Recently, after receiving distressing news delivered by the bathroom scale, I determined to increase the exercise I take. For a 90-minute bicycle ride, I chose to divert myself to the strains of Pietro Mascagni’s 1890 opera, Cavalleria Rusticana; my choice being dictated by the perceived energy and inanity of this opus, which in my all too carefully considered opinion (if one dithers sufficiently on the music one directs the ipod to play, with any luck it might be too late to afford the time to take the exercise at all) would provide the right sort of distraction to accompany a boring, but regrettably necessary task.
Maybe I thought that exercise accompaniment was all this work is good for; who knows? To my chagrin, some Mascagni lunatics got wind of my less than flattering perception of this hoary score, and requested the “right of rebuttal”; I quote this odious phrase, as an example of their impenetrable legalese.
Consequently, as the most refreshingly impartial referee in blogdom, I invited the Mascagni clique’s foremost consigliere (the opera takes place in a Sicilian village), who must hide under the incognito, “per Mascagni Sempre” (PMS) for an interview.
Mr. Gibbons: How many times is the word, “bada” (I warn you) used in this piece? More than fifty?
PMS: I believe just once. When Turridu sings, “Bada, Santuzza” in their duet; warning her that he’s not her slave (schiavo).
Mr. Gibbons: O.K. Tell me then, how many times does one character wish another an unhappy Easter?- (mala Pasqua)-fifty times? Or more?
PMS: Shut up.
Mr. Gibbons: Thanks for the elegantly delivered rebuke, I certainly was out of line.
PMS: Thank you for acknowledging your unconscionable flippancy. To my certain knowledge, you yourself have recordings featuring Jussi Bjoerling (your favorite, just as with everyone else, you lackey), Franco Corelli, Victoria De Los Angeles, Pavarotti, and even that mediocre record with Domingo and Scotto, conducted by Muti. If you can’t make a case for this opera, maybe I can make a case for your being a fool, acquiring record after record of an opera for which you (snobbishly) feel only distaste.
Mr. Gibbons: (evasively) Somebody gave me those records.
PMS: Yeah right, I just buy the magazine for the articles, genius.
Mr. Gibbons: Is the wine from Francofonte any good?
PMS: Ask that fancy retired publisher in your classes, he knows wine.
Mr. Gibbons: Doesn’t this “Madonna” and “Whore” thing bother you in Italian opera? I am neither a post-modernist nor a deconstructionist, but I’m bothered by this pervasive dismissal of women as human beings in certain Italian operas, including the verismo classics, such as Pagliacci and Tosca in addition to Cavalleria. How come Mozart and Wagner have real women in their operas, and, excepting the works of Verdi’s maturity, Italian opera has so few?
PMS: (mumbles inaudibly)
Mr. Gibbons: And is it true that a transcription of Cavalleria for solo banjo would do eminent justice to the work from at least the harmonic, rhythmic, and structural standpoints?
PMS: This interview is terminated
Mr. Gibbons: Will I find a horse’s head in my bed?