Iris (opera)

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Poster for Iris, published by Casa Ricordi in 1898

Iris (Italian: [ˈiːris]) 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[3]
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 happily enjoying the simple things of nature. Osaka, a young lord in search of adventures, plans to kidnap her with the help of the brothel-keeper Kyoto. During a puppet show, the libertine enters disguised as a child of the sun, singing a serenade. He conquers the heart of Iris and carries her off. Iris is conducted to the Yoshiwara, a place of perdition, and she wakes up under the illusion of being in Paradise. Osaka tries to seduce her but fails to make her yield to his advances. Tired and annoyed by the simplicity of the girl, Osaka leaves her at the mercy of Kyoto, who exposes her on a balcony of the house. There, she is found and cursed by her father, who does not know about the abduction. Overwhelmed by shame, Iris throws herself into an abyss.



  1. ^ Mallach, Alan (2002). Pietro Mascagni and his Operas. UPNE. p. 127 and note. Retrieved January 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ Premiere cast from Casaglia (2005).
  3. ^ Caruson created the role of Kyoto. See photo of Caruson in costume. Retrieved 11 August 2015. For a list of Caruson's performances, see Marcocci, Roberto. "Caruson Guglielmo". La voce antica (in Italian). Retrieved 11 August 2015.  From a review of Verdi's Otello in the Teatro Regio (Parma): "The baritone Caruson, Iago, is a pure, most intelligent artist, accenting in a truly exceptional way, but has limited vocal means. On successive evenings he was greatly applauded, since he possesses the secret of real singing, sadly abandoned in our days." ("Il baritono Caruson, Jago, è pure artista intelligentissimo, accenta in modo veramente eccezionale, ma dispone di limitati mezzi vocali. Nelle sere successive sarà maggiormente applaudito, perché possiede il segreto del vero canto purtroppo ai dì nostri abbandonato.") Source: Valerio Cervetti (ed.). "Altre voci : Carnevale 1894-95". Giulio Ferrarini (in Italian). La Casa della Musica. Retrieved 11 August 2015. 


  • 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