrote them.  After all, for the general public, Orff’s music immortalized their poems.  Orff was so excited by the poems almost physical impact that he marked the moment in his diary: “A memorable day for me ... I immediately found, on the front page, the long-famous picture of Fortune with her wheel. Picture and words seized hold of me."  Orff’s grandfather had been an historian and a lover of literature, myth and legend, a trait he passed on and nurtured in his grandson.  So it is not surprising that Orff would have been reading one of the two most important texts of medieval, secular poetry as yet discovered: Carmina Burana.  (The other is English, Carmina Cantabrigiensia.) 

In 1803, the collection was discovered very near to Orff’s Munich home in the monastery of Benediktbeuern, nestled picturesquely in the green foothills of the Alps.  The Latin title Carmina Burana (“Songs of Beuern”) was given to them when they were found, compiled and translated.  The songs were a disparate collection of mostly 12th century poems, plus six plays, mostly in a “vernacular” Latin (a Latin removed from the Church and the poetic rhythms of the Romans themselves), but also including Middle High German, some French, and some macaronic texts, in which Latin, German and French were jumbled together into a sort of pidgin language.  They were collected and bound sometime in the 13th century (although some additional poems were bound in later).  The purpose of the texts was to entertain and express the individual poet’s thoughts and feelings.  They were thoroughly secular, though occasionally mocking religious writings to satirize the failings of the Church.  Most of the poet’s names are lost to antiquity, but they are known under the collective name of the Goliards, or perhaps more accurately, as medievalist Edwin Zeydel points out, vagantes.

For many years, the terms vagantes and Goliards were used interchangeably.  In the most basic sense, they were itinerant students and clerics, who for a variety of reasons traveled the countryside, unattached to a particular monastery or university, but enjoying the rights and privileges of the clergy.  Vagantes were not subject to the king’s taxes, could not be pressed into military service, could not be tried in a secular court and were “entitled to alms.”  It’s much easier to be a penniless, vagabond poet, when one can wander without the threat of arrest.  One could also wine and wench with debauched impunity.  Which they did.  Frequently.  And they were immortalized in songs, sometimes of great beauty and tenderness, as in Dulcissime in which the narrator in the voice of a young woman says, “Sweetest boy, I give you all that I am.”  Just as often they were peans to drunkenness, richly funny and marvelously witty. 

What eventually separated the Goliards from the vagantes was the satirical poetry.  Vagantes were not a bit shy about expressing their distaste for corruption in the church.  The University of Paris reported:


“Priests and clerks … dance in the choir dressed as women … they sing wanton songs.  They eat black pudding at the altar itself, while the celebrant is saying Mass.  They play dice on the altar.  They cense with stinking smoke from the soles of old shoes.  They run and leap throughout the church, without a blush of their own shame.  Finally they drive about the town and its theaters in shabby carriages and carts, and rouse the laughter of their fellows and the bystanders in infamous performances, with indecent gestures and with scurrilous and unchaste words!”


They sound a lot more like frat boys than scholars and priests.  In the 13th century, the Church tired of their constant gadflying and revoked their clerical privileges.  Eventually, the term “goliard” took on a derogatory implication and finally came to mean little more than a wandering minstrel, where once it had indicated an educated man.  Meanwhile the poetry remained.

The poetry gives us a window into the past and insight into the minds and passions of people who lived 700 years ago.  Their words are vibrant with life and Orff’s music unleashes them upon the ear with renewed immediacy.  Of the 250 texts, Orff sets 24.  To make them suitable for his purposes, he also shortened and rearranged some of them.  In addition, Orff created his own “chapters” for the work: Early Spring (including a sub section, On the Green), In the Tavern and The Court of Love.  These sections are book-ended by the potent “O Fortuna.”  The music is immediately gripping and, although it sounds nothing like the music of the Goliards, captures the energy, vitality and timeless appeal of the originals. 

Orff originally conceived of Carmina Burana as a staged work, although most of its performances in the United States are purely choral.  While the intensity of the music loses nothing with a static presentation, it undermines Orff’s intent to link music to our primordial selves through dance and imagery.  Eventually Carmina Burana became the first of a triptych of works entitled Trionfi.  With the second and third pieces, Orff reaches even farther back into history, setting Roman and Greek texts.  Orff said that he viewed ancient texts ... “as not old, but valid; the time element disappears and only the spiritual power remains.” 

Orff was ultimately concerned with tapping into a kind of universality with his music.  His Schulwerk is all about getting children to tap into the musicality innate within them, and Carmina Burana and all of his subsequent music plumbs the depths of human commonality.  That audiences continue to respond with unfettered enthusiasm is proof of his success.

About the Composer:  Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919)

“Too much voice and too much emotion!”

—Eduard Hanslick, Austrian music critic, on


Ruggiero Leoncavallo

While Hanslick limited his commentary to Leoncavallo’s work, in some ways the quote could well apply to Leoncavallo himself.  Protective of his reputation, ambitious in his pursuit of fame and critical success, naive in the extreme, and self-destructively litigious, Leoncavallo roared and puffed, lied and suffered throughout his life, never quite reaching the level of renown he felt was his due.

Opera companies producing Pagliacci will often imply that Leoncavallo was a “one shot wonder.”  What an unfair assessment of a composer who wrote 18 operas (I only include the ones which were produced in his lifetime—his reputation suffers somewhat from the post-mortem releases), 76 songs, 10 librettos (eight for which he also penned the score), 13 orchestral works, one ballet, 38 piano pieces, and 12 hymns!  And these are not all sub-par works which belong in the dustbin of history, overshadowed by the crazed verismo of Pagliacci.  While it is true that some were ill-conceived, derivative, or banal, there are others which are “tender, rapturous, beguiling,” and even his “failures” enjoyed multiple performances and were not universally reviled by critics.  Of particular note are his La Bohème and Zazá, which, like Pagliacci, are intimate stories.  But even in his epic failures there is inspired music, and it is easy to believe that had his life circumstances and personal quirks been somewhat different, the fate of his music might be as well.

