“Vesti la giubba” is 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.
The 1904 recording by Enrico Caruso was the first million-selling record in history.
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!
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 to be here, 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!
at your broken love!
Laugh at the grief that poisons your heart!