Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)

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01Local Hero20131202

Donald Macleod examines Mascagni's early years.

Donald Macleod examines the early years of Mascagni, when the precocious and gifted teenager became a hero in his native Livorno, but after failing to graduate from the Milan conservatory was almost consigned to a career as a conductor with a travelling operetta troupe.

Composer of the Week marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Pietro Mascagni, who triumphed in his early twenties with his opera Cavalleria Rusticana and, during his lifetime, was one of the most famous figures in Italy. He came to prominence just as Verdi was entering old age and Italy was searching for a new maestro. Mascagni's good looks and charm ensured that his fame spread worldwide. He continued to write operas although none achieved the success of his early hit. Towards the end of his life, he found himself marginalised from new currents in Italian music and having to associate himself with Mussolini's fascist regime.

Donald Macleod explores Mascagni's early years, from his beginnings in Livorno, where his father strongly disapproved of his choice of career, to his escape from an operetta troupe in a small dusty town in southern Italy. The mayor of the town took a shine to Mascagni and gave him a job as head of the town's music school. Mascagni remained in Cerignola for several years and it was there that he wrote the extraordinary opera which would change the course of Italian operatic history.

02We Have A Maestro20131203

Donald Macleod focuses on Mascagni's overnight rise to fame with Cavalleria Rusticana.

Donald Macleod looks at Mascagni's sensational overnight rise to fame with the premiere of his opera Cavalleria Rusticana

Composer of the Week marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Pietro Mascagni, who triumphed in his early twenties with his opera Cavalleria Rusticana and, during his lifetime, was one of the most famous figures in Italy. He came to prominence just as Verdi was entering old age and Italy was searching for a new maestro. Mascagni's good looks and charm ensured that his fame spread worldwide. He continued to write operas although none achieved the success of his early hit. Towards the end of his life, he found himself marginalised from new currents in Italian music and having to associate himself with Mussolini's fascist regime.

Mascagni's one-act masterpiece, Cavalleria Rusticana had an extraordinary reception when it was premiered in Rome, in 1890. Fresh, taut, and naturalistic, it became the iconic work of verismo, and catapulted its composer to glory. But it was a tough act to follow. Donald Macleod looks at the night that Italian operatic history was made and the aftermath for Mascagni.

03The Eternal City20131204

Donald Macleod consider the importance of Rome to Mascagni.

Donald Macleod explores Mascagni's experiences of Rome and looks at some of his works connected with the city.

Composer of the Week marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Pietro Mascagni, who triumphed in his early twenties with his opera Cavalleria Rusticana and, during his lifetime, was one of the most famous figures in Italy. He came to prominence just as Verdi was entering old age and Italy was searching for a new maestro. Mascagni's good looks and charm ensured that his fame spread worldwide. He continued to write operas although none achieved the success of his early hit. Towards the end of his life, he found himself marginalised from new currents in Italian music and having to associate himself with Mussolini's fascist regime.

'I am tied to Rome by great affection. It is to Rome that I owe my artistic baptism, it is in Rome that I have made a home where my dearest memories are kept' said Mascagni towards the end of his life. From the premiere of Cavalleria Rusticana, the opera that made his name, to his final opera, Nerone, the city of Rome played an important part in Mascagni's life, not least because it was where he met the love of his life, Anna Lolli. The former chorus girl would become his mistress for 35 years, until the composer's death. Donald Macleod looks at the composer's links with Rome from 1905.

04Dressed Up Like A Fascist20131205

Donald Macleod examines Mascagni's political stance during the 1920s.

Donald Macleod examines Mascagni's political attitudes, from his sympathy with the socialist cause in the early 1920s to his relationship with Mussolini as fascism took hold of Italy

Composer of the Week marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Pietro Mascagni, who triumphed in his early twenties with his opera Cavalleria Rusticana and, during his lifetime, was one of the most famous figures in Italy. He came to prominence just as Verdi was entering old age and Italy was searching for a new maestro. Mascagni's good looks and charm ensured that his fame spread worldwide. He continued to write operas although none achieved the success of his early hit. Towards the end of his life, he found himself marginalised from new currents in Italian music and having to associate himself with Mussolini's fascist regime.

Mascagni found himself in an impossible situation in 1920s Italy, struggling to accommodate himself with the opposed political forces battling it out. He had shown solidarity with striking workers in his native Livorno during the years of revolutionary ferment following the First World War, so was initially labelled as a Bolshevik by the Fascist regime in power from 1922. He missed Italy too much to live in exile and, on his return, was forced to express support for Mussolini if he wanted to resume life there. Donald Macleod looks at how Mascagni became associated with the regime and the works he wrote during this turbulent period.

05 LASTLast Audiences20131206

Donald Macleod focuses on Mascagni's last years in Rome.

Donald Macleod looks at Mascagni's last years in Rome, during which he exchanged audiences with Mussolini for meetings with the Pope, and wrote his swan song, the opera Nerone.

Composer of the Week marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of Pietro Mascagni, who triumphed in his early twenties with his opera Cavalleria Rusticana and, during his lifetime, was one of the most famous figures in Italy. He came to prominence just as Verdi was entering old age and Italy was searching for a new maestro. Mascagni's good looks and charm ensured that his fame spread worldwide. He continued to write operas although none achieved the success of his early hit. Towards the end of his life, he found himself marginalised from new currents in Italian music and having to associate himself with Mussolini's fascist regime.

During his final years Mascagni wrote little music and the works he did produce were mostly based on earlier musical ideas or subjects. Approaching 70, he simplified his life, selling up his grander properties and moving into a modest hotel suite in Rome. He took pleasure in long card games with friends and seeing his mistress Anna Lolli every day but he was, by this time, largely ignored by the musical world. Donald Macleod looks at this lonely period of Mascagni's life and his final works, including his swan song, the opera Nerone, which was refused a Rome premiere by the regime.