Intermezzo from Cavaleria Rusticana
Composer: Pietro Mascagni
Instrument: Flute Quartet and Piano/Harp
Arranged by Lior Eitan
Duration: 6 min.
In July 1888 the Milanese music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno announced a competition open to all young Italian composers who had not yet had an opera performed on stage. They were invited to submit a one-act opera, which would be judged by a jury of five prominent Italian critics and composers. The best three would be staged in Rome at Sonzogno's expense.
Mascagni heard about the competition only two months before the closing date and asked his friend Giovanni Targioni- Tozzetti, a poet and professor of literature at the Italian Royal Naval Academy in Livorno, to provide a libretto. Targioni-Tozzetti chose Cavalleria rusticana, a popular short story (and play) by Giovanni Verga, as the basis for the opera. He and his colleague Guido Menasci set about composing the libretto, sending it to Mascagni in fragments, sometimes only a few verses at a time on the back of a postcard. The opera was finally submitted on the last day that entries would be accepted. In all, 73 operas were submitted, and on 5 March 1890, the judges selected the final three: Niccola Spinelli's Labilia, Vincenzo Ferroni's Rudello, and Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana.
Although Mascagni had started writing two other operas earlier (Pinotta, premiered in 1932, and Guglielmo Ratcliff, premiered in 1895), Cavalleria rusticana was his first opera to be completed and performed. It remains the best known of his fifteen operas and one operetta.
Its success has been phenomenal ever since its first performance in the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 17 May 1890. At the time of Mascagni's death in 1945, the opera had been performed more than 14,000 times in Italy alone. The rst performance of Cavalleria rusticana caused a sensation, with Mascagni taking 40 curtain calls.
The Intermezzo Symphonico has gained great popularity and is being performed independently by orchestras around the world. An ensemble of four flutes expresses ideally its dreamy and angelic atmosphere.
Flute Quartet and Piano or Harp
About the composer +
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) is one of the most important Italian composers of the turn of the 20th century. The formidable success of his first masterpiece in 1890, Cavalleria Rusticana, unfortunately eluded many of his following works. Mascagni however wrote 15 operas, an operetta, several beautiful orchestral and vocal works, as well as songs and piano music. He enjoyed amazing operatic successes during his lifetime, and at the same time pursued a very successful career of conductor. Mascagni's approach to opera differed a lot from that of his friend and rival Puccini, which arguably was one of the factors that led to an under-appreciation of the value of his music by critics.
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