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Pietro Mascagni, the Author of the Cavalleria Rusticana

by Ashton R. Willard, New England Magazine, Volume VIII, March 1893 - August, 1893, 1893

I should not be trespassing upon the attention of anyone with observations about the life and career of Pietro Mascagni, if it were not for a very agreeable impression of him formed upon hearing one of his operas produced for the first time in Rome, on which occasion he appeared personally and received the adulation of a very enthusiastic audience. I became so interested in him at that time as to be induced to make some superficial examination into his personal history, and from this to go farther, and make a more careful and extended inquiry into his life, and into the steps by which he came into prominence.

Here is an outline of the way in which his first opera, the "Cavalleria Rusticana," came to be written. In July of 1888 Edoardo Sonzogno, one of the leading music publishers at Milan, publicly invited all young Italian composers who had not yet had an opera represented on the stage to compete for two prizes of three and two thousand lire. They were to write an opera in one act, with one or two scenes as they might choose, and upon any subject, grave or gay. A jury of five men, well known either as composers or critics, was named, which was to select of all the operas offered the three best. These three, it was promised, should be produced at one of the leading theatres of Rome at the expense of the publisher who made the offer, and after they had been so presented the jury should finally make their award and assign the prizes to the two best works. After the first announcement was made everyone, except the young men who had set to work under the stimulus of it, speedily forgot all about the matter, and the general public gave no more thought to it, until toward the close of the year 1889, when inquiries began to appear why the jury did not made its report. Signor Sonzogno, who had established the competition, then announced that he had addressed a "fervid petition" to the commission — that is, the jury — urging them to have their award ready if possible by the close of February, 1890.

The commission, meanwhile, had been having no light task. Seventy-three operas had been handed to them, and the jurors were so conscientious as to imagine that their duty called upon them to examine, individually, each score before holding joint sessions and discussing the works with their associates. This duty was diligently performed. Each score was examined separately, and then at a joint meeting ballots were taken to eliminate those which were out of the question. Fifty-five out of the seventy-three scores were set aside in this way. The composers of the eighteen which remained were summoned to appear before the jury and perform their works on the piano. Fourteen came and did as they were requested; some members of the jury undertook the task of playing the other four to their associates. Plenty of time was taken for this work, only two operas being rendered on one day. After that there was a final private conference and comparison of results, and then on the evening of the fifth of March, 1890, the commission announced its preliminary verdict and named the three works which they deemed worthy to be given a public hearing with orchestra, scenery and singers. These were "Labilia," by Niccola Spinelli of Rome, "Rudello," by Vincenzo Ferroni, a young professor at the Milan conservatory and successor of Ponchielli, and "Cavalleria Rusticana," by Pietro Mascagni.

At that time no one had ever heard of Mascagni outside of the circle of his personal friends. But here is an outline of his history. He was born the seventh of December, 1863, at Leghorn, as it is generally said; — as it was told me by a resident of Leghorn not in the city but at Antignano, an outlying village two miles down the coast. His family belonged to the humbler class. One of his companions who grew up with him at Leghorn says he was a happy, good-natured sort of a boy, but careless and with very little persistence at anything except music. He had shown the ruling tendency of his nature by composing some pieces of music before he was ten years old. A national exposition took place in Milan in 1881, when he was seventeen, and Mascagni contributed to its musical department a two-act opera or cantata, which secured him an "honorable mention." He sent also some religious music to the same exposition. Very soon afterward a gentleman of Leghorn, the conte Florestano de Larderel, interested himself in Mascagni and sent him to the Milan conservatory, where he remained for two years but did not finish the regular course. His nature was too restless to make confinement to systematic work tolerable to him at that time. At Leghorn his friends were not surprised when they learned that he had closed his books and yielded to the temptation of following the fortunes of a travelling opera company, but they lamented at the same time what they regarded as the loss to art of an unusual genius. There can be no more miserable existence, no more intolerable slavery to which an intelligent being ever binds himself, than to journey about from one obscure place to another as a player or companion of players. It was this that Mascagni condemned himself to do — not as player but as a conductor or director of some diminutive, perambulating, musical enterprise. He annexed himself to the company at Cremona, went from there to Piacenza, Reggio and Parma. The company came to dissolution at Bologna in 1885, and he returned for a while to Leghorn. One of his friends has spoken of encountering him there at that time, the same vivacious spirit, but shabbily dressed; enthusiastic and still hopeful of his future, but in a state of semi-vagabondage which made one lament for him, and long to help him to some better development of himself. He was off again speedily, and this time to the south of Italy, taking up the same wandering life and directing the orchestra in small opera companies. The companies went to pieces and left him several times apparently at the end of his resources. Once in these periods of distress being at Ascoli Piceno, a town at the end of a railway, and at the head of one of the streams which pours down to the Adriatic, he composed a few fragments of an opera to which he gave the name of "Ratcliff." After other wanderings he brought up sometime in 1887 at Cerignola, a place which no one out of Italy would ever be likely to hear of except for Mascagni. It is a little town in the remote province of Terra di Bari, the province which runs down toward the heel of the boot. Mascagni became the director of the municipal band there, but confessed afterward that it was a struggle to contrive how not to "die of appetite" on a salary of one hundred lire a month. The problem had become more serious because he had married there. With his wife and child he lived in two rooms, and managed to get on as best he could.

