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Cover of the first piano reduction of Pagliacci published by Sonzogno, 1892
Record of Giuseppe Anselmi singing "Vesti la giubba" (Fonotipia Records)

"Vesti la giubba" ([ˈvɛs.ti la ˈdʒ], "Put on the costume", often referred to as "On With the Motley", from the original 1893 translation by Frederic Edward Weatherly) is a famous tenor aria from Ruggero Leoncavallo's 1892 opera Pagliacci. "Vesti la giubba" is sung at the conclusion of the first act, when Canio discovers his wife's infidelity, but must nevertheless prepare for his performance as Pagliaccio the clown because "the show must go on".

The aria is often regarded as one of the most moving in the operatic repertoire of the time. The pain of Canio is portrayed in the aria and exemplifies the entire notion of the "tragic clown": smiling on the outside but crying on the inside. This is still displayed today, as the clown motif often features the painted-on tear running down the cheek of the performer.

Enrico Caruso's recordings of the aria, from 1902, 1904 and 1909, were among the top selling records of the 78-rpm era and reached over a million sales.[1][2]

This aria is often used in popular culture, and has been featured in many renditions, mentions, and spoofs.

Caruso sings "Vesti la giubba"



Recitar! Mentre preso dal delirio,
non so più quel che dico,
e quel che faccio!
Eppur è d'uopo, sforzati!
Bah! Sei tu forse un uom?
Tu se' Pagliaccio!

Vesti la giubba e la faccia infarina.
La gente paga, e rider vuole qua.
E se Arlecchin t'invola Colombina,
ridi, Pagliaccio, e ognun applaudirà!
Tramuta in lazzi lo spasmo ed il pianto
in una smorfia il singhiozzo e 'l dolor, Ah!

Ridi, Pagliaccio,
sul tuo amore infranto!
Ridi del duol, che t'avvelena il cor!

Act! While in delirium,
I no longer know what I say,
or what I do!
And yet it's necessary... make an effort!
Bah! Are you not a man?
You are a clown!

Put on your costume, powder your face.
The people pay, and they want to laugh.
And if Harlequin shall steal your Columbina,
laugh, clown, so the crowd will cheer!
Turn your distress and tears into jest,
your pain and sobbing into a funny face – Ah!

Laugh, clown,
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!

In popular cultureEdit

  • Both the melody of the aria and dramatic points of the opera from which it comes are referenced by Homer and Jethro in the 1953 Spike Jones song "Pal Yat Chee" on RCA Victor[4]
  • The song was featured in a scene from the 1987 film The Untouchables, in which Al Capone (Robert De Niro) is shown attending a performance of Pagliacci.
  • The melody of the song was used by the rock band Queen in their 1984 single "It's a Hard Life" when frontman Freddie Mercury sang that song's opening lyrics "I don't want my freedom, there's no reason for living with a broken heart."[5]
  • The opera is performed in The Simpsons episode "The Italian Bob" in which Sideshow Bob sings the final verse of the aria.[6]
  • In the Seinfeld episode "The Opera" it can be heard several times throughout the episode. First when "Crazy" Joe Davola is lifting weights in his apartment, and again when Kramer plays a CD on Jerry Seinfeld's stereo in his apartment to the dismay of Jerry, and then again when Davola is putting on his clown make-up, as well as in the end credits of the episode. It can also be heard in the episode "The Keys" when Jerry is talking to Kramer's mother on the phone.
  • Verses from the aria are used in both Italian and English in the song "A Metaphor For The Dead" by the metal band Anaal Nathrakh.[7]
  • In season 1, episode 7, of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, "Kimmy Goes to a Party" (2015), the aria is performed twice by Titus. The episode revolves around suspicions of infidelity, so the lyrical content thematically links to the plot.[citation needed]


  1. ^ The New Guinness Book of Records, ed. Peter Matthews, Guinness Publishing. 1995. p. 150
  2. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 9. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. 
  3. ^ Ruggero Leoncavallo (1892). Pagliacci – Dramma in un atto. Milan: Edoardo Sonzogno. p. 28. 
  4. ^ Young, Jordan R. (1984). Spike Jones and His City Slickers: An Illustrated Biography, p. 83. . Quote: "'Pal-Yat-Chee' (recorded in 1950 but issued three years later) gave Homer and Jethro an unparalleled vehicle for their homespun humor, and a massive target – 'a fat guy in a clown suit' [...]". Disharmony Books. ISBN 0940410737
  5. ^ "Classical music that inspired pop songs", Classic FM (UK), undated
  6. ^ "You think you don't know opera? Here are 19 ways you’re wrong (at least about Pagliacci)" by Helen Schwab, The Charlotte Observer via Opera Carolina, 31 March 2016
  7. ^ Fagnani, Gabriele (2012). "Recensione: Anaal Nathrakh - Vanitas". Retrieved 24 June 2017 (in Italian).

External linksEdit