Pietro Mascagni would be 148 years old today.
He was an Italian composer most noted for his operas. His 1890 masterpiece Cavalleria Rusticana caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and single-handedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music. Though it has been stated that Mascagni, like Leoncavallo, was a “one-opera man” who could never repeat his first success, this is inaccurate. L’amico Fritz and Iris have been popular in Europe since their respective premieres. In fact, Mascagni himself claimed that at one point Iris was performed in Italy more often than Cavalleria (cf. Stivender).
Mascagni wrote fifteen operas, an operetta, several orchestral and vocal works, as well as songs and piano music. He enjoyed immense success during his lifetime, both as a composer and conductor of his own and other people’s music. If he never repeated the international success of Cavalleria, it was probably because Mascagni refused to copy himself. The variety of styles in his operas — the Sicilian passion and warmth of Cavalleria, the exotic flavor of Iris, the idyllic breeze that ventilates the charming L’amico Fritz and Lodoletta, the Gallic chiaroscuro of Isabeau, the steely, Veristic power of Il piccolo Marat, the overripe postromanticism of the lush Parisina — demonstrate a versatility that surpasses even that of Puccini… (more)
Enjoy his Cavalleria Rusticana in this magnificent screenplay by Franco Zeffirelli: