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Mascagni, Pietro

February 14, 2012 553 No of hits
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Mascagni, Pietro

Pietro Mascagni led the verismo style of Italian opera that developed at the end of the nineteenth century. Markedly different from operas featuring gods and goddesses in fantasy settings, verismo operas center on common people in realistic circumstances, generally filled with passion, violence, and tragedy. Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana (rustic chivalry) burns with Sicilian passion. Although the composer wrote seventeen operas and operettas in a variety of styles, Cavalleria rusticana remains the most popular. Themes from the opera have been heard in many movies. Most notably, a production of the opera is featured in The Godfather Part III, and the opera's "Intermezzo" is a haunting theme in the film Raging Bull.

Pietro Antonio Stefano Mascagni was born on December 7, 1863 in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy. His father owned a bakery and opposed his son's interest in music, preferring that he study law, but young Mascagni was accepted into the Milan Conservatory in 1882, where he became friends with Giacomo Puccini. He later left the Conservatory and earned a living as a teacher and toured as a conductor in operetta companies.

In 1889 he married Argenide Marcellina Carbognani, with whom he had three children.

Also in 1889, he entered a contest, sponsored by the publisher Edoardo Sonzogno, for a one-act opera. Mascagni wrote and submitted Cavalleria rusticana, which easily won over 72 other entries. He was just 26 years old.

The opera premiered in Rome in May 1890 and was a huge success, soon appearing in major houses worldwide. The libretto is based on a play and tells of a tempestuous love quadrangle--jealous Santuzza loves Turiddu who is having an affair with Lola who is married to Alfio--that plays out against the celebration of Easter in a Sicilian village.

So impressive was Mascagni's composition that it encouraged imitators, including Ruggero Leoncavallo, who was inspired to write Pagliacci. The two short operas are often performed together as "Cav/Pag."

Although not as successful as Cavalleria rusticana, the comic L'amico Fritz with its lovely "Cherry Duet," which premiered in 1891 in Rome, is still performed, as is Iris, which premiered in Rome in 1898. His Guglielmo Ratcliff, which he had begun earlier but set aside to write Cavalleria rusticana, premiered in Milan in 1895.

Mascagni toured the United States in 1902-1903. He continued composing, but none of his later works achieved the continued popularity of Cavalleria rusticana. He directed the studio recording of the opera in 1940 to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Late in his life he became interested in fascism and composed works for Mussolini, losing many friends in the process. In his final public appearance, he conducted L'amico Fritz in Milan in 1943. He died impoverished in Rome on August 2, 1945 at the age of 81.

Tags:   Mascagni, Pietro   Pietro Mascagni   Italian composer   Verismo opera   Cavalleria rusticana  

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Pietro Mascagni led the verismo style of Italian opera that developed at the end of the nineteenth century. Markedly different from operas featuring gods and goddesses in fantasy settings, verismo operas center on common people in realistic circumstances, generally filled with passion, violence,...

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