Aria "Vesti la giubba" from Ruggero Leoncavallo's opera Pagliacci begins with the word "recitar". It is translated into English as "act". If I am not mistaken "recitare" is closer to the English "recite" rather than "act". Also, there is no "recitar" in standard Italian. It sounds like it should be "recita" if it is second person imperative. Please explain this word.

  • «It is translated into English as...» - By whom? – DaG Dec 16 '19 at 7:53
  • Take a look at Wiki – Hank Dec 16 '19 at 9:09
  • What do you mean? You are apparently quoting a particular translation. Which one? – DaG Dec 16 '19 at 10:49
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    Thanks, @Charo. My point was that people often says “X translates as Y”, “X is translated Y”, while there is no such thing as an absolute, impersonal translation; every translation is a particular choice of some human being (or, possibly, computer program). – DaG Dec 16 '19 at 11:23
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    Of course, @DaG: I completely agree with you. – Charo Dec 16 '19 at 11:35

The verb recitare can mean to act. Meaning 2 in the Treccani dictionary entry says

Interpretare un’opera teatrale, cinematografica, radiofonica o televisiva, o una parte di un’opera

The form recitar is a truncation used, in this case, to fit the metric of the verses.

The character singing the aria, Canio, has just discovered his wife's infidelity, but has to dress as a clown and act notwithstanding his life problems. So he starts off with Recitare! (truncated for metric reasons), that can be loosely translated as “Alas! I have to act!”

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    @Hank Truncation in this case means that we remove the last vowel, not the last syllable. It is a very common operation in spoken Italian (I at least do it normally when I speak) – Denis Nardin Dec 15 '19 at 22:27
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    @Hank The text has “Recitar!”, not “Recita!”. The character (il Pagliaccio) is moaning because he has to act. – egreg Dec 15 '19 at 22:33
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    @Hank No, definitely not in this case – egreg Dec 15 '19 at 22:35
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    @Hank In this case it is a noun, roughly we can translate the beginning as "Acting! While caught by the delirium I don't know what I say or what I do!" (@egreg: small note, the main character's name is Canio, not Pagliaccio, that's his stage name) – Denis Nardin Dec 15 '19 at 22:38
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    @Hank He's substantivizing the verb: maybe you could also translate it as "To act!" rather than "acting!". Essentially he's saying out loud the name of the action he's supposed to do now, as if in disbelief that he's really going to do that. If you need more explanations, it'd be better to move to chat – Denis Nardin Dec 15 '19 at 22:47

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