Mascagni and his Two Librettists.

It was at Cerignola that he got news of the Sonzogno competition shortly before the time had elapsed, two months only remaining. Even then he lost some most valuable time in getting a libretto, coming around after a brief scouring of the field to call in the help of a friend at Leghorn, Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, just his own age, already a professor of literature in the Royal Naval Academy at Leghorn, and the author of a book of sonnets and odes, looked upon favorably by so distinguished a judge of poetry as Carducci. To Professor Targioni-Tozzetti occurred the fortunate idea of selecting as the theme of the opera Verga's story and drama, Cavalleria Rusticana. He called to his assistance another young man of their fellowship at Leghorn, Dr. Guido Menasci, and together they composed the libretto, sending it to Mascagni in fragments, sometimes a few verses at a time on the back of a postal card. The composer worked away at Cerignola without even a piano to help him, because he was too poor to have one. He has said since then that in his coarse garb, with the blouse of a peasant and a leather belt about his waist, he was almost happy, despite poverty and privations, in the fervor of the work. His score, which was signed "Pax," was one of the last to come in, and indeed arrived in the hands of the commission only upon the last day of grace.

The announcement of the name of the three men whom the jury thought worthy to have their works brought out drew the attention of people again to the Sonzogno competition, and the production of the operas, which was promised to take place speedily at Rome, was looked forward to by musical people with much interest. They were all given there at the Costanzi Theatre in May, 1890, and although Spinelli's "Labilia" and Ferroni's "Rudello" were both considered works of merit and as giving much promise, the "Cavalleria Rusticana" was not only unhesitatingly declared by every one the best of the three, but it produced a great sensation. The commission met again and unanimously assigned the prize of three thousand lire to Mascagni, giving the second prize by a divided vote to Spinelli. The five men who served upon this commission and whose duties terminated at this point were the commendatore Platania, the marchese Francesco D'Arcais, F. Marchetti, Giovanni Sgambati, pupil of Liszt and composer for piano and orchestra, and Amintore Galli, who is signor Sonzogno's editor-in-chief.

Since that day, as the "Cavalleria Rusticana" has made its triumphant progress around the world, the Romans have taken great credit to themselves for having known a masterpiece when it was set before them. Six representations only were given of it, but these were marked by every incident of the most clamorous success, — a crowded auditorium each time, competition for admission, continuous demands for the repetition of passage after passage, and enthusiastic rhapsodies over it in the Roman journals. More was said and written about the new composer and his opera in two weeks at that time — it has been stated — than about Rossini and Verdi in as many years at the beginning of their career. Mascagni's days and weeks from that time on for a year were almost wholly consumed in superintending the production of the "Cavalleria" at all the principal theatres of Italy. Every one wanted to see the young composer as well as to hear his work. Properly enough it was at Leghorn that it was first given after Rome. The people of his own city demanded an opportunity to lionize him. Not only the house where the Mascagni family then lived in Leghorn, but the whole Via San Francesco, was decked out with flags in his honor, though he might have walked from the station to his own door three months before with the certainty of being recognized by no one except his personal friends. A public banquet was given to him in the great imposing, marble-corridored Grand Hotel which faces the sea upon the Viale Regina Margherita, the stopping-place of princes. The "Cavalleria" was presented at the beautiful Teatro Goldoni, which had its accommodations taxed to the utmost for several nights. And then in theatre after theatre all over Italy the same enthusiasm was repeated for a year, the great wave of it sending its undulations at length even up into the retired towns.

