After the success of Cavalleria rusticana, Pietro Mascagni immediately began thinking about other subject matter to set to music. The initial project, I Rantzau was temporarily set aside to work on L’amico Fritz, a romantic comedy by the same authors, championed by the editor Sonzogno, who had already commissioned Angelo Zanardini to write a libretto adaptation. But the composer did not like Zanardini’s libretto at all, and first the man of letters, Nicola Daspuro, and later also the well-trusted Guido Menasci and Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti were required to take over. Mascagni began working on the opera in winter 1891 and completed it in time for its debut at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 31st October of the same year. The success of this first performance did not however save L’amico Fritz from a troubled destiny, with conflicting opinions and verdicts: first and foremost that of Giuseppe Verdi, who criticized the excessive dissonance and the constant changes of tempo in the score and ruthlessly tore the libretto to shreds. In fact, Mascagni had deliberately chosen subject matter that lacked almost any action, so as to display his music to the greatest effect. The music was lively, tender in tone and suitable for the warm-of-heart (as the author himself described it), sketching out with the lightest of touches the little love idyll between Fritz Kobus, incorrigible village bachelor and Suzei, daughter of one of his tenant farmers.
It is an honour for me to be back at Teatro del Maggio for the second time this season. I love working with the orchestra and chorus of Florence’s theatre, whose professional and musical skill are of the highest level. I will again have a superb cast, led by Charles Castronovo, Salome Jicia and Massimo Cavalletti. This lively, intelligent production by Rosetta Cucchi brings a breath of fresh air and a touch of congeniality to an opera that in my opinion is long overdue at this theatre!