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8.660022 - MASCAGNI, P.: Cavalleria Rusticana (Slovak Philharmonic Chorus, Slovak Radio Symphony, Rahbari)
Pietro Mascagni (1863 - 1945)
The composer of some fifteen operas, Pietro Mascagni is best remembered for his most successful exercise in operatic realism, Cavalleria Rusticana. He was born in Livorno in 1863 and later studied music at the Milan Conservatory, where his teachers included Ponchielli. Dismissed before the completion of his course, he earned a living as a double bass player at the Teatro dal Verme and then as a conductor in a travelling opera company, before winning unexpected success in 1888 in a competition for one-act operas mounted by the publisher Sanzogno. One of three winning operas, Cavalleria Rusticana was staged at the Teatro Constanzi in Rome in 1890 and won immediate success. It was performed in the following year in Philadelphia and in New York and at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London and in 1892 was mounted at Covent Garden.
Mascagni's later career was markedly less successful. L'amico Fritz, staged in 1891, has remained in occasional repertoire, but it was the realist Iris, with its exotic setting, that seemed about to equal the popularity of Cavalleria Rusticana, although its initial success proved transitory. The French revolutionary opera II piccolo Marat, in 1921, was greeted with enthusiasm, but his later achievement as a composer of opera was confined to the unsatisfactory Nerone, at a time when he had assumed duties as a conductor at La Scala, after the departure of Toscanini, and become associated in particular with the regime of Mussolini. He died in Rome in 1945.
Cavalleria Rusticana is based on a short story by Giovanni Verga, later dramatised to provide a vehicle for Eleonora Duse and translated into English, with other works of Verga, by D. H. Lawrence. The original text belongs to the second period of Verga's writing, in which he concentrated attention on Sicilian peasant life. Mascagni's music matches the strong drama of its literary source, creating a work of a strength and intensity that the composer was subsequently unable to match.
 The Prelude to the opera includes three thematic elements that are of later importance. The first of these is associated with the despair of Santuzza, who still loves Turiddu, in spite of his betrayal. A second element makes use of part of the duet between Santuzza and Turiddu in which she begs him not to follow Lola into the church, and the third is the soldier Turiddu's love-song to Lola, sung by Turiddu behind the curtains, and praising the beauty of his mistress, Lola, wife of Alfio, the teamster.
 The curtain rises to reveal a village square in Sicily. On the right is a church and to the left an inn, where Turiddu's mother Lucia lives. It is Easter morning. At first the stage is empty, and then, as day dawns, peasants, men, women and children, cross the square to the church, which they enter during the ensuing scene. The people welcome the sweetness of the day, the beauty of orange-blossom, bird-song and meadows in flower. The men welcome a day of rest and praise the beauty of the women, while all rejoice in the delights of spring.
 Santuzza sadly approaches Lucia's tavern, seeking her beloved Turiddu.
Lucia at first tells her nothing, but then explains that her son has gone to Francofonte to fetch the wine. Santuzza, though, does not believe this; Turiddu has been seen in the village in the night. Lucia asks if Turiddu is in trouble, but Santuzza says she cannot tell her.
 The sound of the cracking of a whip and jingling of harness is heard, as villagers enter, and then Alfio, singing in praise of his life as a teamster, echoed by the others. He goes on to praise the beauty of his wife Lola and her faithfulness. Now he is home again for Easter, and the villagers echo his happiness, then moving off in various directions, some into the church and some elsewhere.
 Mamma Lucia tells Alfio he is lucky to be always so cheerful. He asks if she has had the wine yet that Turiddu was bringing, but she tells him that her son has not yet returned. Alfio, though, has seen him in the village, early in the morning, near his house. Santuzza warns Lucia to say no more, and Alfio goes out to prepare for church. The voices of the people are heard from the church singing the Regina coeli, joined in their devotions by those who have not yet entered the church, led by Santuzza's hymn to the risen Saviour. The people in the square now go into the church, leaving Santuzza and Mamma Lucia together outside. Lucia asks Santuzza why she had told her to be silent in front of Alfio.
 Santuzza now explains how Turiddu, when he was first a soldier, had once loved Lola and sworn eternal faith to her, but when he came back he found her married then turned for consolation to Santuzza, who loved him dearly, and he her. Lola, however, was envious and betrayed her husband Alfio, to steal
Turiddu from Santuzza, who is now alone, abandoned, while Lola and Turiddu are lovers again. Lucia is horrified and Santuzza in deep despair. She is determined to try once more to win the love of Turiddu, and Lucia prays that the Blessed Virgin may help her, as she goes into the church.
