intermezzo from cavalleria rusticana

Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (1890)

Pietro Mascagni, 1863-1945

     The Intermezzo comes from Pietro Mascagni's 1890 one-act opera, Cavalleria Rusticana. Even today, the Intermezzo is extremely popular in the concert hall as well as in film! Some of the Intermezzo's most memorable appearances are at the beginning and end of Raging Bull and at the climax of The Godfather Part III, which actually features a performance of the opera in the plot of the movie. 

     Francisco Salazar of Operawire.com wrote on Martin Scorcese's use of the Intermezzo in Raging Bull:
 

"As the light comes up on the opening image of the film we see Jake la Motta in a boxing ring, a distant figure, almost ghostly as he moves about the boxing ring in slow motion. This effect makes him look more like a ghost than a real entity and his movements take on an otherworldly effect.

 

But the imagery is rather clear – this is boxing we are talking about, a brutal, arguably ugly sport in which two people come at each other like animals to pummel the other into oblivion. At its height boxing is chaos.

 

Scorcese knows these things, but he also knows the power of music to affect how we can view a moment. He knows that by combining the imagery of his ghostly boxer, devoid a true identity and linking it to this gentle and passionate piece of music, he can soften how we view the sport. In the context of the first image, it doesn’t look violent or chaotic, it looks balletic. It feels poetic. We are seeing his spirit as Scorcese wants us to see it.

 

With the audience making this connection, Scorcese can now move ahead with his film, creating an understanding in our minds that the story to unfold will marry all of these elements together to create a poetic portrait of a violent man."

Read the rest of Salazar's piece here!

Raging Bull, 1980