LEONCAVALLO, RUGGIERO. (1858-1919). Italian composer whose most enduring work is the one-act opera Pagliacci. SP. (“Leoncavallo”). 1p. Folio (image size approximate 6” x 8¼”, overall size 10” x 13¼”). Viareggio, May 25, 1915. A black-and-white bust portrait by Viareggio photographer G. Magrini depicting the elegantly attired and mustachioed composer and inscribed in Italian on the blank portion of the image.
“To my dearest friend Riccardo Luttigas [?] on the eve of the true union of all the peoples of Italy, with affection, Leoncavallo Viareggio, May 25, 1915, second day of the war”
Italy embarked on an aggressive colonization policy by annexing Eritrea and Somalia before being violently repulsed by the Ethiopians. In 1911, Italy wrested control of Libya and the Dodecanese from Turkey and it was in this climate that Italian nationalism, bolstered by such intellectuals as Gabriel D’Annunzio, united the populace and fed an irredentist movement to reclaim “lost” Italian territories. Despite its long-standing alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, Italy entered World War I as Britain and France’s ally on May 23, after the Treaty of London guaranteed Italy the Austrian territories of Trento, Trieste, Istria, and Dalmatia. It is likely this nationalistic sentiment that Leoncavallo echoes in our inscription.
During this period, Leoncavallo’s finances worsened, especially after a German newspaper somewhat erroneously reported that he and Puccini had protested the bombing of Rheims, causing his works to be largely banned in Austria and Germany. After his hopes to premiere his yet-to-be-composed Ça-Ira! in Chicago were dashed by that city’s wartime suspension of theatrical productions, “Leoncavallo wrote an imaginary interview between himself and [his librettist and friend Gualtiero] Belvederi, which he then asked his friend to publish. Speaking of Europe’s political situation as well as the many theaters that remained closed, he said, ‘I hope that in this state of things a sentiment of italianità will rise among us for the protection of our works as well as our artists… and that our theaters will not be open solely to foreign maestri and to a privileged few… but also to those maestri that have proven themselves to be the glory of Italian art,” (Leoncavallo: Life and Works, Dryden).
With some wear to the photographer’s mount. A stunning image in very fine condition. Archivally matted and framed.