Cavalleria Rusticana, from Mascagni to movie

“Cavalleria Rusticana” is an opera in a one act by Pietro Mascagni, adapted from a short story of the same name by Giovanni Verga. The libretto was made by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menaschi.

The first performance took place on the 17th of May 1890 at the Costanzi Theatre in Rome.

It has usually been performed in a double-bill with another brief opera, “Pagliacci” (1892) by Ruggero Leoncavallo. This unusual pairing took the stage the year after the opening night of “Pagliacci” at the Metropolitan Theater in New York on the 22nd of December 1893.

“Cavalleria Rusticana” was the first opera composed by Mascagni and it is definitely the most famous among the sixteen works of the composer from Livorno.

It was a huge success right away, already since the first time it was performed at the Costanzi Theatre in Rome in 1890, and it has been that way ever since.

The opera’s symphonic intermezzo between the eighth and ninth scene is one of the most popular pieces. It has an orchestral trait, entirely based on strings, which made it famous also outside of the world of opera.

It was the soundtrack of one of the most famous scenes in the history of cinema: a scene from the movie “The Godfather – Part III”. It was also used during the opening credits of “Raging Bull” directed by Martin Scorsese and in the episode “Cro-Magnon” of the popular American series “Ally McBeal”.

The central theme was revised for a dance song by Datura named “Will be one” and it was also used by Vasco Rossi as the intro of his 2007 live tour. Moreover, it appeared in the song “Mascagni” by Andrea Bocelli.

We can mention Ferrero Rocher and Enel (2011) among the companies that used it for some of their commercials.

The intermezzo also appeared in episode 31 of the Rurouni Kenshin anime “Samurai X”.

Finally, the talented Croatian pianist Maksim Mrvica played a modern crossover reinterpretation of the intermezzo.   


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