 Turiddu finding Santuzza alone outside the church, asks why she has not gone in and then asks where his mother is. He is unwilling to talk to Santuzza, who asks him where he has been. He tells her he has been to Francofonte, but she accuses him of lying, since he was seen by Alfio near Lola's house very early in the morning. Turiddu accuses Santuzza of wanting Alfio to kill him and the two quarrel. Turiddu is not her slave and will not tolerate her jealousy, while Santuzza pleads her love, however she is treated.
 Turiddu and Santuzza are interrupted by Lola, whose voice is heard, as she approaches, singing praise of a flower, more beautiful than the angels in heaven. She comes into the square, and asks Turiddu if he has seen Alfio, and, turning to Santuzza, asks what she is doing. Santuzza replies that on this
Easter morning the Lord sees everything; she is not going to Mass, for only those who know they are without sin should go. Lola blithely thanks the Lord that she is free from sin, but Santuzza reproaches her bitterly. Turiddu, in embarrassment, urges that they should go in, but Lola tells him he can stay outside with Santuzza, who herself demands his attention. Lola goes into the church, leaving the two of them outside.
 Turiddu ironically reproaches Santuzza, who earnestly entreats his attention, begging him not to abandon her. Turiddu, however, resents her insistence. Santuzza implores him, but he is obdurate; nothing she can say will make him forgive her. Their quarrel reaches a height of passion, until Santuzza, driven to desperation, threatens him, at which he throws her down, making his escape from her into the church. At the height of her anger Santuzza curses her betrayer, and falls to the ground, in despair and anguish.
 At this moment Alfio comes in. Santuzza pulls herself together and tells him he must be sent by the Lord; he should know that Turiddu is in the church with Lola. Alfio is surprised, but Santuzza goes on to tell him that while he is away working, earning a living, Lola has been thinking only of Turiddu; Turiddu had promised to love her, but now he has betrayed her, his love stolen by Lola.
Alfio threatens to kill her, if she is lying, but she assures him that she has told him the truth, to which she swears. Alfio pauses a moment, thanks her, and then bursts out in fierce anger, vowing vengeance on the pair of them.
Santuzza blames herself for speaking out, but nothing will now hold Alfio back.
 The Intermezzo reflects the drama that has occurred and what is to follow.
 Its hushed conclusion is followed by the sound of the bells, as the people come out of the church, including Lucia, who crosses the square to the inn.
The villagers prepare to go home to enjoy the day of rest. Lola and Turiddu leave the church together, and he asks her not to leave their company, but she says she is looking for Alfio.
 Turiddu suggests that his friends and neighbours should join him in a drink and sings a drinking-song. He drinks to Lola's admirers, and she responds by drinking to his good fortune.
 As the drinking-song comes to an end, Alfio comes in, greeting his neighbours. Turiddu invites him to join them in a drink, but Alfio refuses; the wine would turn to poison, were he to drink it. Turiddu throws out the wine. At this some of the women approach Lola, softly urging her to come away with them. Left together, Turiddu asks if Alfio has anything to say to him; he will be ready when Alfio wants him. They embrace and Turiddu bites Alfio's right ear.
The latter accepts the challenge. Turiddu acknowledges the wrong he has done to Alfio, but if Alfio kills him, Santuzza will be left alone; she trusted him, and he betrayed her. Now he must kill Alfio, who tells him that he will be waiting for him behind the orchard.
 Turiddu, now alone, calls to his mother and when she comes out, tells her that the wine has gone to his head; he will go for a walk in the orchard to clear his head, but first he seeks her blessing, as he did when he first went as a soldier. He begs her to look after Santuzza, if he does not come back, and to treat her as a daughter. He parries her question, but asks her to pray to God for his forgiveness. He seeks one last kiss from his mother, before running out in despair. Lucia is bewildered and afraid and calls her son's name. Santuzza joins her and other people enter, agitated and anxious. There is a confused murmur in the distance, and the voice of a woman is heard crying that they have killed Turiddu. As people rush in, Santuzza cries out and falls senseless, and Lucia, fainting, is supported by the women of the village. The tragedy is complete.
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