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Pietro Mascagni in 100 Words

Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) is one of the most important Italian composers of the turn of the 20th century. The formidable success of his first masterpiece in 1890, Cavalleria Rusticana, unfortunately eluded many of his following works. Mascagni however wrote 15 operas, an operetta, several beautiful orchestral and vocal works, as well as songs and piano music. He enjoyed amazing operatic successes during his lifetime, and at the same time pursued a very successful career of conductor. Mascagni's approach to opera differed a lot from that of his friend and rival Puccini, which arguably was one of the factors that led to an under-appreciation of the value of his music by critics. 

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Latest News


Teatro Grattacielo  Presents the U.S. Première of Pietro Mascagni's 1921 Opera of the French Revolution

IL PICCOLO MARAT

Teatro Grattacielo  will celebrate its 15th Anniversary with the North American Première of Pietro Mascagni’s dramatic opera, Il Piccolo Marat at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center on Monday, April 13, 2009, conducted by Teatro Grattacielo’s Music Director David Wroe.

The performance will also feature the participation of over 100 choristers, combining members of the Cantori New York Chorus and the Long Island University Chorus, Mark Shapiro, Director, with the Teatro Grattacielo Orchestra.

Tickets are all on the Orchestra Level: $75 - $50 - $25 - $15
available at the Box Office or through CenterCharge at 212-721-6500



Scene from Act One of the 1921 premiere of the opera

The large cast includes tenor Arnold Rawls, Turkish bass Burak Bilgili, soprano Paula Delligatti and baritone Andrew Oakden. See more about the cast here.  The story concerns a young man who rescues his sweetheart and his mother from the clutches of a petty revolutionary who is determined to take revenge on aristocrats. The opera features massive choral forces, dramatic scenes of great beauty, and tender moments of love that are the rival of any Verismo opera. This is a work that deserves to be heard, and will be the only chance to hear it in the New York area, performed by a full symphonic orchestra and world-class singers, conducted by a maestro in full command of these revolutionary resources.

Pietro Mascagni around the time of "Il Piccolo Marat"

Considered by many critics to be Mascagni’s greatest achievement, Il Piccolo Marat was a huge success at its Rome premiere in 1921, receiving over 50 curtain calls. The opera went on to be produced throughout Italy, and in Buenos Aires, São Paulo, Alexandria, Barcelona, Paris and at La Scala. You can hear historic recordings here, from 1920's performances of Il Piccolo Marat. 

Written during - and about - a period of great anxiety, destruction, and change, not unlike our own recent times, Il Piccolo Marat’s message is the triumph of hope over despair, of love over hatred, and of good over evil. It confirms the possibility of transformation in spite of the whirlwinds that might surround us.

Learn more about the opera at the Teatro Grattacielo website. 

Teatro Grattacielo is extremely pleased and honored to present this great masterpiece to New York in its long-overdue North American Première.

Teatro Grattacielo: "Maybe you haven't heard your favorite opera yet!"

2 Riverside Drive, 2C | New York, NY 10023 | 212-595-7127 | email: verismo@grattacielo.org
[More »] 

Today December 7 is Mascagni's Birthday 

Pietro Mascagni  was born in Livorno, Italy on this day (December 7) in 1863. This is as good an occasion as any to play some of his music! As for me, I am playing the grand duet from Il piccolo Marat  with Mafalda de Voltri and Hipolito Lázaro.
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Photo of Mascagni Rehearsing Aida 

This fascinating photo recently turned up at an eBay auction. It was advertised as a photo of Mascagni rehearsing Cavalleria rusticana, but obviously the sets are those of Aida, and if you look carefully you can see the conductor score for Aida right behind Mascagni!

On the podium, you can read "Fot. Willinger Wien". This inscription is designed to look like something engraved on the podium, but it was likely added by the photographer. This would point to a performance of Aida in Vienna. As for the date, I would guess that this took place during the 1930s given Mascagni's looks. It should be possible to find a more precise date by looking up when Mascagni conducted Aida in Vienna.

Thanks to the seller, James Camner, who was kind enough to provide me with a good scan of this photo.

Update: Roger points out that this looks like an outdoor performance, and that Mascagni conducted Aida in Vienna in August 1924, among other dates. So that photo could very well be from August 1924.

Update: John found this mini-biography about a photographer called Laszlo Willinger  who had a studio in Vienna in the 1930s.
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Pianist Marco Sollini Playing Today in Cherry Hill, North Carolina 

Pianist Marco Sollini is playing today at the Cherry Hill Plantation in North Carolina. Sollini "oversaw the publication by Boccaccini and Spada of the piano music of Puccini, Mascagni, Giordano, Leoncavallo, and Bellini as well as chamber music by Rossini and Mascagni" (as reported in the article linked below).