There is only one annotated biography of Ruggiero Leoncavallo that exists, and it was published in 2008.  In his introduction, Konrad Dryden expresses his surprise that so little research has been done on this composer, who, with Mascagni, defined a genre, but he does admit that “relatively little is known about [the composer], and what sparse documentation remains … is not always factual.”  Because so many articles in music encyclopedias, websites and program notes are cribbed from the same articles, the inaccuracies have been perpetuated—the same five biographical errors persisted in The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, the authoritative encyclopedia of opera, until 2001!  This is rather remarkable, but understandable, given the impulsive opportunism of the composer himself, who embellished and fabricated the facts on occasion to gain some perceived advantage.  Even the spelling of his name was up for alteration depending on where he was living—his birth certificate states Ruggiero; the relative he was named for spelled it Ruggero; in France he at times used Roger—for Leoncavallo it sometimes didn’t matter what you called him, as long as you called.

In matter of fact, Ruggiero Leoncavallo was born on April 23, 1857 into a family in which art and music were “an essential part of life.”  His aunt was a “stupendous” mezzo soprano, his mother and grandfather accomplished and disciplined painters.  His father, Vincenzo, a lawyer and ultimately judge, was also a published novelist and a fine amateur voice in his own right.  One of his earliest childhood memories was hearing his father sing in church.  Young Ruggiero’s own musical education came early, and he was encouraged in his piano studies and theatrical interests.  But the little boy was a “little demon” according to his piano teacher, and his father enrolled him in school, where he continued to make trouble.  

When he was 8 years old, Ruggiero and his brother, Leone, were looked after by a young man, Gaetano Scavallo, who was murdered in a jealous rage by a romantic rival and the rival’s brother over the company of a young woman.  In what would seem an ethically problematic development, Vincenzo Leoncavallo presided at the murder trial, which ended in life imprisonment for the knife-wielder and 20 years for his assisting brother.  (Leoncavallo Sr. was staunchly against the death penalty, otherwise the perpetrators’ fates might have been drastically different.)  The loss of his caretaker had a profound effect on Ruggiero, and years later he would claim that this murder was the germ of his idea for Pagliacci.  The truth is quite a bit more complicated, but at the time Leoncavallo felt the need to put the originality of the score beyond question, and went so far as to claim that he had actually witnessed the bloody death himself—a rather dubious claim, as it would be highly unlikely that a chubby-kneed 8-year-old would be hanging about outside theaters at 4:00 a.m. (the time of the murder).  It did make for a colorful tale, however.   Nevertheless, it was a formative experience.

Meanwhile, Leoncavallo’s precocious musical talents were encouraged by his parents taking him to see a rather dilapidated production of Verdi’s La Traviata.  Soon afterward, he saw a much better Rigoletto, featuring his aunt as Maddalena.  Seeing his delight in the opera, his mother, whom Leoncavallo fiercely loved, continued to make sure that he saw as many operas as practical.  She died in 1873, when her musician son was 16 years old.

From then on things progressed rather frantically for Leoncavallo.  He graduated from high school later in the year of his mother’s death and by 19 was contemplating writing a libretto based on the life of poet Thomas Chatterton.  The fruits of this youthful labor were in the romantic, sentimental opera Chatterton, which would not see the stage until Leoncavallo had established himself as a serious composer.  He would then feel that the jejune work of his artistic immaturity was a threat to his reputation and would rework the whole thing into something which was still a critical failure.  Nevertheless, the young man’s ambition was determined and he contacted Casa Ricordi, Verdi’s (and later Puccini’s) publisher, about producing Chatterton.  

Leoncavallo next went to Bologna, where he studied with poet Carducci, who was to have a huge influence on Leoncavallo’s literary career.  Bologna assuaged his grief over his mother, and his gregarious charm earned him many friends and influential patrons.  He was an accomplished pianist and his skills gained him enthusiastic welcome at many of the cities best salons.  It also introduced him to what would be the first of many frustrations.  The young man thought he had secured an impresario to produce his Chatterton.  One of his wealthy admirers had fronted the money to see the opera staged, but the deal fell through.  Later Leoncavallo, as was typical of him, accused the impresario of pocketing the money and running.  What was actually true was that Chatterton was bumped in favor of a safer box office lure, Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia.  This disappointment was profound, and left Leoncavallo at loose ends.  He returned to Naples and taught piano until he received an invitation from his uncle, who lived and worked in Egypt.  In 1879, Leoncavallo headed for Cairo to peddle his piano skills.  Here Leoncavallo secured employment teaching the Khedive’s brother piano.  His time in Egypt offered him unforgettable experiences; as he put it, “an uninterrupted series of amazing impressions.”  Three years later, however, he was forced to flee Cairo on horseback dressed as an Arab.  He finally arrived penniless in Paris.  Politics had changed drastically in Egypt and European popularity was at a nadir.  French colleagues had been murdered, and Leoncavallo didn’t wait around to see what his fate might be.

Paris was difficult for Leoncavallo.  He was writing songs, but the majority of his income came from accompanying “inferior artists” in cafés.  His skill at changing keys at sight for them, covering their inadequacies, earned him a very positive reputation among this C-list crew, eventually leading to work writing songs for a small theater specializing in variety shows.  A year of this gave him enough money to consider quitting and to look for work with legitimate singers in the opera house.  During the course of his job hunting he met the great baritone, Victor Maurel, and Massenet.  Maurel was to become a great friend and advocate of Leoncavallo’s, originating the role of Tonio in Pagliacci.  Needless to say, after sight reading a random open score for Massenet, Leoncavallo landed the gig accompanying and preparing an Italian version of Herodiad, starring Maurel.  Things were looking up for Leoncavallo, even if he was still suffering “nights without sleep and days without bread.”

In the meantime, Leoncavallo did not forget his burning desire to write an epic trilogy of operas along the lines of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, based upon Italian history.  His first would be I Medici and the three would be called Crepusculum.  He worked on and off on the libretto for I Medici, the only opera of the planned trilogy that was completed and produced in 1893.  Meanwhile, he married his beloved wife Berthe.  Little is known of their relationship, but it was enduring; theirs seems to have been a happy love match.  She had a lovely soprano voice, trained by Leoncavallo’s friend Maurel, and it may be that they met through him.  

Leoncavallo’s first success was a symphonic poem named Nuit de mai.  This piece shows off Leoncavallo’s orchestrations and the drama that would later infuse his operas.  It was successful enough that the composer made free to contact Casa Ricordi again, and this time was given a reading of his completed libretto I Medici.  Ricordi held him off with excuses regarding getting a youthful Puccini’s Edgar on its feet.  It would be the first of many bitter pills (real and perceived) that Leoncavallo would have to swallow provided by Puccini and Ricordi.  The savvy old publisher did not, however, cut Leoncavallo loose, but strung him along with vague promises and an unfortunate contract for I Medici that guaranteed Casa Ricordi the rights to the opera, but did not guarantee a performance.  Meanwhile Ricordi busied himself promoting Puccini’s Manon Lescaut (which libretto Leoncavallo had a small hand in).

Throughout his life, Leoncavallo felt that Casa Ricordi and Puccini were out to ruin him.  While they may not have been actively destructive, the business practices of Ricordi did put Leoncavallo at a disadvantage.  Ricordi actively handled the business aspect of his composers’ careers—Puccini didn’t have to hustle to get his operas produced.  Leoncavallo, on the other hand, was always traveling, writing to impresarios, importuning his own publisher and conducting, all while he was trying to write.  The animosity between Puccini and Leoncavallo stems from both of them pursuing Murger’s Scènes de la vie de bohème, and from Leoncavallo’s resentment that Puccini had such strong advocacy from Ricordi, while he himself was treated rather shabbily.  Puccini’s contempt stooped to name-calling and ultimately a dismissive air, although he was at Leoncavallo’s funeral, looking haggard and grieved.  

Pagliacci was the opera that shot Leoncavallo onto the world stage.  After failing to interest Ricordi in staging I Medici, he wanted to create something the publisher would be itching to produce.  Mascagni had had tremendous success with Cavelleria Rusticana, and while Leoncavallo purported to loathe verismo, for a hit he was willing to turn his hand to it.  The result of his efforts was Pagliacci, which he presented to Ricordi expectantly.  Ricordi’s response was cold, uninterested and, in fact hostile.  Leoncavallo felt the criticism keenly and said:

“I am not here to listen to criticism but for a much more practical reason.  I am bound to you by a clause in my contract forcing me to offer you all new works.  This is a libretto.  You don’t like it, but I do, and I am determined to compose music to it.”

Infuriated and humiliated, Leoncavallo presented his libretto to the rival house of Sonzogno and visited his lawyer.  Leoncavallo’s disastrous contract with Ricordi required that all of Leoncavallo’s work belonged to the house whether it was to be performed or not.  Clearly this would not help Leoncavallo’s career and the ensuing lawsuit would last another ten years.  Still, Sonzogno liked the libretto and the opera that followed it, and produced it.  While it was not initially a critical success, it soon was vindicated in the court of public opinion and made its way around the world, followed eagerly by Leoncavallo.  Pagliacci opened doors for him.  His epic I Medici was produced to much fanfare, though little acclaim, and his youthful work Chatterton made its way to the stage.  The German Kaiser commissioned an opera, which would be completed ten years later (delayed by La Bohème and Zazá).  And through it all he conducted and toured PagliacciDer Roland von Berlin was considered a critical failure (although the nationalist German critics could be accused of being a bit hostile), but the Kaiser loved it and the public happily attended 25 performances.  In truth, the music was very good, but a bad German translation of the libretto, and the unsuitability of the original novel to be made into an opera, contributed to its artistic difficulties.

World War I further complicated Leoncavallo’s life with the Germans, and his work, for myriad reasons, was banned in Germany.  As always, he was hurting for money, in debt, supporting his own family and his two brothers and their professional escapades.  To make a living he turned to operetta and wrote some that were quite delightful and some that were less than delightful.  His health began to fail him; his lawsuits began to come home to roost; he worked like a dog on projects that never came to fruition.  He died at home on August 19, 1919 at the disappointing age of 62.


About the Composer:  Carl Orff (1895-1982)

“He had his life and that is that.”

— Godela Orff, Carl Orff’s
 estranged daughter


Carl Orff

Carl Orff was an obdurately complex man, living in exceedingly compromising times.  His fame in the United States is due largely to his massive cantata, Carmina Burana, and in the world of educators for his Schulwerk, a pedagogical method for teaching music and movement to young children, and that fame is unavoidably tainted by the sulfurous whiff of the Third Reich.  Arguably, his international fame rests upon the popularity of Carmina Burana with the Nationalist Socialist Party.  But even that popularity was controversial within the party for some time.  For several Nazi critics and musicologists, the piece was entirely too influenced by Stravinsky, too linguistically inclusive and too explicitly sexual to be appropriately “German.”  Because of Orff’s own precarious position prior to Carmina, he could argue convincingly, after World War II, that he was unpopular with the Nazis, and that Carmina Burana itself was above suspicion.  However, others within the party were unequivocally enthusiastic about the work, including the impeccably credentialed SS officer and Mayor of Frankfurt, Fritz Krebs, who awarded Orff a politically significant, if financially modest, prize.  In 1937, Orff was gaining prestige, and with it a certain inoculation against the dangers of not being a party member.  Prior to Carmina, he was a rather minor Bavarian composer who had dabbled in educational theory and had some interesting and indeterminately successful experiments in a new type of Gesamtkunstwerk*.  After Carmina, his star was on the rise.  Like many Germans after the war, Orff disliked speaking of his actions during those years, but unlike others, Orff disliked publicly speaking of himself at all, and refused to give interviews, particularly to biographers.  “Let them pick over me after I am dead,” was his typical response.  Most of his biographers stick to his musical accomplishments and remain suspiciously silent about his personal life.

Orff was born in Munich in 1895.  Munich was a Bavarian city, and Orff was fond of reminding people that, above all, he was a good Bavarian.  His family was an old and respected one.  Both of his grandfathers had attained the rank of major general and both were important academics.  His mother was an accomplished and gifted pianist, and she encouraged her son’s musical talents, serving as his first piano teacher.  His father too was a musician, and, though not a professional, was a proficient pianist and string player.  Young Carl was steeped in the German tradition of Hausmusik, in which friends and family gathered to play and sing together in the evening.  His home life seems to have been happy and conflict- free throughout his childhood.  His musical gifts were recognized and honored early, and he was removed from regular schooling before he graduated and was sent to the Academy of Music in Munich to continue his musical studies.  

