• 5 Things to Know about CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA

    By COC Staff

    One of the most popular one-act operas ever composed, Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana is a gripping drama about love, jealousy, and betrayal set in a Sicilian village over the course of a single Easter Sunday.

    We hope you’ll join us on May 23, 2025 for a special concert presentation of this beloved classic that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the bitter end. Ahead of the performance, read on to learn 5 Things to Know about Mascagni’s most famous opera!


    All thanks to Lina Mascagni

    Mascagni began work on Cavalleria rusticana in 1888, intending to enter it into a music competition run by the Sonzogno publishing company. Initial feedback on the score was disappointing, however, and Mascagni resolved to destroy it and submit the fourth act of another opera he had composed instead. Unbeknownst to him, his wife Lina submitted the Cavalleria rusticana manuscript on his behalf, and the work was awarded First Prize ahead of 72 other entrants. Its premiere in Rome in 1890 was an enormous success, with Mascagni reportedly taking 40 curtain calls to rapturous applause.

    The original verismo opera

    Cavalleria rusticana (“rustic chivalry”) is a dark and gritty tale of love and revenge which sets to music a play of the same title by Italian writer Giovanni Verga. Mascagni’s opera is often identified as a launching point for the verismo (“realism”) trend, thanks to its naturalistic narrative approach, its focus on ordinary people, and its passionate, violent content. The style remained popular into the early 1900s, and its influence can be seen in works from Giordano’s Andrea Chénier to Puccini’s Tosca.

    You’ve heard this before

    Perhaps the best known music from Cavalleria rusticana is the lyrical intermezzo, which is based on a hymn heard from inside the village church early in the opera. A work of gentle pastoral beauty and simmering emotional intensity, it subtly foreshadows the tragedy about to unfold on an otherwise joyful day.

    A winning double bill

    Cavalleria rusticana is often staged with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci as a double bill colloquially referred to as “Cav/Pag.” The most famous of Leoncavallo’s 10 operas, Pagliacci (“The Clowns”) tells the tale of an actor who murders his wife and her lover on stage during a performance. Its verismo elements are believed to have been inspired by Cavalleria rusticana.

    An opera you can’t refuse

    Cavalleria rusticana has inspired a number of cinematic interpretations, including a 1916 silent film, a 1953 film starring Anthony Quinn as Alfio (sung by Tito Gobbi), and a 1982 version directed by Franco Zeffirelli and starring Plácido Domingo as Turiddu. The famous intermezzo has been incorporated into the soundtracks of several films including Raging Bull and The Godfather Part III, in which a performance of the opera also features.

    Cavalleria rusticana will appear in a special, one-night-only concert presentation on May 23, 2025 at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
    Posted in 24/25 Season


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