Major Operas | Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni | Turn of the Century

Rustic Chivalry

Composed: 1888
Premiered: 1890, Rome
Libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci after Giovanni Verga’s play

Early on Easter Day, Turiddu is heard offstage serenading Lola. The villagers start arriving for church. Santuzza stops Mamma Lucia, Turiddu’s mother, and asks where she may find him. He is supposed to have gone to another village to buy wine, but Santuzza has heard that he is still here. Alfio enters, extolling his life as a carter and his faithful wife Lola. Earlier that morning he had seen Turiddu near his house. The villagers are heard singing in church, but Santuzza, believing herself to be excommunicated, cannot enter it and leads the Easter hymn from outside. She reminds Mamma Lucia that Turiddu had been betrothed to Lola before he left for military service, but in his absence she had married Alfio. He had turned instead to Santuzza. Lola has now lured him back, leaving Santuzza pregnant and alone. She asks Mamma Lucia to pray for her in church. Santuzza confronts Turiddu and tells him Alfio has seen him. As he tries to get away, she demands that he confesses he loves Lola. She will love and forgive him, even if he beats her. Lola enters and teases Santuzza that she is hearing Mass in the square. Santuzza replies that only those who have not sinned may enter the church. Lola goes inside. Turiddu tears into Santuzza, accusing her of spying on him, and follows Lola. Santuzza tells Alfio that Lola is betraying him with Turiddu. He swears to have vengeance that day.

The villagers leave church after Mass. Lola intends to go home to see Alfio, but Turiddu urges her to stay. Some villagers join Turiddu in a drinking song. Alfio refuses to join him in a toast. Lola leaves, worried by what is to come. Following tradition, Turiddu and Alfio embrace. In a gross insult, Turiddu bites Alfio’s right ear. Turiddu knows he is in the wrong, but if he were to let Alfio kill him Santuzza would be left alone. It is his duty to kill Alfio, who leaves to prepare for the coming fight. Turiddu asks Mamma Lucia to bless him, as she did when he left to be a soldier, and to look after Santuzza as her own if he does not return. He rushes off. Soon a voice screams that Turiddu has been killed.

Sounds Familiar

Intermezzo: Cavalleria rusticana
Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana proved particularly popular in films about American-Italians. The intermezzo is used to great effect in Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull and the prelude is used in Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather III.

Personalities | Pietro Mascagni | Turn of the Century | Opera


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