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The Story

Turiddu sings of his love for Lola. He is overheard by Santuzza, a woman he has seduced. Santuzza tells Lola’s husband Alfio of his wife’s infidelity.

Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel. Turiddu asks his mother Mamma Lucia to look after Santuzza, and dies at Alfio’s hands.

Background

Pietro Mascagni adapted Giovanni Verga’s play Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) for a competition held by the music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno. His opera, a verismo masterpiece, won the competition and became a tremendous success on its premiere on 17 May 1890, going on to inspire Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci. Italian director Damiano Michieletto’s Olivier Award-winning production of both works for The Royal Opera updates them to southern Italy in the late 20th century, to a village in the grip of poverty and hypocrisy, where strong passions lurk in the dark.

Unusually for the time, Mascagni composed Cavalleria rusticana in set numbers – arias, duets and ensembles detail the lives of his doomed characters within their repressive, repressed community, and turn the screw as the opera hurtles towards its tragic end. Turiddu’s drinking song ‘Viva il vino spumeggiante’, Santuzza’s melancholic ‘Voi lo sapete, o mama’ and the Easter Hymn are among the many musical highlights.

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