For a one-hit composer, we hear rather a lot of Pietro Mascagni. His reputation rests on his 1890 debut Cavalleria Rusticana, the one-act Sicilian shocker that’s usually yoked (not always to its advantage) to Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. But in recent years we’ve also seen the cod-medieval car crash of Isabeau, and a couple of outings for Iris, an opera that fuses orientalist opulence with tentacle porn, but not in a good way. In fairness, there have been winners too: Opera Holland Park revived L’amico Fritz in July, and this sun-kissed romcom about an Alsatian cherry farmer slipped down like a Negroni with audiences thirsty for a strong, sweet triple-shot of escapism, verismo-style.
And now here’s Zanetto (1896) to confirm my mounting suspicion that Mascagni is at his best when he’s trying least.