Role: Tommaso Chatterton (Tenor)

Composer: Leoncavallo Ruggero

Opera: Chatterton


Come cangia la sorteNi' pieghi del sudarioPerchè impresi a narrarRicomposi l'antica favella
Chatterton is a dramma lirico or opera in three acts (four acts in its original 1876 version) by Ruggero Leoncavallo. The libretto was written by the composer himself and is freely adapted from the life of the young English poet from Bristol, Thomas Chatterton (1752–1770). Although composed in 1876, it premiered 20 years later on 10 March 1896, at the Teatro Drammatico Nazionale in Rome.
Considered by the romantics as the perfect archetype of the accursed poet, Chatterton became famous for his brilliant pastiches of medieval poetry, which he attributed to an imaginary 15th-century monk whom he called Thomas Rowley. At the age of 18, to escape his misery, he committed suicide in London by taking poison.
The plot of the opera is based on Alfred de Vigny's Chatterton (published in 1835)—a successful drama in three acts derived from the second of the trio of short stories contained in his philosophical novel Stello (1832).
Chatterton, composed in 1876, is the debut opera of a young Leoncavallo freshly graduated from the Naples conservatory. However, the composer failed in his attempt to get his work performed because the promoter of the planned production disappeared with Leoncavallo's money shortly before the premiere. Leoncavallo would have to wait until after the financial success of his best known opera, 1892's Pagliacci, to see Chatterton produced.
The opera finally premiered on 10 March 1896, at the Teatro Drammatico Nazionale, Rome, in a revised version of the original four-act opera. The work was not successful even after another revision which was completed in 1905. Today, Chatterton is rarely performed.
Chatterton lives as a lodger in a wealthy home. Unable to live by his writing, he has to look for a job to support himself. Unfortunately, he can only get a job as a servant. The other aspect of the situation is his thwarted and concealed love for Jenny Clark (Kitty Bell in Vigny's play), the wife of the industrialist who is his landlord. Finally, faced with an impossible love and a menial job, a despairing Chatterton kills himself. He is followed immediately in death by Jenny.