Cavalleria Rusticana è un’opera in un unico atto di Pietro Mascagni, su libretto di Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti e Guido Menasci, tratto dalla novella omonima di Giovanni Verga.
Cavalleria rusticana fu la prima opera composta da Mascagni ed è certamente la più nota fra le sedici composte dal compositore livornese (oltre a Cavalleria rusticana, solo Iris e L’amico Fritz sono rimaste nel repertorio stabile dei principali enti lirici). Il suo successo fu enorme già dalla prima volta in cui venne rappresentata al Teatro Costanzi di Roma, il 17 maggio 1890, e tale è rimasto fino a oggi.
La storia che portò alla nascita di Cavalleria Rusticana è abbastanza curiosa: nel 1888 l’editore Sonzogno istituì un concorso aperto a tutti i giovani compositori italiani che non erano ancora riusciti a far rappresentare una loro opera. Mascagni, venuto a conoscenza di questo concorso a due mesi dalla chiusura delle iscrizioni, chiese al suo amico Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti di scrivere un libretto.
Lui e il suo collega Guido Menasci scelsero come base la novella di Giovanni Verga “Cavalleria Rusticana”. La cosa particolare fu che i due lavorarono all’opera con Mascagni per corrispopndenza.
L’opera fu completata appena in tempo per essere ammessa al concorso. Ovviamente, come abbiamo visto, l’opera di Mascagni fu selezionata per essere rappresentata a Roma.
Venne rappresentata la Cavalleria Rusticana nel dicembre 1917 al Teatro Reale di Madrid, anche lì con grande successo. Luigi Rossi Morelli rappresentò Alfio, il carrettiere.
Per avere un’idea del successo riscosso dall’opera di Mascagni, basti pensare che alla sua morte (avvenuta nel 1945), l’opera era già stata rappresentata più di quattordicimila volte solo in Italia.
Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana is a one-act opera that premiered on May 17, 1890, at the Burgtheater in Vienna. Adapted from a short story and play written by Giovanni Verga, the Opera takes place on an Easter morning in 19th century Sicily.
THE STORY OF CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA
After returning home from an extended military campaign, Turiddu learns that his fiancé, Lola, has married Alfio, a wealthy wine carter.
In retaliation, Turiddu romances a young woman named Santuzza. When Lola learns of their relationship, she becomes jealous immediately. But it isn’t long before Turiddu and Lola begin their affair. After sleeping with Turiddu, Santuzza suspects Turiddu has been with another woman. On Easter morning, Santuzza goes out in search of Turiddu and stops by his mother’s tavern. She asks Lucia is she has seen her son, and Lucia replies that she had sent Turiddu out of town to purchase wine from another village. Santuzza leans in to tell Lucia that she heard rumors that Turiddu was seen walking about town the night before. Before Lucia can discuss the rumor, Alfio enters the store in search of the finest wine while singing of his love for Lola. Lucia tells him that they are out of wine, but Turiddu should arrive later that day with more wine from the nearby village. Puzzled, Alfio tells her that he saw Turiddu earlier that morning in a town near his home.
Before Lucia can react, Santuzza quickly hushes her. Just then, church bells ring nearby sounding the start of mass. As the villagers file into the church, Santuzza and Lucia discuss the whereabouts of Turiddu. Santuzza concludes that Turiddu has been unfaithful and cheated on her with Lola. Lucia pities Santuzza, who has been excommunicated by the church due to her quick romancing with Turiddu.
Since Santuzza cannot enter the church, she asks Lucia to pray for her. Lucia obliges and disappears into the church. Meanwhile, Turiddu has returned home and Santuzza confronts him about his infidelity. He brushes her off after he spots Lola making her way into the church. Like a bunny lead by a carrot, he follows Lola into the church, leaving Santuzza behind. In a fit of rage, Santuzza spots Alfio and divulges details on Turiddu and Lola’s torrid affair.
After mass, Turiddu exits with Lola and smiles when he does not see Santuzza. He invites his friends for drinks at his mother’s tavern. Alfio enters the tavern and Turiddu offers him a drink. Alfio responds insultingly and the women, sensing something bad is about to ensue, leave. Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel. Turiddu accepts the challenge and hugs Alfio as per tradition. However, Turiddu bites off Alfio’s ear, signaling a fight to the death. Alfio rushes out of the tavern and Turiddu is left alone. He calls out to Lucia, who runs in immediately. He begs her to take care of Santuzza as if she were her own daughter and asks for one last kiss in case he does not return. Lucia, with tears in her eyes, watches Turiddu leave the shop.
She paces outside anxiously as a crowd begins to gather. Santuzza, who has just learned of the duel, awaits for word of the duel’s outcome in Lucia’s embrace. Shouts are heard in the distance and the crowd stirs. Moments later, a woman cries out that Turiddu has been killed. Santuzza collapses despairingly to the ground as Lucia faints into the arms of the village women.