(SICILIAN RUSTIC CHIVALRY).
In one act by PIETRO MASCAGNI.
Text after Verga's drama of the same name by TARGIONI-TOZZETTI and
The composer of this very brief opera is a young man, who has had a
most adventurous life notwithstanding his youth. Son of a baker in
Livorno, he was destined for the bar. But his love for music made him
enter clandestinely into the Institute Luigi Cherubini, founded by
Alfreddo Soffredini. When his father heard of this, he confined him in
his chamber, until Pietro's uncle, Steffano, promised to care for him
in future. Pietro now was enabled to study diligently. He composed at
the age of 13 years a small Opera "In filanda", which was put on the
stage by Soffredini. Another composition, on Schiller's poem "An die
Freude" (To Joy), brought him money and Count Larderell's favor, who
allowed him to study at his expense at the Conservatory at Milan. But
Mascagni's ambition suffered no restraint, so he suddenly disappeared
from Milan and turned up as musical Director of a wandering troupe. In
Naples he grew ill, a young lady nursed him, both fell in love and she
became his wife.--Hearing that Sonzogno offered a prize for the best
opera, he procured himself a libretto, and composed the Cavalleria
Rusticana in little more than a week, and--gained the prize.
Henceforward all of course were anxious to hear the music of the
unknown artist, and lo--the opera was an immense success.
It cannot be called a masterpiece, yet it is certainly the offspring of
genius, as fresh and as absolutely original, as it is highly dramatic.
The text, though retaining little of the exquisite beauty of the
original drama, which ought to be read before hearing its fragments in
the opera, assists the music a good deal. The wave of human passion
sweeps over it, passion as it occurs in daily life, for the composition
belongs to the realistic style, as far as it is based on truth and
The true local color makes it doubly attractive.
The following are the very simple facts of the story, which takes place
in a Sicilian village.
Turridu, a young peasant has loved and wooed Lola before entering
military service. At his return he finds the flighty damsel married to
the wealthy carrier Alfio, who glories in his pretty wife and treats
her very well.--Turridu tries to console himself with another young
peasant-girl, Santuzza, who loves him ardently, and to whom he has
The opera only begins at this point.
Lola, the coquette however cannot bear to know, that her former
sweet-heart should love another woman. She flirts with him, and before
the curtain has been raised after the overture, Turridu's love-song is
heard for Lola, who grants him a rendez-vous in her own house.
This excites Santuzza's wildest jealousy. She complains to
Turridu's mother, who vainly tries to soothe her. Then she has a last
interview with Turridu, who is just entering the church. She
reproaches him first with his treachery, then implores him, not to
forsake her and leave her dishonored.
But Turridu remains deaf to all entreaty, and flings her from him. At
last, half mad through her lover's stubbornness Santuzza betrays him
and Lola to Alfio, warning the latter, that his wife has proved
false.--After church Alfio and Turridu meet in mother Lucia's
tavern.--Alfio refusing to drink of Turridu's wine, the latter divines
that the husband knows all. The men and women leave while the two
adversaries after Sicilian custom embrace each-other, Alfio biting
Turridu in the ear, which indicates mortal challenge.--Turridu, deeply
repenting his folly, as well as his falsehood towards poor Santuzza,
recommends her to his mother.--He hurries into the garden, where Alfio
expects him;--a few minutes later his death is announced by the
peasants, and Santuzza falls back in a dead swoon; with which the
curtain closes over the tragedy.--