Relevant Mascagni.org resources:
References:
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Cavalleria Rusticana in Venice in December 2009 (corrected) 

The illustrious Venice opera house, Teatro La Fenice, has announced performances of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana on the following dates:
  • Thursday, December 11, 2009 at 7 PM
  • Saturday, December 13, 2009 at 3:30 PM
  • Tuesday, December 16, 2009 at 7 PM
  • Thursday December 18, 2009 at 7 PM
  • Saturday, December 20, 2009 at 3:30 PM
What's interesting is that unlike the usual pairing with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, Cavalleria rusticana will be performed alongside Leoš Janáček's Šárka.

The cast will be as follows:
  • Conductor: Eliahu Inbal
  • Santuzza: Anna Smirnova
  • Turiddu: Walter Fraccaro
  • Orchestra and chorus: Teatro La Fenice
  • Chorus master: Claudio Marino Moretti
  • Mise en scène: Ermanno Olmi
  • Sets: Arnaldo Pomodoro
  • Costumes: Maurizio Millenotti
References:
Update: This blog initially announced that the performances would take place in December 2008. They will instead take place in December 2009.
[More »] 

Amica in Rome in the Coming Days 

Six performances of Mascagni's Amica  will take place in the coming days in Rome: Tuesday 7, Wednesday 8, Thursday 9 and Friday 10 at 8:30 PM, Saturday 11 at 6 PM, and Sunday October 12 at 5 PM.

Contrary to what was thought earlier, the work will be given in the original French with Italian supertitles, which is excellent news as Mascagni composed the music directly to the French libretto by Choudens. Only later was the libretto translated to Italian, in a translation which I think is quite coarse.

The last time the opera was performed in Rome was on May 13, 1905, in the Italian version, conducted by Mascagni himself, as he took the habit of conducting his own works early in the career.

Hisorically, Amica is one of the least performed Mascagni operas, especially in French. It is therefore encouraging to see renewed interest in this extremely interesting work (with "echoes of Wagner, Mahler and Ravel" according to Antonino Fogliani), after the performances in French at Martina Franca in 2007. The upcoming performances in the beautiful setting of the Rome opera house promise higher quality and will hopefully do justice to the work.

The cast will be as follows:
  • Conductor: Antonino Fogliani
  • Amica: Amarilli Nizza / Patrizia Orciani
  • Giorgio: Enrique Ferrer / Maurizio Comencini
  • Rinaldo: Alberto Mastromarino / Angelo Veccia
  • Padron Camoine: Marcello Lippi
  • Maddalena: Lucia Mastromarino
  • Orchestra and chorus of the Rome opera
  • Chorus master: Andrea Giorgi
  • Mise en scène: Jean Louis Grinda
  • Sets: Rudy Sabounghi
  • Teresa Acone: costumes
  • Laurent Castaingt: lights
References:
These performances are co-produced with Opéra di Montecarlo and Teatro Carlo Goldoni of Livorno.
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Chocolat Guérin-Boutron Card 

I just got this pretty nice card, which features a scene from Cavalleria rusticana. It bears the number 28, and was part of a series of trading cards distributed with Guérin-Boutron chocolate boxes. I found a reference online to a series of 78 cards dedicated to music composers, and this one was probably part of that set.

Compare with these other cards , especially this one  distributed with Suchard cacao.
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L'amico Fritz at the Berlin Opera 

I just found out  that conductor Alberto Veronesi will conduct L'amico Fritz at the Berlin Opera  on September 20 and 22, in concert form. The most interesting part is that the protagonists will be sung by Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu, who already performed L'amico Fritz at least once in Monte Carlo in 1999 already.
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Review of Zanetto CD at Audiophile Audition 

Steven Ritter has written a new review of the recently published Zanetto recording  (with Jennifer Larmore, conducted by Peter Tiboris) at Audiophile Audition. Overall the reviewer loves the opera and he writes of Larmore:
"I have a great deal of trouble imaging the title role sung better than Larmore does here."
Indeed I think that Larmore is the best part of this recording. It is a shame that Eilana Lappalainen, as Sylvia, was not up to the challenge.
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More Details on Upcoming Amica in rome 

The Rome Opera now has all the information  about the August 2008 performances of Amica. The cast is as follows:
Amica: Amarilli Nizza / Patrizia Orciani
Rinaldo: Piero Giugliacci / Claudio Di Segni
Giorgio: Alberto Mastromarino / Angelo Veccia
Orchestra and chorus of Rome Teatro dell'Opera

Conductor: Antonino Fogliani
Chorus master: Andrea Giorgi
Staging: Jean Louis Grinda
Sets: Rudy Sabounghi
Costumes: Teresa Acone
Performances:
Tuesday, 7 October 2008 at 20.30
Wednesday, 8 October at 20.30
Thursday, 9 October at 20.30
Friday, 10 October at 20.30
Saturday, 11 October at 18.00
Sunday, 12 October at 17.00
This will be a new production and the opera will be performed in Italian, instead of the original and better French.
[More »] 

