Cavalleria Rusticana (includes Intermezzo and Easter Hymn)
Pietro Mascagni

26

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Down 2. This year's highest opera. Mascagni is a Hall of Fame One Hit Wonder.

Pietro Mascagni's Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana dates back to the real golden age of opera.

The thing we tend to forget, in these days of iTunes and The X Factor is that the seemingly rarefied thing that is opera today was itself once a great money-making scheme. A successful opera, with rave reviews in one country, could immediately transfer opera houses around the globe, netting its composers and promoters massive financial rewards. This was how it was for Mascagni, who was 27 years old when his one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana (which translates as 'Rustic Chivalry') won the Sonzogno publisher prize for the best opera of 1890.

Today, his opera is still there, a fixed part of many opera companies' repertoires, and the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana is one of the single most attractive tunes in operatic history.

Modena Teatro Comunale's 2011 production. Photo by Rolando Paolo Guerzoni.