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Original Document
Printable Version

Pietro Mascagni Dies in Rome At Age of 81

by [unknown], Musical America, August 1945

This obituary was published in August 1945, very shortly after Mascagni died. The article contains lots of errors and imprecisions and is presented here as a document. Do not rely too much on the information presented in this article.

Magazine Cover
(Efrem Zimbalist)
Pietro Mascagni
(picture from the article)
Original Article

PIETRO MASCAGNI, who achieved world fame with his opera "Cavalleria Rusticana", but never succeeded in writing another work of equal appeal, died in Rome on Aug. 2 at the age of 81. His fortune had vanished in the Italian debacle, and after the Germans were driven from Italy his home was seized, with the charge that he had been a collaborator with the fascist regime. At his bedside in the Hotel Plaza, when he died, were his wife, Lina, his daughter, Emy, and a nephew. One of his sons had been killed in the Ethiopian war in 1936 and the other left Rome before the Allies entered it, and went to northern Italy.

Mascagni was born in Leghorn on Dec. 7, 1863. His father, a baker, intended him to become a lawyer, but the boy studied music secretly at the Institute Luigi Cherubini. When his father discovered his ambitions, he ordered him to give up music, but an uncle intervened, and took the boy into his home. In 1879 a symphony in C minor and a Kyrie by Mascagni were performed at the Institute. His cantata "In Filanda" and a setting of Schiller's "Ode to Joy", in an Italian translation, also won attention. A wealthy patron of music, Count Florestano del Larderel, sent the young composer to the Milan Conservatory, where he studied, among others, with Amilcare Ponchielli. Counterpoint and fugue, however, were not to his taste, and he left the conservatory to join a traveling opera company.

Mascagni married and settled in Cerignola, a small town near Foggia. He made a meagre income as a piano teacher and director of the local music school. From this obscurity he was suddenly raised in 1889, when the publisher Sonzogno held an opera competition and his "Cavalleria Rusticana" won the first prize. A tremendous ovation greeted the work at its world premiere in Rome at the Teatro Costanzi on May 18, 1890. It was produced in Berlin that same year and in London and New York in 1891. The two first New York performances took place on Oct. 1, 1891, one, under the management of Aronson, in the afternoon, and the other, under the management of Hammerstein, in the evening. "Cavalleria" had its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera on Dec. 30, 1891, with Emma Eames as Santuzza. It has held its place in the repertoire of that, and other opera houses throughout the world, ever since.

The only other opera of Mascagni to achieve even a measure of success in New York was his "Iris", which was given by a company under his direction in the Metropolitan Opera House in 1902. The work made its first appearance in the regular Metropolitan repertoire, however, on Dec. 16, 1907, with Caruso, Eames and Scotti in the cast. It was revived under Arturo Toscanini on April 1, 1914, and did not return to the repertoire after that year until March 7, 1930, when it was again revived for Elisabeth Rethberg. Among Mascagni's other operas were "L'Amico Fritz", "I Rantzau", "Guglielmo Ratcliff", "Zanetto", "Isabeau", "Parisina", "Lodoletta", and "I Piccolo Marat". His last opera, "Nerone", was brought out at La Scala in 1935.

From 1895 to 1903, Mascagni was director of the Pesaro Conservatory. He succeeded Arturo Toscanini as director of La Scala in 1926 1. In 1928 Mascagni composed a "Hymn of Labor" for the fascists and he conducted orchestras in fascist uniform. Later, especially after the influx of the Germans, he disclaimed any connection with the government, and said that it had exploited his name.

  1. There doesn't seem to be any evidence that this was the case. This appears to be a myth.