Pietro Mascagni’s verismo one-act tragic opera Cavalleria Rusticana (‘Rustic Chivalry’) was composed in 1890, and like its partner opera, I Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo, composed in 1892, both these operas cultivated a new style in the late nineteenth-century Italian literary movement known as verismo, meaning ‘realism’, or ‘truthful’. Cavalleria Rusticana depicts life in a Sicilian village where love, betrayal, and integrity come to a gripping climax. The mood is set with a chorus and an Easter hymn, together with arias and duets that drive the tragic drama. The best-known solo is “Voi lo sapete, o mamma” (Santuzza), and the opera includes the passionate devotional hymn “Easter Chorus”, “Peasants’ Chorus”, and Intermezzo. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci (‘The Clowns’, or ’Strolling Players’), refers to a small group of strolling players and performers. It follows their loves and jealousies, which spill over into their stage personas and performances, climaxing in murder. Even though the clown knows that his wife has betrayed him, the poor desolate clown has to go on stage and continue to entertain and make people laugh, despite his wretched and deplorable personal circumstances.
Listen to Richard Tucker sing Vesti la giubba from Pagliacci
Listen to Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" "Intermezzo"