Iris (opera)

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Poster for Iris, published by Casa Ricordi in 1898

Iris is an opera in three acts by Pietro Mascagni to an original Italian libretto by Luigi Illica. It premiered on 22 November 1898 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. The story is set in Japan during legendary times.

Background and performance history[edit]

In common with all of Mascagni's full-length operas, Iris is now rarely performed, even in Italy, although along with L'Amico Fritz it remains one of the composer's more performed operas. Two of the opera's most memorable numbers are the tenor's serenade ("Apri la tua finestra") and the Hymn to the Sun ("Inno al Sole").

The so-called "aria della piovra" ("Octopus aria"), "Un dì, ero piccina", where Iris describes a screen she had seen in a Buddhist temple when she was a child, depicting an octopus coiling with its tentacles around a young woman, may have been inspired by the print "The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife" (1814) by the Japanese artist Hokusai.[1]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 22 November 1898[2]
(Conductor: Pietro Mascagni)
Iris soprano Hariclea Darclée
Il Cieco bass Giuseppe Tisci Rubini
Osaka tenor Fernando De Lucia
Kyoto baritone Guglielmo Caruson
Geisha soprano Ernestina Tilde Milanesi
Haberdasher tenor Eugenio Grossi
Rag merchant tenor Piero Schiavazzi
Chorus: shopkeepers, geishas, laundry girls, samurai, citizens


Iris, the naive daughter of a blind old man, lives happy enjoying the simple things of nature. Osaka, a lord in search of adventures, falls in love with her and plans to kidnap her with the help of the pimp Kyoto. And during the show of puppets, the libertine enters disguised as a child of the sun, singing a serenade. So it conquers the heart of Iris, and by deception subtracts the daughter to the old blind father, who lives with her. Iris is conducted at the Yoshiwara, a place of perdition, and she wakes up the illusion of being in Paradise; Osaka tries to seduce her but succeeding only at terrorizing the girl. Tired and annoyed by the simplicity of Iris, Osaka leaves her at the mercy of Kyoto, which exposes her in the house of pleasure. There, reached and cursed by his father, who does not know about the rapture; at that point Iris, overwhelmed by shame, she throws herself into an abyss. Iris dies kissed by the light and embraced from the flowers.



  1. ^ Mallach, Alan (2002). Pietro Mascagni and his Operas. UPNE. p. 127 and note. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ Premiere cast from Casaglia (2005).


  • Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). Iris. Almanacco Amadeus. Retrieved 5 December 2013 (Italian).
  • Warrack, John and West, Ewan (1992), The Oxford Dictionary of Opera, 782 pp., ISBN 0-19-869164-5