Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)

Most noted for his 1890 one-act opera Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry), which introduced verismo (realism) in opera, Mascagni composed 15 operas of diverse styles. He was born in Livorno (region of Tuscany) and took an interest in music in his early teens. He studied music at the Instituto Musicale di Livorno against his father’s wishes – Mascagni’s mother died when he was 10 – and by the time he was 16, he had composed several works. In 1881, his first cantata was performed at the Instituto and won a musical contest in Milan. A year later, Mascagni entered the Milan Conservatory (Conservatorio di Milano). Mascagni stayed at the Conservatorio until 1885, not completing his studies, but composing several songs and piano music; and toured as a conductor for several operetta companies. The following year, he became director of a new philharmonic society.

In 1890 Cavalleria rusticana, Mascagni’s first opera, won a music contest and premièred at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. The opera, composed from a short story set in a small peasant village in Sicily, became an instant success and within one year was performed throughout the world, with two debuts in New York on the same day. Over the next ten years, Mascagni composed seven operas – two premièred at La Scala, the others throughout Italy – and numerous songs; and he began a worldwide tour. In 1927, he settled in Rome and lived there until he died.

Pietro Mascagni (Online Resources)


Written by Janice Mancuso