Orff applied himself to his musical studies—but not at the Academy.  He found it too stuffy and old-fashioned, and music in that day was flooded with the ideas and sounds of the Viennese School and French Impressionism.  Orff poured over the harmonic language of Schoenberg and absorbed Debussy’s scintillating, shimmering melodies.   Directly influenced by the musical avantgarde and Debussy in particular, Orff began composing his first stage work in 1913, following that with orchestral work, which he eventually realized was not his strength, passion or path.  Filled with a love of history, myth and fable, carefully instilled and cultivated by his maternal grandfather, Orff realized that a synthesis of his passions could be achieved in the theater.  Then the horror of World War I engulfed Europe and its young men.  

Orff joined the army in 1917 and went immediately to the eastern front.  His service was short (the war ended in 1918), but pivotal in the psychology of the man.  After World War I, Europe had changed and so had Carl Orff.  There is little specific information about his service, just murmurings of being trapped and nearly dying in the suffocating dark of a collapsed trench.  It was enough to cause him to “wake up screaming in the night,” according to one of his wives, to weep uncontrollably, and perhaps to suffer panic attacks, if that is how one could describe an “embarrassing incident with [his third wife] Rinsher” mentioned by Michael H. Kater in his book Composers of the Nazi Era:  Eight Portraits.  Such a horrifying experience could certainly cause a heightened sense of self preservation, which, perhaps explains some of what happened later.

After his return to Munich, Orff composed and began to explore his own style, while holding various small posts in opera companies.  He met and married Alice Solscher, a successful opera singer, in 1920, and welcomed his only child, a daughter, Godela, in 1921.  He sought musical knowledge from others, but his studies didn’t produce much of interest, until musicologist Curt Sachs introduced him to the works of the Renaissance masters.  Claudio Monteverdi struck a spark in the ambitious, theater-adoring 26-year-old.  He began to work on a new arrangement of Monteverdi’s Orfeo, and would eventually complete arrangements of Il Ballo delle ingrate, Arianna and L’Incoronazione di Poppea. All of this before Monteverdi was truly rediscovered.  

During the 1920s, Orff also began a watershed project that would arguably fix his international reputation with educators the world over.  In 1924, he co-founded the Günther School with Dorothee Günther, whom he had met in 1923.  She was interested in creating a school for musical and dance training based loosely on the work of Jaques-Dalcroze, an educator who developed a system of music and movement known as eurhythmics.  Orff loved dance and was familiar with the work of Jaques-Dalcroze student Mary Wigman, whose modern, primal choreography Orff linked to his own protean ideas for “elemental” music.  Orff’s definition of elemental music, “a music which is not abstract, but which integrates the elements of speech, movement and dance,” fit in well with Günther’s plans for training young performance-based professionals, and for the next six years, Orff was deeply involved in the creation and implementation of a curriculum of music with rhythm at its heart and improvisation as its soul.   The first edition of Schulwerk would appear in 1931.  As the Nazis rose to power throughout the early 1930s, Orff retreated somewhat from the Günther School, while retaining control over Schulwerk.  His reputation as a Weimar modernist did not endear him to the Aryan wardens of acceptable German art and Dorothee had, whether out of survival instinct or ideology, joined the Nazi party and allowed their influence to permeate the school, at least publicly.  Meanwhile, Orff’s financial situation was uncomfortable and he began trying to sell Schulwerk as an ideal method to instilling German Music in Hitler Youth.  

Schulwerk, though, at least until after 1937, when Carmina Burana was first performed, was suspect with Nazi artistic authorities because of the wide variety of Eastern-influenced percussion instruments used in the curriculum, despite its clear basis in the music of the Volk, and strict avoidance of anything that smacked of atonal or jazz idioms.

From 1935-36, Orff was hard at work on Carmina Burana.  After its premiere, Orff said that he told his publisher to “henceforth forget everything he had composed before 1937.”  He may have said this, but it was hyperbole.  Orff did not, in fact, forget or repudiate everything he had written up until that time.  There were of course, the Schulwerk compositions, as well as the sketches for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which he used as a springboard for his next commission:  the replacement of the Jewish composer Mendelssohn’s incidental music.  He was offered the commission by Lord Mayor Krebs, the SS officer who had championed Carmina Burana after its rocky premiere.  Orff took the commission.  There is no question that he needed the money.  And, of course, he had been interested in writing for Shakespeare’s comedy 20 years before.  But several other composers had turned down the commission on principle, and there is evidence that Orff, too, found the premise distasteful.  Nevertheless, Orff’s ego and keenly honed desire to see his music performed at any cost was such that he accepted the commission and wrote the music.  He closed his eyes to the political implications of his actions, and so inured his conscience; at least for the time being.  

As World War II began, Carmina Burana gained popularity, as did Orff.  He received commissions and had other works performed.  He was quickly becoming a recognized and important composer, and received various privileges and perks as gifts from Nazi admirers, the greatest of which was an exemption from “war service requirements of any kind.”  What Orff’s true politics were is impossible to know.  There are letters early on in which he makes fun of the pomposity of the Reich; he certainly did not join in publicly denigrating Jews—and, by Nazi standards, he was a quarter Jew (a fact that he certainly did not share with anyone).  However, it is Orff’s behavior after the war (vigorously denied by the Munich Orff Center) which speaks to his self-service and capability of using and abandoning friends in the pursuit of his musical career.

His most egregious and controversial act in the initial post-war period was his claim to be the co-founder of the White Rose.  The White Rose was a non-violent resistance group composed of anti-Nazi students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor, Kurt Huber.  From 1942 to 1943, they published anti-Nazi propaganda and dispersed it throughout the city.  They were then picked up, tried and executed.  Kurt Huber and Carl Orff were close friends, although there is no evidence that Orff was involved with the White Rose (indeed, he worked hard to distance himself from Huber and his wife following Huber’s arrest).  Despite Frau Huber’s pleas to use his influence to help her husband, Orff refused, and Huber was executed in July 1943, five months after his arrest.

