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Pietro Mascagni (born Livorno, 7 December 1863; died Rome, 2 August 1945)


Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti


Novel by Alphonse Karr



First Performance: Milan (Teatro alla Scala), 5 March 1895.

First Performance in UK (tbc): Glasgow (City Halls), 14 April 2019 (concert).



For all the years since his death, indeed during most of his lifetime, Mascagni was generally regarded as a one hit wonder. The success of Cavalleria Rusticana far outstripped any of its successors. In recent years, Opera Holland Park has made something of a speciality of disinterring the works not just of Mascagni, but also Leoncavallo (Zazà), Cilea (Adriana Lecouvreur), Montemezzi (L'amore dei tre re), Zandonai (Francesca da Rimini) and other Italian composers of that era. The works by Mascagni that have resurfaced include L'amico Fritz, Zanetto and Iris, with Isabeau following in 2018. Even OHP have not yet tried Silvano, and this may be its British premiere, as it did not reach London in the period after its launch at La Scala in 1895.

The text is by at least one of the collaborators on Cavalleria, and features another emotionally disastrous mix, with a novel maritime element thrown in.


Main Characters

Matilde, loved by Silvano and Renzo (soprano)

Silvano, a fisherman and smuggler (tenor)

Renzo, a fisherman, Silvano's friend (baritone)

Rosa, Silvano's mother (contralto)


Plot Summary (from Scottish Opera's programme note 2019).

Setting - a small town on the Adriatic coast, around 1890.

Act 1 - Water carriers wish fishermen good luck as the mariners prepare to set sail. Matilde enters, tormented by remorse. Her fiancé Silvano has been convicted of smuggling and, while he has been in hiding to evade prison, she has become involved with his friend Renzo.

Silvano suddenly appears. He has been pardoned and hopes to resume his relationship with Matilde, and to marry her. She tells him she is unworthy until, admitting she still loves him, she agrees to the marriage. Renzo enters in good spirits, hoping for a successful day's fishing. When Silvano attempts to join him, Renzo rejects him as a bandit.

Silvano berates him, then appeals to Renzo as a brother. Silvano's mother Rosa arrives, embracing her errant son. Silvano appeals again to Renzo, who finally relents, and the two set off together. Suddenly Renzo returns, reminding Matilde of the liaison that took place between them. He refuses to let her go, saying that if she does not meet him, he will kill Silvano. Matilde reluctantly agrees to meet him that night.

Act 2 - Passing sailors sing of the calm night. Silvano tells his mother that it is too late for him to join the fishing boats. Though Rosa clearly disapproves of Matilde, Silvano insists that she brought him comfort and news of Rosa while he was away. He says that he looks forward to being married to Matilde, and Rosa drops her objections.

A group of women point out Renzo's nearby boat, and Silvano wonders why his friend is not out at sea. He leaves in search of Matilde. She, however, enters with Renzo, warning him that when Silvano discovers she is not at home, he will come looking for her and kill her if he finds them together.

She begs him to let her go. He refuses, and hides when Silvano arrives. Silvano demands to know who Matilde was talking to. Matilde denies that she was with anybody. Renzo reveals himself and Silvano kills him. Silvano flees and Matilde is left alone.

The Cast

 loved by both Silvano and Renzo
 a fisherman, Silvano's friend
 Silvano's mother
 a fisherman and smuggler

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