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date: 24 February 2020

Piccolo Marat, Il (‘The Lesser Marat’)locked

  • Michele Girardi

Extract

(‘The Lesser Marat’)

Dramma lirico in three acts by Pietro Mascagni to a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano ; Rome, Teatro Costanzi, 2 May 1921.

Mascagni turned his attention to the French Revolution, perhaps in the hope of rediscovering the roots of his own poetics, with the example of Giordano’s Andrea Cheénier (written 25 years earlier) before him. But a return to historical drama could only mean the open abandonment of any idea of renewal and an overt adherence to Fascism, which embodied the populist and petit-bourgeois ideals of the immediate postwar period. Forzano was one of the foremost literary figures in Mussolini’s circle, and he skilfully devised a functional plot with guaranteed dramatic appeal.

At Nantes in 1790, at the height of the French Revolution, the Prince of Fleury (tenor), to save his mother (mezzo-soprano) from the guillotine, enlists in the revolutionary ranks under the name of Piccolo Marat and wins the confidence of the corrupt and bloodthirsty president of the committee, nicknamed Orco [the Ogre] (bass), and the love of his niece, Mariella (soprano). He frees his mother and manages to escape with Mariella and a carpenter (baritone), who, after a dramatic fight, succeeds in killing the Ogre....

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