Mascagni Course in Sydney this October 

I recently got the following from Murray Dahm in Sydney:
"I thought you would like to know that I will be teaching a course on the operas of Mascagni in Sydney, Australia starting this October. It will run for 7 two hour sessions over seven weeks and examine all the operas, Si, and the orchestral, song and minor works that I have located. The courses I run are for the WEA (Workers Education Association) and generally have 40 students (mostly retirees) per course"
If anybody around Sydney has any interest, please contact me and I will put you in touch with Murray.
[More »] 

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Cavalleria Rusticana in 100 Words

Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) is Mascagni's most famous opera and is part of today’s mainstream opera repertoire. It made 26 years old Mascagni instantly world-famous in 1890 when it won the opera contest of music publisher Sonzogno in Italy. “Cav” launched the so-called verismo movement in opera and inspired such works as Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The libretto, based on a short story by famed Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga, tells of the story a young Sicilian man, Turiddu, who is unfaithful to his fiancée Santuzza, because he is in love with his ex-girlfriend, the now married Lola. When Santuzza discovers Turiddu’s infidelity, she reveals it out of spite to Lola’s husband, Alfio, who provokes a duel with Turiddu and kills him. 

Libretto » | Short Story » | Recordings » | Other Works » ]

MP3: 5.1 MB
Ogg: 3.9 MB

Play the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni's most famous piece) performed by the Fulda Symphonic Orchestra conducted by Simon Schindler!

MP3: 14.2 MB
Ogg: 9.8 MB

Play the Fantasia sulla Cavalleria Rusticana for piano composed and performed by Calogero Di Liberto (with the kind permission of the artist and Casa Sonzogno).

More Audio Files » ]

Current Picture

This photo was taken on the Philadelphia in 1902. On the picture: Mascagni, his wife, miss Frohman, sister of Carlo and Daniele Frohman, American impresari, miss Herz, sister of theater architect Herz, and Giuseppe Smith. The original text read: Mascagni, la moglie, miss Frohman, sorella di Carlo e Daniele Frohman noti impresari teatrali americani e miss Hertz sorella dell'architetto teatrale Herz e il sig. Giuseppe Smith, a bordo del vapore Philadelphia (in mezzo all'Atlantico) della American Line (fot. di miss Herz).

New Recordings

World First Recording of In Filanda Released

Italian label Bongiovanni has just released the world first recording of In Filanda. The recording, from a performance of April 6, 2003 in Naples, Italy, features Rossella Redoglia as Ninetta, Massimiliano Fichera as the manager of the factory, Antonio de Palma as Beppo, and I Solisti di Napoli under the baton of Susanna Pescetti.
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Soundtrack of Raging Bull Released

The soundtrack of the movie Raging Bull, which features three pieces by Mascagni, has just been released.
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New CD of Messa di Gloria

A new CD of Messa di Gloria (Glory Mass) has been released on label Fonit Cetra. Tenor Stefano Secco and baritone Cosimo Diano are conducted by Claudio Scimone.
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New CD with Mascagni tenor arias

Rolando Villazón's new CD (released in 2004) features two arias by Mascagni: Ed anche Beppe amò... O Amore, o bella luce del cor from L'amico Fritz, and Vergine muse... Quando al soave anelito from Nerone.
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New DVD of Zanetto

A new DVD of Zanetto has been released on label Kicco. The DVD is from a live November 2003 performance in Savona, Italy. Denia Mazzola Gavazzeni and Romina Basso are conducted by Bruno Aprea. The DVD also includes a concert with Denia Mazzola Gavazzeni as well as interviews.
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Articles

Poetry and Music: Pietro Mascagni's Parisina

The author begins with a review of the CD from the performance of Parisina that took place in Montpellier in July 1999. He follows with considerations about the opera, discussing in particular the criticisms that have historically been directed at the work. He concludes with comments about the unfortunate attitude some critics have today when writing about opera.
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Le avventure di Mascagni in America. Il giro trionfale della Duse negli Stati Uniti.

This article was published in L'Illustrazione Italiana of March 1, 1903. The author, Carlo Paladini, tells of how he met by chance at a Florence restaurant Mr. Joseph Smith, a manager involved with Mascagni's arrest during his US tour, and also manager of Eleonora Duse. Follows a fairly unstructured conversation where the author tries to obtain useful information from a fairly secretive and defensive Mr. Smith. The article features a photograph of Mascagni, his wife, and Mr. Smith aboard the Philadelphia on the way to the United States.
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Le Maschere - CD Review

Yonel Buldrini reviews with enthusiasm the recent release of a 2-CD set of Le Maschere published on label Kicco, from a performance recorded live in Livorno in 2001.
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Mascagni's New Opera, Parisina

In this article from 1913, Emil Thieben describes the high anticipation generated in Italy by Mascagni's latest opera, Parisina. After a detailed synopsis of the plot, he gives his impression of the premiere of the opera, mainly from a musical standpoint.
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The Unjustly Neglected Works of Pietro Mascagni

William Schoell offers in this article a survey of Mascagni's operatic output, from Cavalleria Rusticana to Nerone, highlighting Mascagni's taste for experimentation.
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