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Pietro Mascagni and His Operas [Hardcover]

Alan Mallach
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 16 2002
Just twenty-six when the electrifying premiere of his Cavalleria Rusticana at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome catapulted the impoverished musician into sudden fame and fortune, Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) went on to write fifteen more operas, including L'Amico Fritz, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Iris, Parisina, and Il Piccolo Marat.

With privileged access to extensive primary sources, including Mascagni's 4,200 letters to Anna Lolli, his mistress for more than three decades, author Alan Mallach provides a compelling portrait of a flamboyant, combative, and emotional man who was passionately devoted to the Italian opera tradition and committed to innovation in musical language and dramatic form.

Deftly combining serious biography with critical commentary, Mallach begins with the captivating story of Mascagni's rags-to-riches adventure, from his birth in Livorno in Tuscany, to his musical studies first with Alfredo Soffredini and later at the Milan Conservatory, to his years as a vagabond musician, to the worldwide success of his breakthrough opera. He then traces Mascagni's private and professional life after Cavalleria, examining a prolific yet controversial career that was forever overshadowed by the work that unexpectedly thrust him into the limelight.

Mallach provides a full analysis of Mascagni's oeuvre and discusses his complex relationships with such Italian cultural and political figures as Edoardo Sonzogno, Giacomo Puccini, Gabriele D'Annunzio, Luigi Illica, and Benito Mussolini. He also thoroughly chronicles Mascagni's bouts with manic depression, his marriage to Lina and devotion to their three children, his grueling schedule of concert and operatic tours, his patriotism and bitter opposition to Italy's involvement in both world wars, and his passionate love affair with Anna Lolli.

This richly textured biography will appeal to fans of the still beloved and popular Cavalleria, and it will introduce opera enthusiasts to the power, intensity, and melodic beauty of the brilliant composer's many other significant works.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

