Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry)
  • Pietro Mascagni. Melodramma in one act. 1889.
  • Libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, after the play and story by Giovanni Verga.
  • First performance at the Teatro Costanzi, Rome, on 17th May 1890.
CHARACTERS
Santuzza, a peasant girl soprano
Turiddu, a young soldier tenor
Alfio, the village teamster baritone
Lola, his wife mezzo-soprano
Mamma Lucia, mother of Turiddu contralto

In a Sicilian village it is Easter Sunday. Santuzza’s former lover Turiddu is in love with Lola, Alfio’s wife. Santuzza seeks revenge by telling Alfio of Lola’s unfaithfulness and he kills Turiddu in a fight, after the latter has left Santuzza in the charge of his mother.

An example of realism (verismo), Mascagni’s opera is a concentrated study of love and jealousy, unified in its music and offering a strong contrast between normal village life, with its church celebration of Easter, and the strong feelings of the principal characters, a contrast that has its counterpart in other operas, not least in Britten’s Peter Grimes. Popular excerpts include Turiddu’s O Lola, Santuzza’s Voi lo sapete (You know it), the central instrumental Intermezzo, the drinking-song Viva il vino (Long live wine) and Turiddu’s poignant Mamma, quel vino è generoso (Mother, this wine is generous). Cavalleria rusticana is often coupled in performance with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (Actors).