And now not to detain the reader longer with the "Cavalleria Rusticana," I turn to another chapter of Mascagni's story which is chronologically the next in order. In the summer of 1891 it came to be known that he had nearly completed another opera, a sort of idyl based on the Erckmann-Chatrian story of L'Ami Fritz. It was to form as complete a contrast as possible to the "Cavalleria," to be something quiet, placid, pastoral. Mascagni's state of mind as he felt this new trial coming on, as he read in the papers the eagerness of every one to hear the new work and the prediction of another colossal success, is very clearly shown by the following letter which he wrote to one of his Roman friends, a musical critic, and which I am tempted to translate both because it shows his own hopes and fears, and also because it is to a certain extent, like all letters written freely and without thought of publication, an indication of character:

"CERIGNOLA, September 11, 1891.

"Dear Tom:

"You know already the names of the artists who are going to take part in Fritz. I selected Lherie myself because I wanted an artist who would create the type of the Rabbin; and you will see that he will do very well. The mise en scène will be very correct, and the execution ought to turn out perfect.

"Still all this does not set my mind at rest about the outcome of my new work. I have horrible fears, I cannot eat, I cannot sleep, and I live in a state of perpetual anxiety.

"It is the puffing that frightens me — because an opera of the kind that this is cannot come up to the expectation of the public. All of this stir about Fritz before it is brought out will hurt me, and those of you at Rome who have any regard for me ought to say just as little about it as possible. There is nothing to be gained by it either for you or for me. Just let us wait until we have got the public verdict before we talk about it. Give the public an opportunity to calmly form its opinion, and then talk all you will.

"Personally I feel satisfied with the Fritz. It came to me in a rush. I never had a hesitation or a regret. I felt every bit of it, felt it sincerely, and worked with complete serenity of mind and conscience. It is the atmosphere in which the story moves and the extremely simple and modest character of the story itself which give me my misgivings.

"But there is no use talking about this now. I shall see you very soon at Rome, and then we will discuss and discuss until the public shall have passed its judgment. And from that judgment there will be no appeal, for the public does not make mistakes.

"Have I bored you? So much the worse for you, for you brought it upon yourself. A rivederci presto, and keep a place in your heart for



No one knew in Rome exactly what day the new opera would be produced for the first time. It was announced in early October by large advertisements after the Italian fashion, with the statement that it would be given quanto prima, which may be interpreted "as soon as it is ready," and the tickets were placed upon sale for first, second and third evenings, undated, and with numbers to indicate the representation to which they would give admission. At last the definite announcement appeared that the first submission of the new work to the public judgment would take place on the thirty-first day of October. It was a shivery night, not the sort of atmosphere which one imagines in Rome, not an evening when warm, velvety breezes refresh one after the sultriness of the day. There was the chill as of a tomb in the stone stairway as we descended to set out for the theatre. We drew ourselves close together under the hood of the carriage, pulled our wraps tightly about us, urged our driver to speed, and were glad enough to be set down in the glow and the warmth of the vestibule, with its red draperies and its many lights.

We were early, and within the auditorium of the Costanzi very few people were to be seen except in the gallery at the top, where the seats were not numbered, and where priority in time gave priority in position. It was appropriate that the opera should be brought out at this theatre, because it was here that the "Cavalleria" first appeared and won its first success. And it was also a pleasant thing, because the Costanzi is large and brilliant, the finest and most imposing of the new theatres in Rome and in Italy. There is much white and gold in the decoration, and over the proscenium arch on either side of the clock six floating figures of the hours were dancing themselves away in the most light-hearted fashion. Though it was hardly more than half-past eight the public of the upper regions, many of whom had been there since six, some of whom had brought their suppers, were becoming restless. They were a wholly unintimidated crowd, and broke out in very audible comments upon the people gathering in the platea, varied by all the sounds of the menagerie. Composer and musicians had every reason to fear them, for they came there to exercise their traditional right of stormily praising or stormily blaming, and their applause or marks of disfavor might make or spoil the success of the opera. The Italian demonstration of disfavor does not stop short with a hiss. It breaks out in great cries of "Basta," — "No more." In the boxes against red backgrounds gay toilets began to give gleams of delicate color here and there. Off to the right there was a cloudlet of pink gauze worn by some marchesina who judiciously banded her dark tresses with fillets of pearls. Above her there was a principessa in faint yellow; and to the left, near the stage, a damosel in pale blue with tiara of diamonds and blue feathers, who might have stepped from some ancient painting. Down in the first tier a large box, made of two boxes thrown into one, was filled with officers in striking uniforms, and another box above was filled with these same handsome fellows in alta tenuta.

