Cavalleria Rusticana


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

reality alone.

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

promised marriage.

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.--