Pietro Mascagni

Portrait of Pietro Mascagni

Pietro Mascagni was an Italian opera composer and conductor. He born on 7th December in 1863 in Livorno, Italy and died on 2nd August 1945 in Rome Italy aged 81.

Major Works

“Cavalleria Rusticana” (1890)
“L’Amico Fritz” (1891)
“I Rantzau” (1892)

Biography Timeline

Pietro Mascagni was born on 7th December 1863, in Livorno, Tuscany, Italy. His father was Domenico Mascagni a baker and his mother was called Emilia. Pietro was their second son.

1876: He begins learning music with Alfredo Soffredini who has just finished studying in Milan.

1879: He begins composing several works including “Sinfonia in do Minore”, “Prima Sinfonia in fa Maggiore”, “Elegia” and an “Ave Maria”.

1881: The premiere is held of his cantata “In Filanda” on 9th February at the Istituto Cherubini. It wins first prize in the competition.

1882: He composes “Cantata alla Gioia” with words by Friedrich Schiller and “La Stella di Garibaldi” for voice and piano. On 12th October he passes the admission exams for the Milan Conservatory, however he finds the main tutor Amilcare Ponchielli a disciplinarian.

1883: On 9th January his sister dies. He tries to enter the “In Finlanda” cantata (renamed “Pinotta” ) for a competition at the Conservatory but misses the deadline.

1884: He composes “Ballata” for tenor and piano and “M’ama non M’ama” for soprano and piano as well as “Messagio d’Amore” and Alla Luna”.

1885: He composes “Il Re a Napoli in Cremona” for tenor and orchestra. He leaves the Conservatory without completing his studies and joins several travelling opera companies as a conductor. 

1886: He begins working with the impresario Luigi Maresca and moves to Cerignola where he is appointed master of music and singing at the new philharmonia orchestra. He gives piano lessons to supplement his income.

1888: In February he begins work on the “Messa di Gloria”. 

1889: On 3rd February he marries Lina Carbognani and the next day his son Domenico is born. He wins the first prize with his one-act opera “Cavalleria Rusticana” in Milan. 

1890: “Cavalleria Rusticana” is first performed at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, on 17th May and is an instant success with the public. It is soon performed throughout Italy. In December Gustav Mahler conducts it in Budapest and it tours to Germany, Russia and even Argentina.

1891: His son Dino is born on 3rd January 1891. The opera “L’amico Fritz” is premiered in October at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome. 

1892: His daughter Emi is born. “I Rantzau” (The Rantzau Family) is premiered on 10th November at the Teatro La Pergola in Florence.

1894: He composes “Silvano”.

1895: On 16th February “Guglielmo Ratcliff” is first performed at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan and on 25th March “Silvano” is also premiered there. He moves his family to Pesaro when he becomes the director of the Liceo Rossini.

1896: On 2nd March he conducts the premiere of “Zanetto” at the Liceo. 

1898: On 19th June he conducts the first performance of his symphonic poem “A Giacomo Leopardi” for voice and orchestra at the Teatro Persiani in Recanati. The opera “Iris” is first performed on 22nd November at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome. 

1899: His father dies in May.

1900: He tours Moscow and St Petersburg in Russia. 

1901: “Le Maschere” (The Masks) receives its first performance on 17th January at the Teatro Carlo Felice, Genoa but is not well received. Nevertheless, it tours to other cities. He conducts Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem in Vienna, Austria. Verdi had died in January.

1902: He composes the incidental music for the play “The Eternal City” and it is performed in London on 2nd October. He then begins a long conducting tour of Canada and the United States. The trip is mainly a failure except in San Francisco where he is well received.

1903: Back in Italy he leaves Pesaro after problems with the town authorities and moves to Rome to become director of the Scuola Musicale Romana. 

1905: He premieres his opera “Amica” in French on 16th March in Monte Carlo. He has disputes with Ruggero Leoncavallo and Giacomo Puccini.

1909: He is director of the Costanzi Theatre in Rome in August.

1910: He begins an affair with Anna Lolli on 4th April and in October he is finally reconciled with Puccini.

1911: He leaves the Scuola Musicale Romana and in May leaves for Buenos Aires in Argentina for a seven-month tour of South America. The première of “Isabeau” takes place in Buenos Aires at the Teatro Coliseo on 2nd June. 

1912: In March he begins working on “Parisina”, based on the poem by Lord Byron, whilst living in Paris with his daughter Emi, his mistress Anna Lolli, and the librettist Gabrielle d’Annunzio.

1913: “Parisina” is premiered in Milan on 15th December.

1914: Both Puccini and Mascagni are against the involvement of Italy in the First World War in which Dino his son is later taken as a prisoner.

1915: He writes music for Nino Oxilia’s silent film “Rapsodia Satanica”.

1917: He premieres “Lodoletta” on 30th April 1917 in Rome. 

1919: His operetta “Si” is performed on 13th December at the Teatro Qurino in Rome.

1921: The first performance of “IL Piccolo Marat” is given in Rome on 2nd May at the Teatro Costanzi.

1922: In May he tours South America again.

1923: He composes “Visione Lirica” and in September appears on the cover of Time Magazine.

1927: He moves to the Grand Hotel Plaza in Rome where he remains for the rest of his life.

1929: He succeeds Arturo Toscanini as musical director of La Scala Milan. 

1931: “Le Maschere” is performed at La Scala. 

1932: Pinnota” is premiered in San Remo on 23rd March. He joins the PNF (Italian Fascist Party) along with many other musicians.

1935: His opera “Nerone” (Nero), written to glorify Benito Mussolini, is premiered in Milan on 16th January.

1936: His son Dino dies in Somalia in June.

1940: Celebrations take place all over Italy for the 50th anniversary of “Cavalleria Rusticana”. He conducts the recording of it for HMV Records (His Master’s Voice) at La Scala.

1943: In April he appeares for the last time at La Scala and conducts “L’amico Fritz.” He is so frail he has to conduct sitting in a chair.

Pietro Mascagni died on 2nd August 1945 at the Grand Hotel Plaza in Rome, Italy. He was buried in Rome on 4th August but in 1951 his remains were transferred to Livorno.

Further Information

List of non operatic compositions by Mascagni.