After the war, many artists found themselves out of work, and needing to distance themselves from the Nazi regime.  Orff was no exception.  He had been listed as “Gray, unacceptable” on the Office of Military Government, United States (OMGUS) rating system.  In order to avoid a “de-nazification” trial and be able to work again, Orff needed to move up the list a bit to “Gray, acceptable.”  The young officer investigating Orff was Newell Jenkins, a student of Orff’s before the war.  Jenkins explained Orff’s position to him and told him “to examine your own conscience and furnish proof of active resistance against the previous government.  For those people are scarce, and, as I said, they are of greatest value to everyone.”  The proof Orff offered, according to Jenkins was, “that he had worked together with Kurt Huber, they had founded some kind of a youth group … The danger came when he and some kids or maybe Huber himself were discovered passing out leaflets.  Huber was arrested and killed.”  According to Orff’s wife Gertrude, his daughter Godela, Huber’s widow and the conspicuous lack of any other evidence, Orff was most certainly not involved in the White Rose in any way.  Regardless, Jenkins gave Orff a clean slate, and he immediately began work again.  Other gray-listed colleagues of his attempted to gain his help in the period immediately following the war, but Orff did not answer them.  He moved implacably forward.

In 1945, Orff was asked to design a series of radio broadcasts with and for children based on some of his early work at the Günther School.  In 1948, the first broadcast, “Children Make Music,” became reality and was immediately successful.  From these broadcasts, which continued until 1954, Music for Children was published and used in conjunction with Schulwerk.

Carl Orff lived until 1982, but his tightrope-walking between the needs of his musical career and the Third Reich haunted him for the rest of his life.  Orff suffered nightmares and pathological guilt.  He wrote letters to his late friends apologizing for his misdeeds, including one to Karl Huber.  There is no question that Orff was a very flawed human being, as well as a brilliant artist and pedagogue.  Millions of children have learned to express themselves with music through Carl Orff.  In this way, he was—and is—hugely influential—more so perhaps, than for his sprawling and affecting Carmina Burana.


* aesthetic theory of Richard Wagner’s involving a complete synthesis of all of the arts into a perfect performing art, where music, poetry, drama, scenic design, etc. are perfectly balanced.  Orff’s ideal involved a similar synthesis, but involved what he termed “elemental” music—a kind of primitive, universal ideal.



Emily PulleyEmily Pulley - Nedda


Portland Opera Debut

Soprano Emily Pulley’s radiant voice and electrifying acting have won her both national and international acclaim. Of her 2010 performance in Boston Lyric Opera’s The Turn of the Screw, Opera News said, “Emily Pulley was outstanding as the embattled Governess.

Emily Pulley

Emily Pulley - Nedda


Portland Opera Debut

Soprano Emily Pulley’s radiant voice and electrifying acting have won her both national and international acclaim. Of her 2010 performance in Boston Lyric Opera’s The Turn of the Screw, Opera News said, “Emily Pulley was outstanding as the embattled Governess. The role fits Pulley’s voice like a glove, and she captured the psychological complexity and heartbroken innocence of one of Britten’s great tragic characters.” The New York Times describes her portrayal of the title role of Floyd’s Susannah as being, “sung with unfailing warmth, radiance, and spirit,” and elsewhere has lauded her singing as “faultless and exquisite.”

A frequent presence at the Metropolitan Opera, Ms. Pulley’s roles in the legendary house include Marguerite in Faust, Nedda in I Pagliacci, Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel, Anne Trulove in The Rake’s Progress, Musetta in La Bohème, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Thérèse in Les Mamelles de Tirésias, and First Lady in a new production of Die Zauberflöte directed by Julie Taymor. She made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Mimi in La Bohème.

Ms. Pulley has delighted audiences across the country on the stages of New York City Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Dallas Opera, Minnesota Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Colorado, and Central City Opera in such roles as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Fiordiligi in Così fan Tutte, Minnie in La Fanciulla del West, and Rosalinda in Die Fledermaus. A champion of new repertoire, she created the role of Lysia in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s new opera, Lysistrata, in her Houston Grand Opera debut, which she then reprised for New York City Opera. She made her New York City Opera debut as Lavinia Mannon in Mourning Becomes Electra for which she won the New York City Opera Richard F. Gold Debut Artist Award.

Most recent career highlights include performances as the Governess in The Turn of the Screw with Boston Lyric Opera, Agathe in Der Freischütz with Opera Boston, the title role of Susannah at the Wexford Festival in Ireland, Carmina Burana and Nedda in I Pagliacci with Atlanta Opera, Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites with Austin Lyric Opera, Marguerite in Faust with New Orleans Opera, Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites with Kentucky Opera, Josephine in H.M.S. Pinafore with Anchorage Opera, and Sarah in Jake Heggie’s The End of the Affair for Lyric Opera of Kansas City. She also returned to Central City Opera in the title role of Vanessa, the title role in Susannah and Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni.

In concert, most recent engagements include Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 at the Chautauqua Institution, First Lady in Bernstein’s A White House Cantata with New York City’s Collegiate Chorale, and the love duet from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet with the Pacific Symphony.

Future engagements include Beatrice in Heggie’s Three Decembers with Central City Opera, Leonora in semi-staged performances of Fidelio at the Dayton Opera, Desdemona in Otello at the Arizona Opera, Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro at Opera Columbus, Mimi in La Bohème with the Eugene Opera, and Micaela in Carmen with the Brazos Valley Symphony.

A native of Texas, Ms. Pulley received the Richard F. Gold Career Grant from Central City Opera and the Jacobson Study Grant from the Richard Tucker Foundation. She is the 2006 recipient of New York City Opera’s Christopher Keene Award, recognizing an artist’s performance in new or unusual repertoire.


Richard CrawleyRichard Crawley - Canio


Richard Crawley will join the rosters of the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago in the 2010-11 season. In the Fall of 2010 he will sing his first Canio in I Pagliacci with Portland Opera, and in the summer of 2011 he will debut at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in the title role of Lohengrin.

Richard Crawley

Richard Crawley - Canio


Richard Crawley will join the rosters of the Metropolitan Opera and Lyric Opera of Chicago in the 2010-11 season. In the Fall of 2010 he will sing his first Canio in I Pagliacci with Portland Opera, and in the summer of 2011 he will debut at the Savonlinna Opera Festival in the title role of Lohengrin. During the current season, Mr. Crawley stepped in with only 6 days' notice to learn and perform the title role of d'Indy's Fervaal at Avery Fisher Hall with the American Symphony Orchestra, to high acclaim. The New York Times stated he "gave a heroic performance. Mr. Crawley, clearly a quick study, has a healthy, pleasing and robust voice." He recently performed a similar feat not just once, but twice - first, when he learned and performed the title role of Mascagni's Il Piccolo Marat at Avery Fisher with Teatro Grattacielo, with only two weeks' notice. The New York Times said then of his singing: "As Marat, the tenor Richard Crawley sang with power and urgency..." He then also stepped in on short notice to learn and perform Enée in Les Troyens at the White Nights Festival in St. Petersburg with Maestro Gergiev conducting. He again was lauded for that effort, with ConcertoNet saying that he "firmly nailed all the scary high notes without yelling or shrieking, a major feat."

