The work was Mascagni's homage to Rossini and to the Italian opera buffa and commedia dell'arte traditions. It was premiered simultaneously in six Italian opera houses on 17 January 1901: La Scala (with Caruso as Florindo, Carelli as Rosaura, and Toscanini conducting); the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa; the Teatro Regio in Turin; the Teatro Costanzi in Rome; La Fenice in Venice; and the Teatro Filarmonico in Verona. Two days later, it premiered at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples.
Apart from the performance in Rome, conducted by Mascagni himself, Le maschere received a dismal reception, with the performance in Genoa suspended halfway through because of the audience's vociferous expressions of displeasure. The opera was sporadically performed in Italy over the next four years and then sank into obscurity. When Mascagni revised and represented the opera in 1931 it met with little lasting success. However, sporadic revivals in the late 20th century have been greeted with some critical interest.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere Cast at La Fenice
17 January 1901
(Conductor: - )
|Arlecchino Battocchio||tenor||E. Giordani|
|Il Capitan Spaventa||baritone||Nestore della Torre|
|Dottor Graziano||baritone||Felice Foglia|
|Pantalone De' Bisognosi||bass||Ruggero Galli|
In the Prologue, a travelling commedia dell'arte troupe and their impresario present the characters they are about to play. The remaining three acts are the play itself wherein after many vicissitudes, Florindo and Rosaura, aided by Columbina and Arlecchino, manage to prevent the marriage which Rosaura's father, Pantalone, had planned for her.
Mascagni: Le Maschere (Maria Josè Gallego, Vincenzo La Scola, Amelia Felle, Giuseppe Sabbatini, et al.; Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna). Conductor: Gianluigi Gelmetti. Ricordi / Fonit Cetra RFCD 2004
- Flury, Roger, Pietro Mascagni: A Bio-Bibliography, Greenwood Press, 2001. (ISBN 0313296626)
- Mallach, Alan, Pietro Mascagni and His Operas, UPNE, 2002. (ISBN 1555535240)