Cavalleria Rusticana Synopsis

A One Act Opera by Pietro Mascagni

Maria Farneti-Cavalleria Rusticana 1901-Citta di Castello
Studio Varischi-Artico, Milano/Wikimedia Commons

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.

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