Livorno, 7 dicembre 1863 – Roma, 2 agosto 1945

Pietro Mascagni

Pietro Mascagni (Livorno, 1863 – Rome, 1945) will forever be associated with the resounding success of his first opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, taken from Verga, in 1890 – winner of a competition for an opera in one act promoted by Sonzogno. He went on to write fifteen other works, but the musician from Livorno, who shared a small room with Giacomo Puccini in bohemian Milan during his studies at the Conservatoire, was never able to really shake the nickname of ‘one opera work’, (in one way he was in good company with the likes of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci and Francesco Clea with her Adriana Lecouvreur). This title was of course questionable in many respects because he was a prolific composer also wrote many other kinds of work such as: instrumental music (Symphonies, Elegies and various works for voice and orchestra); vocal (he wrote several Romanze and Cantante), sacred work(famously his Messa di Gloria); operetta and even in film music (he was the first Italian composer to write for silent film. In the course of his life, instead of exploiting the worldwide success of Cavalleria by creating ‘clone’ works (as his publishers Sonzogno and Ricordi recommended), he worked to experience other musical languages, from decadence, symbolism, expressionism and exoticism through to the end of his life. Unfortunately this experimentation did not always meet the tastes of the public. The fame of his opera was certainly hindered by his adherence to fascism (although, on the day of his death, honored by a large crowd, Radio Moscow held a minute of silence).  We therefore remember  these other works, of which only a few are still performed today including: Cavalleria Rusticana (1890), Iris (1898) and L’Amico Fritz (1891). Certainly even less known and likely completely forgotten: I Rantzau, 1892; Guglielmo Ratcliff, 1895; Silvano, 1895; Zanetto, 1896; Le maschere, 1901; Amica, 1905; Isabeau, 1911; Lodoletta, 1913; Piccolo Marat, 1921; Pinotta, 1932, and Nerone, 1935.

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