Like his compatriot Pietro Mascagni, Ruggero Leoncavallo belongs to a group of composers known primarily for one famous work – in this case, his much-loved and widely performed opera, Pagliacci. Born and educated in Naples, Leoncavallo’s output was predominantly operatic, contributing to the tradition of ‘verismo’, which sought to portray greater realism in art and literature. He also uniquely provided the libretti for many of his own works, as well contributing to the text of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut.
Mattinata (‘Morning Song’) was written at the behest of The Gramophone Company (latterly HMV), and dedicated to the renowned tenor Enrico Caruso, who recorded it in 1904 with the composer at the piano. Set to a text by Leoncavallo himself, it is a charming and cheerful greeting from a lover to his beloved, and has since become a popular folk song in the composer’s native Italy.