Almost at the instant of nine the conductor took his place, and there was a weird commencement of the overture in complete silence; we caught a dull muted clash of muffled cymbals, of soft wood notes, suggestive of the peacefulness and simplicity of the country, a fitting foreshadowing of the drama, which is idyllic and pastoral. There was a transition to a second theme, soft, plaintive, sad, unfolded in a silence as of the desert, which let the softest note be heard; then a wailing of the violins, with more excited and passionate music, as if about to lead to a climax in some noble, elevated symphony; at the last a chord or two on the harp, a note or two on the violins, and then a return to the first theme, and an abrupt conclusion.

The opaque screen which had closed the proscenium was drawn away, and we had the momentary enjoyment of a picture of unusual beauty in arrangement and color. It was Fritz's home, where the good-natured fellow had gathered his three friends about him to sit at his table, enjoy his good living, and share with him for the moment his easy-going existence. Behind them was a broad window which looked out to a sunset glow upon Alsatian heights. Musically, I do not think we felt very deeply the first hurried pages of the libretto, summarizing the previous incidents necessary to the understanding of the story. And no important moment in Mascagni's work was reached until Suzel, the heroine, in her Alsatian dress with the characteristic bow upon her head, had made her way to the table of the convives and had timidly offered to Fritz her bunch of flowers from the fields. It was a very quiet song, with a strange, weird melody, and modern in the sense that it did not return upon itself or repeat a phrase or in any noticeable way conform to the traditional rules of composition, — which even the unprofessional have come to recognize in their effects, if not in their causes. It was accepted by the audience as a distinct invitation to be judged, — a sample of the new work put forth by Mascagni as a proof that he had not lost the cleverness of hand which had made of the "Cavalleria" such a resounding success. The people who sat in the shadows of the boxes rose while the song was proceeding, came to the front, and stood by the parapet, so that the auditorium was lined with tier after tier of critical, expectant faces. After it was finished the ladies smiled in approval, the men brought their hands together in a proper way, and from the heavens above descended a mighty uproar, an uproar so loud, so long and so continuous that Suzel walked to the door of Fritz's comfortable dining-room, opened it, disappeared, came back and drew in a young man who was not at all in Alsatian costume. He was in grey trousers of London cut, a black frock coat, and a necktie imported from the immediate neighborhood of Piccadilly. His hair was short and black, and stood up straight all over his head like the bristles of a hair brush. The young man was not entitled to be called handsome, for his features were not finely chiselled or over regular. But there was a serious and intense look about his eyes which gave decided dignity to so youthful a face, and suggested occasional withdrawings from the commonplace, possible absorption in great ideas, or moments of communion with muses and deities who do not show themselves to ordinary men. He had also an unmistakable look of friendliness and good nature which drew one to him, made one glad that his success was what it was, and stimulated one to help swell the torrent of applause.

This was the beginning of Pietro Mascagni's second appearance before a Roman audience as a composer. He was brought upon the stage many times after this, about thirty times before midnight. But never once did he betray any vanity or inflate himself with any air of importance. The repeated bowing was varied by a vigorous shaking of the hands of señorita Calvé, the Suzel, and signor De Lucia, the Fritz, as if by this pantomime he wished to attribute to them the success and gracefully wave it away from himself. Often as he stood there his face took on the peculiar, embarrassed smile of an overgrown, bashful boy, — as if he felt the absurdity of his position, standing and bowing in the midst of all this shouting and hand-clapping, and would be glad to get out of it.

