Pietro Mascagni (December 7, 1863 – August 2, 1945) is one of the most important Italian opera composers of the turn of the twentieth century.
Mascagni's 1890 masterpiece, Cavalleria Rusticana, caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and singlehandedly ushered in the Verismo movement. However, though it has been stated and restated ad nauseam that Mascagni, like Leoncavallo, was a "one-opera man" who could never repeat his first success, this is highly inaccurate. L'Amico Fritz and Iris have been popular in Europe since their respective premieres; in fact, Mascagni himself claimed that at one point Iris was performed in Italy more often than Cavalleria (cf. Stivender).
Mascagni wrote a total of fifteen operas, plus an operetta, several beautiful orchestral and vocal works, as well as songs and piano music. He enjoyed amazing success during his lifetime, both as a composer and conductor. If he never repeated the public success of Cavalleria, it was probably because Mascagni refused to copy himself. The variety of styles in Mascagni's operas -- the Sicilian passion and warmth of Cavalleria, the Asian flavor of Iris, the idyllic breeze that ventilates L'Amico Fritz, the French hues in Isabeau, the steely, Verismo quality of Il Piccolo Marat -- demonstrate a versatility that none of the other Veristi could boast, Puccini included.
Mascagni was born in Livorno, Tuscany. When he was 26 years old, he became famous overnight when Cavalleria rusticana won the opera contest of music publisher Sonzogno in Italy.
He died in Rome.