The first serious English-language biography of the influential Italian opera composer (1863-1945), Pietro Mascagni and His Operas traces the career of this flamboyant figure of fascist-era Italian culture. Author Alan Mallach, a pianist, composer and independent scholar, makes a case for the maestro's lesser-known operas, such as L'Amico Fritz, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Iris, Parisina and Il Piccolo Marat. He also documents Mascagni's talent for alienating everyone in his life, from his long-time mistress to Il Duce himself. The book includes a useful discography skewed toward recent recordings of Mascagni's works. While the book might be a little too insider for readers new to opera, enthusiasts will surely take notice.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Opera scholar Mallach fills a gap in the musical literature with this welcome discourse on Italian composer Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945), now chiefly remembered for his 1890 opera Cavalleria Rusticana. Drawing on the composer's correspondence as well as family reminiscences, contemporary reviews, European archives, and secondary sources, the author creates a vivid portrait of a creative artist. Within a chronological framework, he explores Mascagni's experiences as a student at the Milan conservatory and teacher at the Liceo Rossini in Pesaro, work as a traveling conductor, tours of the United States and Argentina, political affiliations ranging from Bolshevik to Fascist, struggles with bipolar disorder, and relationship with Anna Lolli under the gaze of his long-suffering wife, Lina. Mallach addresses each opera, providing historical context, synopses, character descriptions, and musical analysis accessible to the lay reader. The useful appendixes include a list of first performances and a selective discography. The only drawbacks are some inconsistencies and a tendency toward overstatement. Recommended where interest warrants and as a complement to Mascagni, an autobiography ably translated and edited by the late Metropolitan Opera chorus master David Stivender. Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Make Room for Mascagni in your operatic world! Jan. 22 2003
Format:Hardcover
Pietro Mascgni is a nineteenth century operatic composer whose works deserve recongnition! Mascagi was a composer whose strength was melody; whose oeuvre was extensive and whose career spanned over half a century. The talented son of humble folks he became famous when his first opera Cavalleria Rusticana made him rich and famous! Like Lord Byron he woke up to find himself famous! Mallach describes the salient plot lines and comments with his musical expertise on all of the many unknown Mascagni operas. Mascagni was much more than a one opera composer. His character was bipolar and he was complex. His affair with his only mistress as well as stormy times with friends and family are given attention. However, the real value of this book is in the details of the maestro's works. Opera fans will relish Mallach's years of research in this first English language biography.
Was this review helpful to you?
Format:Hardcover
Exhaustively researched and adroitly written by pianist, composer, and independent scholar Alan Mallach, Pietro Mascagni And His Operas is the informative biography of talented Italian opera writer Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) whose great works include L'Amico Fritz, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Iris, Parisina, and many others. Written with privileged access to Mascagni's 4,200 letters to Anna Lolli, his mistress for more than thirty years, Pietro Mascagni and His Operas is an eye-opening portrait of a man's complex, talented life and his most remarkable music. Pietro Mascagni And His Operas is a welcome and very highly recommended addition to any Music History collection and "must" reading for anyone who has thrilled to a Pietro Mascagni opera.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Make Room for Mascagni in your operatic world! Jan. 22 2003
By C. M Mills - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Pietro Mascgni is a nineteenth century operatic composer whose works deserve recongnition! Mascagi was a composer whose strength was melody; whose oeuvre was extensive and whose career spanned over half a century. The talented son of humble folks he became famous when his first opera Cavalleria Rusticana made him rich and famous! Like Lord Byron he woke up to find himself famous! Mallach describes the salient plot lines and comments with his musical expertise on all of the many unknown Mascagni operas. Mascagni was much more than a one opera composer. His character was bipolar and he was complex. His affair with his only mistress as well as stormy times with friends and family are given attention. However, the real value of this book is in the details of the maestro's works. Opera fans will relish Mallach's years of research in this first English language biography.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For anyone who has thrilled to a Pietro Mascagni opera Dec 5 2002
By Midwest Book Review - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Exhaustively researched and adroitly written by pianist, composer, and independent scholar Alan Mallach, Pietro Mascagni And His Operas is the informative biography of talented Italian opera writer Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) whose great works include L'Amico Fritz, Guglielmo Ratcliff, Iris, Parisina, and many others. Written with privileged access to Mascagni's 4,200 letters to Anna Lolli, his mistress for more than thirty years, Pietro Mascagni and His Operas is an eye-opening portrait of a man's complex, talented life and his most remarkable music. Pietro Mascagni And His Operas is a welcome and very highly recommended addition to any Music History collection and "must" reading for anyone who has thrilled to a Pietro Mascagni opera.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book on this great musical figure July 3 2007
By Peter Hoogenboom - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Pietro Mascagni burst onto the operatic stage with the perennially popular "Cavalleria Rusticana" - his first produced opera - in 1890. Although he went on to create many other operas he was destined never to repeat the success unlike his contemporary Puccini who produced a string of successful operas many of which have held the stage.

Mascagni's later operas are flawed works - poor libretti, lack of hit tunes - but they are not insignificant works. Mallach traces the life of Mascagni and provides details on all his musical works. Aside from composition Mascagni was also a conductor, music school director, and doting father. Mallach paints a picture of a man who saw himself as the defender of Italian opera.

This is an excellent book for those who are interested in the man who wrote "Cavalleria Rusticana" but also provides interesting details on the Italian opera scene in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Book Nov. 27 2011
By Todd - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best musical biographies I have encountered. The author's style is direct, thoughtful, and avoids the myopia commonly encountered with researchers who have pursued detail as relentlessly as this writer has. Some of them are never able to return to a commonly shared reality that evinces a raison d'etre for their work. He speaks with a voice that persuades the reader to take interest in this subject. A highlight is his discussion of the reasons Italian opera was unable to sustain a future after Puccini's time, with the exception of Mascagni. It had to do with the advent of international modernism, and the subsequent loss of a broadly based audience in Italy for new operas that attempted to continue the old traditions. A book worth reading.
5.0 out of 5 stars A must have for Mascagni fans! July 27 2014
By Robert K. Stone - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Enjoyed it very much and got to meet the author!
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