The story proceeded for a brief moment placidly after the first outbreak of enthusiasm, until the dying away of the last notes which float up to the window from the gypsy Beppe's violin. Clearly Fritz, the confirmed bachelor, was silently and unconsciously softening under the influence of Suzel's presence, and melted quite visibly as he listened to the serenade by which the strolling Bohemian, whom he had once befriended, made his return known. Once the notes rose full and fell in a long cadence. It was an odd succession, strange, fantastic, irregular, like the gypsy life. There was no brilliant execution and there were no tours de force, except some harmonics and double notes at the last. It was a pity that the audience should break into the story and assert themselves at the end. But they did, and with a division of sentiment. A certain faction wished a repetition, or failing in that, they were determined that the verdict upon the passage should be one of approval. Another division, clearly a minority in number but with great lung power, were determined that the violin passage should not be repeated, and that the verdict upon it should be unfavorable. There was a tempest of cries of "bis" and "bene" and counter shouts of "basta." One was reminded of the arena and of the controversy of thumbs up and thumbs down. The leader of the "basta" forces finally drew all eyes upon himself. He was a short, full bearded man, in the back of the platea, who uttered the cry with a volume of tone which could have been heard above any tempest. The clock hands moved along five minutes and no one seemed to know what to do or what could be done. The neighbors of the excited man in the platea were seen to expostulate with him, and he was seen to turn upon them as if interfered with in the exercise of some super-sacred right. Finally signor Ferrari, the conductor, waved his stick, the orchestra resumed its interrupted course, and the placid and tranquil story pushed out again like a little boat on troubled waters. Somehow, no one knew just how or why, the tumult ceased; and thereafter when the audience interrupted it was with undivided applause. The gypsy Beppe, whose violin notes had caused so much excitement, joined the friendly group about Fritz's table, told them the story of Fritz's benefactions to him, listened to the jesting about Fritz's unmarried state, and heard Fritz accept with incredulous hilarity the wager that he would speedily forsake it. At the last all four rushed to the window upon which the mellow evening glow still rested to listen to the song of some alleged orphans invisible without, a song which has the regularity, the geometric precision of a gavotte and which the footnote of the libretto said was based upon an Alsatian folkslied. After that the story was shut out from our eyes, and the mimic actors in it appeared and reappeared in their personal capacity and accepted, along with the creative musical genius, the homage of the audience.

We watched with interest in the story and with musical enjoyment, after that, the approach of Fritz and Suzel toward each other in the midst of the pastoral surroundings of the Alsatian farm, with the cherry tree ripening its fruit in the court yard. It is as she offers to Fritz the basket of cherries which she has picked with her own hands that the two sing the interchanging lines which upon that first evening appealed to the audience the most strongly of all the vocal passages in the opera, and have since been accepted as the most beautiful in the whole score. The passage fastened itself to people's memories, and the next day the musical multitudes were humming snatches of it in the streets. It roused even the less demonstrative occupants of the boxes to enthusiasm again, and they joined hands with people in the paradiso and at the back of the platea in swelling the token of favor and in calling for Mascagni. The maestro appeared several times, and clearly looked happy with his straightforward, honest face. Perhaps there was a thought in his mind of his two babies up in the proscenium box to the left and his young wife, and of the future which was seeming with every hour of that evening to become more roseate for them as well as for him.

The last division of the story naturally sees the fulfilment of the joking prophecy, and then there is a speedy, even an abrupt close with three emphatic chords. But the listener does not lose or forget the character, the individual mark of the whole, in its quietness, its placidity, its tranquillity, so strongly contrasted to the "Cavalleria Rusticana" with its blood-red Sicilian passion. There was a dignity and nobility in Mascagni's undertaking to win in a new field, which is a more difficult field, and not simply to follow the lines of his first success. The newspapers of the next day were already being sold in the theatre before the curtain descended for the last time, and we had an opportunity to learn, even before we left our places the judgment of public opinion. The attitude of the Tribuna and the Popolo Romano at that time has been with some exceptions the attitude of Italian criticism since then. The work is not one to displace the "Cavalleria" in the affection of Mascagni's fellow countrymen, but it was highly praised and declared to possess many passages, both for the voice and in the instrumental part, which were novel, individual, and of a very high character of artistic merit. It demonstrated effectually that the first opera was not a casual success, the chance reaching of great results by one who did not know the road which led him there and could not re-find it, but the work of a composer who can be counted upon to do a great deal for the musical enjoyment of the world, and who will help in a very honorable way to keep up the musical prestige of Italy.

After the completion of "L'Amico Fritz" Mascagni went back to work upon "I Rantzau," based like the other upon a story of Erckmann-Chatrian. The tale has been written both in narrative form and as a play, by the original authors, — the play entitled "Les Rantzau" being produced for the first time at the Théâtre Français in 1882. The events take place in the Vosges in 1829, and the principal dramatic substance is the love of two young people and the deadly enmity of their fathers, who are brothers. There is a scene of violent rage where one of fathers endeavors to force his daughter to marry against her consent in order to defeat the possibility of any union between her and the son of his enemy. There is another later passage of great pathos, where this same father, broken down by his daughter's peril, for she lies at the verge of death from refusal to take food, goes up the steps of his enemy's house in humiliation, to ask his consent to the marriage which will save the life of his own daughter. The play is entitled a comedy, which signifies no more than that a reconciliation takes place at the end. During the greater part of its progress it seems to point certainly to a tragic conclusion.