Recent engagements for Mr. Crawley have included Cavaradossi in Tosca (opposite Carol Vaness) with the San Francisco Opera, as well as additional engagements with San Francisco Opera to cover the title role in Otello, Pollione in Norma, Luigi in Il Tabarro, Manrico in Il Trovatore, Lenksi in Eugene Onegin, and supporting roles in Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre and Adams' Dr. Atomic. He also performed Don José in Carmen opposite Denyce Graves in Athens, Greece; Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut and Don José with Hawaii Opera Theatre; Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana with Toledo Opera; Verdi's Requiem with Dayton Philharmonic; a critically acclaimed Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly with the Chautauqua Opera as well as Dayton Opera; Riccardo in Un Ballo in Maschera with Opera Santa Barbara; Cavaradossi in Tosca with Hawaii Opera Theatre; the title role of Faust at Portland Opera; his role debut as Otello with the Oakland East Bay Symphony; Beethoven's 9th Symphony with the Hong Kong Symphony; and highlights of Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame and Eugene Onegin fully staged with the Sacramento Opera.
Career highlights include performances with Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Atlanta Opera, Florida Grand Opera, Staatstheater Stuttgart, Tulsa Opera, Opera Colorado, Lake George Opera, Syracuse Opera and Augusta Opera; in such roles as Don José in Carmen, Luigi in Il Tabarro, Cavaradossi in Tosca, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Sam Polk in Susannah, the Steuermann in Der Fliegende Holländer, the title role in Faust, Rodolfo in La Bohème, Narraboth in Salome, Alfredo in La Traviata, Rinuccio in Gianni Schicchi, Alfred in Die Fledermaus and the Marquis in Lortzing's Zar und Zimmermann.

Also an accomplished orchestral soloist, Mr. Crawley has performed Handel's Messiah with the New Japan Philharmonic and the Tokyo Oratorio Society, as well as at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. He has sung Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the Bay-Atlantic Symphony and the Greater Bridgeport Symphony; Mendelssohn's Paulus with the New Japan Philharmonic; the Evangelist/Tenor in Bach's Christmas Oratorio with the National Symphony Orchestra of Costa Rica; Haydn's Harmonie Messe with the Syracuse Symphony; Haydn's The Creation with Baltimore Choral Arts Society; Bach's b minor Mass with Handel Choir of Baltimore; the Evangelist in Bach's St. Matthew Passion with Concert Artists of Baltimore; and the Mozart Requiem with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and also at Carnegie Hall.



Marian PopMarian Pop - Silvio


Previously at Portland Opera: Don Pasquale, 1998; Faust, 2006

Hailed by the Oregonian for “a rich, agile voice and high notes that could nearly part your hair,” baritone Marian Pop’s performances in the 2008-09 season include Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia and the Count in Le nozze di Figaro at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, ...

Marian Pop

Marian Pop - Silvio


Previously at Portland Opera: Don Pasquale, 1998; Faust, 2006

Hailed by the Oregonian for “a rich, agile voice and high notes that could nearly part your hair,” baritone Marian Pop’s performances in the 2008-09 season include Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia and the Count in Le nozze di Figaro at the Teatro Municipal de Santiago, Dandini in La Cenerentola with Florida Grand Opera, the Black Cat and the Grandfather Clock in L’enfant et les sortileges in a return to Opera Company of Philadelphia. He created the role of Cyrano in the work’s world premiere at Michigan Opera Theatre and sang subsequent performances of the role at Opera Company of Philadelphia in the 2007-08. Also last season, he returned to Theater Basel for Valenin in Faust and sang CarminaBurana with the St. Petersburg Philharmonia. In recent seasons, he has joined Theater Basel for his first performances of Posa in Don Carlo as well as Lescaut in Manon, Taddeo L’italiana in Algeri, and Prokofiev’s Pantalone in The Love for Three Oranges. A frequent guest at the Staatsoper Stuttgart, his numerous roles with the company have included his signature performances of Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Beckmesser in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and Ulisse in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria. With the Vienna Staatsoper and Volksoper, he has sung a variety of roles including Malatesta in Don Pasquale, Dandini in La Cenerentola, Valentin in Faust, Ping in Turandot, Graf Homonay in Zigeunerbaron, and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus.
Among the baritone’s other international engagements are by Carmina Burana with the Teatro Municipal in Chile for his South American debut where he later sang Brahms’ Requiem and Marcello in La Bohème. He has sung Malatesta in Don Pasquale with New Israeli Opera; Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia, the Count in Le nozze di Figaro and Dandini in La Cenerentola in Klagenfurt; more performances of Figaro in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Dr. Falke in Die Fledermaus with Enschede Opera in Holland; Falke in Die Fledermaus in St. Gallen; Belcore in L’elisir d’amore in Klosterneuburg; Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia at Munich’s Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz; and Marullo in Rigoletto at the Opera Bastille. Mr. Pop made his North American debut as Malatesta in Don Pasquale with the Portland Opera and has since joined the company for Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia. He has also sung Ping in Turandot with Cincinnati Opera and Figaro in Il barbiere di Siviglia and Marcello in La Bohème with Michigan Opera Theater.

In his native city of Cluj, Rumania Mr. Pop has appeared as the title role in Don Giovanni, Marcello in La Bohème, Der König in Die Kluge, Procolo in Donizetti’s Viva la Mamma, in Tom Johnson’s Four Notes Opera, and Dandini in La Cenerentola. His oratorio credits in the city include Carmina Burana and the Fauré Requiem. Additional Romanian credits include Count di Luna in Il Trovatore in Constanta.

His concert performances have also included Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 in Bucharest and an aria evening in Bayreuth, Germany. Mr. Pop also participated in a tour of La Cenerentola and Viva la Mamma to Austria, Germany; the Netherlands; and Great Britain with the Musical Theatre of Brasov.


