Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) was one of the most important Italian composers of the turn of the 20th Century. The formidable success of his first masterpiece in 1890, "Cavalleria Rusticana" unfortunately eluded many of his following works. He still wrote 16 operas, an operetta, several beautiful orchestral and vocal works, as well as piano music. He enjoyed amazing operatic successes during his lifetime, and at the same time persued a very successful career as a conductor.
"Nerone", first performed in 1935, was his last opera and is quite controversial as it was written in honour of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. The use of Mascagni by the Fascists as their musical mouthpiece led to a boycott of his work by most Italian musicians and he spent his last years in poverty and virtual disgrace. He was a restless, competitive, opportunistic, pugnacious, litigious man and a politically naive activist. Nevertheless, the under valuation of his talent seems unjust - whatever the qualities of the man himself may be, some of his later compositions prove to be of high musical quality.
This recording was shot in the Great Thermae at Emperor Adrian's Villa in Rome which proves an atmospheric backdrop for the excellent singers such as Mario Marchesi in the title role, Madelyn Monti and Adriana Damatoin a defining performance of this excellent work.