It has been said that Mascagni did not wait until "L'Amico Fritz" was out of the way before commencing the later opera. The very contrary of this was the truth in the matter, as the "Rantzau," on which he had been at work before August, 1890, was laid aside to permit him to take up and finish "L'Amico Fritz." One of Mascagni's friends who saw him during those triumphal days at Leghorn, when he returned there after his successes at Rome to be made personally the object of a great festival, spoke of the young composer as being then at work upon the "Rantzau," and of the promise which it gave of equalling in dramatic intensity the "Cavalleria Rusticana." Mascagni produced the manuscript pages of his music and roused his friend to enthusiasm by rendering to him with the help of a piano the scene where the humiliated father forces himself to go to his brother's door.

"He mounts the little stairway, places his hand upon the knocker, but cannot even then force himself to the ultimate decision. The humiliation is too great for him, and he descends slowly from that Calvary which he has not the force to mount. From the church tower the curfew tolls, and at a distance a curfew song of the villagers is heard. I do not know how to express adequately the profound impression which this made upon me. I have no adjectives. It has an originality and moving power, a clearness in its abstruse harmonic combinations and an individuality and depth of religious feeling, which I have never before heard. The unhappy father remains in doubt, turns back to the foot of the stairway, mounts the first step again, and remains motionless under an access of feebleness, conquered and oppressed by doubt and anguish. The voices still sustain the distant harmony, and the rhythmic notes of the deep-toned bell measure the beatings of his heart. He rouses himself to a resolution. The evening prayer brings to his consciousness that his daughter languishes and dies. He makes a superhuman effort, casts aside all hesitation, mounts to the top of the steps and knocks resolutely upon the door."

The impression which this passage made upon Mascagni's friend was such as to give him then the conviction that another success was in store not inferior to that of the "Cavalleria," and how far it was justified has been learned by the reports which have since come to us of the production of the "Rantzau" at the theatre of the Pergola in Florence. It was produced there on the tenth of November, 1892. The Pergola is the great theatre of the Tuscan capital, as La Scala is of Milan, La Fenice of Venice and San Carlo of Naples. Every place was filled upon the opening night. Florence itself felt honored by being selected as the city to witness the first representation of the opera, the first of Mascagni's which had received its initial performance outside of Rome, and its distinguished society took pains to appear in the boxes. There were journalists present representing newspapers all over Europe. The welcome given to the drama by this audience was very brilliant. Mascagni himself was compelled to appear thirty-five times. Of the singers who assisted, one of them, the tenor, was the same who had sung the title role in "L'Amico Fritz," but the Señorita Calvé was replaced by Madame Darclée. The conductor of the orchestra was the same as at Rome.

The passage which was looked upon with the most favor of any in the opera was the one where the father of the heroine forces himself to go to his brother's door, the same which Mascagni rendered to his friend at Leghorn. Composers do not always accurately foresee the effect of their own music, or know what passages will certainly prove the most stirring, but here Mascagni seems to have anticipated rightly what was and would prove to be the most powerful scene in his new work. Critics, who usually declare their opinions with many reservations, and who are little given to losing their heads, spoke in unqualified admiration of this passage. The correspondent of the London Times allowed himself to say that "the great scene outside Giacomo's house" was "treated with absolute mastery." And in the general review of the opera the same critic arrived at the conclusion that "Mascagni must now be considered a permanent and potent factor in European art." The letters to other London papers were even more highly colored, more fervid, one of them placing the "Rantzau" first among Mascagni's compositions, giving it precedence even over the "Cavalleria Rusticana."

Mascagni must be added to the list of men who disprove the assertion that the Southern nature is sluggish and indolent. Since success gave him opportunity to apply himself to the work of his predilection, without distractions and without the imperative necessity of leaving his writing to enter upon some wandering bread-winning expedition, he has been industry itself. The care of superintending the production of his operas upon the stage might well have engrossed all his time. But he has made time in the midst of all this to go on with the work of composing; and now the production of another work is announced for the coming fail, and two more are rumored to be under way. The opera definitely announced is "Guglielmo Ratcliff," of which some portion was composed before the "Cavalleria."

What a transformation has come over the life of Mascagni in three years! There can not be a week of his busy existence, which does not thrust upon him some new and surprising indication of his totally revolutionized position. While the "Rantzau" was in preparation an organ builder of Pistoia sent him an organ with orchestral stops especially contrived to assist him in composing, in case he should wish to experiment in advance upon his orchestral effects. Compare this with the humility of the original process of making an opera as it was conducted in those narrow rooms at Cerignola, where his pinched purse would not afford him even a month's rental of a piano.

Comments, additions, corrections are welcome.