Mark RuckerMark Rucker - Tonio


Previously at Portland Opera: Rigoletto, 2009

From the time of his debut as Renato in Un ballo in maschera with Luciano Pavarotti for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, American baritone Mark Rucker has been in demand in opera houses and on concert stages throughout the world. He most recently was called to the Vienna State Opera as Stankar in Stiffelio.

Mark Rucker

Mark Rucker - Tonio


Previously at Portland Opera: Rigoletto, 2009

From the time of his debut as Renato in Un ballo in maschera with Luciano Pavarotti for the Opera Company of Philadelphia, American baritone Mark Rucker has been in demand in opera houses and on concert stages throughout the world. He most recently was called to the Vienna State Opera as Stankar in Stiffelio. "The star of this opera evening was neither on the stage nor in the orchestra pit. The revival of Verdi’s “Stiffelio” became, at the state opera, the unexpected triumph for a singer, that did not act the role in this evening at all: Mark Rucker was at the edge of stage and sang Stankar from a music stand … The big aria of Stankar at the beginning of the third act was one of those moments, which constitutes the wonder of opera. Owing to the strength of the music, the magic of the moment and vocal intensity, Mark Rucker was able to construct excitement. Cheers of jubilation.” – Wiener Zeitung, Vienna Staatsoper 11 February 2009

Mr. Rucker made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Amonasro in Aida and has since been heard in the house as Don Carlo in La forza del destino, Tonio in I pagliacci, and as Rigoletto for the Met in the Parks.  He made his European debut as Alfio and Tonio for Opera de Nice, and has continued his European career with performances as Alfio at the Vienna State Opera, Amonasro in Aida for the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin with Fabio Luisi and with the Concertgebouw Orkest under the baton of Riccardo Chailly, made his Italian debut as Rigoletto with Daniele Gatti at the Teatro Communale in Bologna, and his debut at the Arena di Verona as Amonasro.

In recent seasons Mr. Rucker has returned to Bologna as both Macbeth and Nabucco, made his Carnegie Hall debut as Don Carlo in La forza del destino opposite Maria Guleghina and Salvatore Licitra, returned to the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam as both Antonio in Linda di Chamounix and Le Comte de Toulouse in Verdi’s Jerusalem with the Netherlands Radio Orchestra, has been Macbeth in Trieste, Rigoletto with the Israel Philharmonic, Nabucco in Athens and Liège, and was Rigoletto and Amonasro at the Netherlands Opera in Amsterdam.

Mr. Rucker’s extensive American career has taken him to the New York City Opera for his debut as Rigoletto, to the San Diego Opera as Renato in Un ballo in maschera and Amonasro in Aida, to Miami with the Florida Grand Opera as Rigoletto, Macbeth, and for Cavalleria rusticana and I pagliacci, to the Baltimore Opera as Nabucco, to L'Opéra de Montréal as Di Luna in Il trovatore, the New Orleans Opera as Rigoletto, Tonio and Alfio, to Vancouver as Rigoletto and Amonasro, Mexico City as Amonasro, and for the majority of the dramatic baritone repertoire to the theaters of Amsterdam, Atlanta, Cleveland, Connecticut, Detroit, Dublin, Graz, Jesi, Milwaukee, North Carolina, Opera Pacific, Orlando, Portland, Taipei, Virginia, among many others.

Mr. Rucker has been heard in the Festivals of Bregenz and Savonlinna, in concert with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Stefan Sanderling, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Israel Philharmonic, the Columbus Symphony, the San Antonio Symphony, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, and the Chicago Civic Symphony.  Mr. Rucker can be heard as Amonasro on the Naxos release of Aida.

On the concert stage Mr. Rucker has appeared as guest soloist in Walton's Belshazzar's Feast with the Baltimore Symphony under the baton of Stefan Sanderling, has appeared also as guest soloist with the Detroit Symphony, Columbus Symphony, Los Angeles Civic Orchestra, Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, Des Moines Symphony, Chicago Civic Orchestra and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. His concert repertoire includes Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Noah in Britten's Noye's Fludde, Vaughan Williams' Dona Nobis Pacem, and Dubois' Seven Last Words of Christ.

Mr. Rucker can be heard on a new CD, Mark Rucker Sings Lena Mclin Songs For Voices And Piano.


John DeMainJohn DeMain - Conductor


Previously at Portland Opera: A View from the Bridge, 2003

John DeMain is Music Director of the Madison Symphony and Artistic Director of  Madison Opera, He is also a sought after guest conductor of orchestras and opera companies around the world.

John DeMain

John DeMain - Conductor


Previously at Portland Opera: A View from the Bridge, 2003

John DeMain is Music Director of the Madison Symphony and Artistic Director of  Madison Opera, He is also a sought after guest conductor of orchestras and opera companies around the world. He is a regular guest of The Washington National Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Michigan Opera Theater, and New York City Opera and has also conducted productions for the State Opera of South Australia, Opera Queensland, Aspen Music Festival, Baltimore Opera, Bregenz Festival, Cleveland Opera, Cincinnati Opera, Florentine Opera Company of Milwaukee, Glimmerglass Opera,, Edmonton Opera, Italy's Teatro Regio Emilia, Juilliard Opera Center, Lake George Opera, Manitoba Opera, Teatro Belles Artes of Mexico City, Nice Opera, Opera Omaha, Opera de Puerto Rico, Opera Theater of St. Louis, San Diego Opera, San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, and Wexford Festival.

On the concert stage, Mr. DeMain has conducted the Adelaide Symphony, Aspen Chamber Orchestra, Boston Pops, Chautauqua Symphony, Adelaide Chamber Orchestra, Columbus Symphony, Denver Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Houston Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk Orchester, National Symphony, Oakland Symphony, Omaha Symphony, Orchestra of Seville, Pacific Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Antonio Symphony, San Diego Symphony, Seattle Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, Texas Chamber Orchestra, and Youngstown Symphony.

Recent engagements include guest appearances with Los Angeles Opera for Porgy and Bess, A Little Night Music and The Merry Widow, The Washington National Opera for A View from the Bridge, State Opera of South Australia for Dead Man Walking, New York City Opera for Porgy and Bess, Dead Man Walking and Tosca, Glimmerglass Opera for Glassblowers and Little Women, the Festival Euro Mediterraneo in Rome for Candide, Portland Opera for A View from the Bridge, plus productions at Opera Pacific and for the Madison Opera.

