Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Pietro Mascagni (December 7, 1863 – August 2, 1945) was an Italian composer most noted for his operas. His 1890 masterpiece, Cavalleria Rusticana, caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and singlehandedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music.

That sensationally famous verismo opera was written in great haste, for submission to a competition - it was his first operatic work. It went on to win the first prize, Mascagni received forty curtain calls on that night, and the next morning the Intermezzo (the music is posted below) was being whistled in the streets. Cavalleria Rusticana went on to take the world by storm, and by the time Mascagni died it had been performed over fourteen thousand times in Italy alone.

This orchestral interlude, the most popular excerpt from the opera, is intensely dramatic and comes at a crucial point in the story. Played over the setting of an empty square, the villagers having gathered for a church service, it is itself a moment of quiet, a brief respite from the naked emotions of the drama. At the same time, however, it looks back over the mounting passion and betrayal that preceded it, and foreshadows the bloodshed and tragedy to come.

The Intermezzo also took me by storm when I first heard it played at the Victoria Concert Hall when I was a school boy - and when the orchestra played it a few other times when I was a member, I always lamented the absence of a wind instrument in the score - for the selfish reason that I wanna be a part of creating this magic. In any case, enjoy the Intermezzo.

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