Rhapsodia Satanica was the last film directed by Nino Oxilia – a variation on the Faust myth, with the vamp-diva Lyda Borelli, one of the most famous silent- movie actresses of the time. Mascagni wrote music for the film, his only film music, and directed the first performance in July 1917.
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The score focuses on the Countess’s state of mind. The French horn with which the music opens, exudes inescapable “Fatal Attraction” and forms the prelude to a Melancholy piece of music with a capital M. The harmonic idiom of Mascagni, although traditional in nature, has chromatic twists and turns that refer to the excitement and confusion that the Countess experiences after her newly acquired youth. A fine piece of music, an undivided pleasure for Mascagni lovers. Mascagni Lovers’ Lives Matter! The complete film was shown during the Saturday Matinee in 2017 in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, where Mascagni’s music was of course played live.
At the time, the film was compared to Wagner’s operas. The film certainly exudes a certain opera sensibility, not only through Mascagni’s music, but also through the relationship between image and music. We ourselves recognize a certain Anton Bruckner in the (opening) music, but it may very well be that we are suffering from delusions.
Lyda Borelli was a megastar. The term “borellismo” was used in Italy to describe the Lyda Borelli craze. She was a slender beauty, with wavy blond hair, and was especially known for her remarkable poses that are now somewhat bizar, “dated” at least.
Female fans went on a diet and tried to imitate her poses. In Rapsodia Satanica she plays an old woman who makes the infamous pact with the devil in exchange for eternal youth. A fascinating role.