This past season included Porgy and Bess for the Lyric Opera of Chicago and San Francisco Opera, Il Barbiere di Siviglia for Opera Pacific, plus concerts with the Madison Symphony.  The current season includes guest engagements with Vancouver Opera for Nixon in China and the Dayton Philharmonic.  Next season, he will return to Portland to conduct Carmina Burana and I Pagliacci.

Mr. DeMain served as Music Director and Principal Conductor for the Houston Grand Opera for eighteen years.  During his distinguished tenure with that organization, he led a history-making production of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, which he subsequently recorded for RCA, and won the Grammy Award, Tony Award, and France's Grand Prix du Disque.  He also conducted a number of other notable productions, including the world premieres of Bernstein's A Quiet Place, Floyd's Willie Stark and The Passion of Jonathan Wade, Adams' Nixon in China, Tippet's New Year, and the American premieres of Glass' Akhnaten and Maria de Buenos Aires.  From the standard repertoire, he conducted productions of La Traviata by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Salome by Jim Dine, Mefistofele by Robert Carson, A Midsummer Night's Dream by John Copley, and a memorable production of Tosca featuring Eva Marton, Placido Domingo, and Ingvar Wixell.  From the repertoire of American musical theater, he conducted acclaimed productions of Treemonisha, Showboat, Hello Dolly, Candide, Sweeney Todd, and Carousel.  He also served as Artistic Director of Opera Pacific for ten years.

Television audiences have seen Mr. DeMain on PBS's "Great Performances" most recently conducting Porgy and Bess at the New York City Opera, and telecasts of Treemonisha, Willie Stark, An American Christmas from the Houston Grand Opera,and "Live from Lincoln Center" starring Placido Domingo, with whom he has conducted many concerts throughout the world, including the celebrated 1992 "Concert for the Planet Earth.”   His recording of Porgy and Bess for RCA Victor was awarded a “Grammy” and remains the standard interpretation of this work.

A native of Youngstown, Ohio, John DeMain earned a Bachelor and Master's Degree in Music at the Juilliard School.  While in New York, he served as Associate Conductor for the National Education Television Opera Project, Associate Conductor of the Norwalk Symphony, and assistant conductor of the New York City Opera as the second recipient of the Julius Rudel Award. One of the first six American conductors to receive the Exxon/National Endowment for the Arts conducting grant, Mr. DeMain served as Associate Conductor of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Music Director of the Texas Opera Theater and as Artistic Director of Opera Omaha.


Christopher Mattaliano - Host

Christopher Mattaliano


Portland Opera's General Director

Christopher Mattaliano’s recent revival of Hugo Weisgall’s Esther at New York City Opera received high praise from The New York Times’ critic Anthony Tommasini.

Christopher Mattaliano - Host

Christopher Mattaliano


Portland Opera's General Director

Christopher Mattaliano’s recent revival of Hugo Weisgall’s Esther at New York City Opera received high praise from The New York Times’ critic Anthony Tommasini.

Christopher Mattaliano was named Portland Opera’s fifth General Director in July 2003. In this capacity, he is responsible for all artistic, financial, and administrative aspects of the company.

Previous to this appointment, Mr. Mattaliano was the Artistic Director of the Pine Mountain Music Festival, in addition to his very successful career as a stage director.

He brings to the company an intense artistic vision honed from his extensive stage directing experience. Prior to taking the helm at Portland Opera, Mr. Mattaliano achieved considerable regional success, directing five acclaimed Portland Opera productions—Manon (1991), Eugene Onegin (1992), Pagliacci/Carmina Burana (1997 and 2000), Candide (2002), and Il Trovatore (2002). In 2004, his direction of Rossini's The Journey to Reims opened his first artistic season in Portland to both popular and critical acclaim.  Since then he has directed The Rape of Lucretia (2005), Verdi's Macbeth (2006), The Magic Flute (2007), Cinderella (2007), Albert Herring (2008), Rigoletto (2009), The Barber of Seville (2010), Pagliacci/Carmina Burana (2010), and L’Heure Espagnole/L’Enfant et les Sortileges (2011).

Mr. Mattaliano has directed North American productions for the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, San Francisco Opera, Washington Opera, the Canadian Opera Company, L’Opera de Montreal, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Minnesota Opera, Dallas Opera, Central City Opera, among many others. His work has also been enjoyed internationally at L’Opera de Nice and the Norwegian National Opera.

He has directed world premieres of Hugo Weisgall’s Esther for the New York City Opera, jazz composer Fred Ho’s Journey Beyond the West for the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Peter Westergaard’s The Tempest for the Opera Festival of New Jersey, and the American premiere of Fleischman’s Rothschild’s Violin at the Juilliard Opera Center.

His passion for stage direction has extended well beyond the stages of those many companies. He has taught at the Juilliard School, the Metropolitan Opera Young Artist Development Program, Manhattan School of Music, Yale University, Mannes College of Music, and the New National Theater of Japan. In 1996 his essay on auditioning (“The Dreaded Audition”) was published by OPERA America.

Mr. Mattaliano received his BA in Theater Arts from Montclair State University with additional training at the Trent Park School of Performing Arts in London, England. In 1998 he received the L. Howard Fox Visiting Alumni Award from his alma mater as well as a National Opera Institute Stage Direction Grant.

Since joining the company, his presence is in considerable demand on the national level, leading the keynote panel at the 2004 OPERA America conference in Pittsburgh and being named to the National Endowment for the Arts’ opera review panel. He was recently elected to serve on OPERA America’s Board of Directors.


Excerpt from Pagliacci dress rehearsal

Excerpt from Carmina Burana

Director and Portland Opera General Director Christopher Mattaliano

Conductor John DeMain

Listen to the Music

Christopher Mattaliano's Introduction to Pagliacci

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Si puo? Si puo?

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Vesti la giubba

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Christopher Mattaliano's Introduction to Carmina Burana

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O fortuna

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In trutina

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Tempus est iocundum

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Musical excerpts used courtesy of Angel Records/EMI Classics.


Sep 24, 2010
Friday 7:30 pm
Sep 26, 2010
Sunday 2:00 pm
Sep 30, 2010
Thursday 7:30 pm
Oct 2, 2010
Saturday 7:30 pm


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