CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA SYNOPSIS:
Turridu, having returned home from Army service, finds that his sweetheart, Lola, has married another man while he was gone. Seeking consolation, Turridu seduces and promises his companionship to Santuzza, but continues an affair with the married Lola.
The opera takes place on Easter Day. Shamed into desolation by Turridu, Santuzza is banned from entering or worshipping at the church Vesper service. While the service continues, Santuzza visits Turridu and pleads with him to keep his promises to her, but is sent away by an angry Turridu. Feeling betrayed, Santuzza tells Lola’s husband, Alfio, of the affair. Alfio ends the first half of the opera swearing revenge on Turridu.
After the service ends, the town sings a merry drinking song at the tavern, led by Turridu. Alfio refuses to drink with Turridu, sparking a challenge to duel between the two men. Fearing that his death is imminent, Turridu tearfully says goodbye to his mother, Lucia, and runs off. Offstage, one of the women scream that Alfio has killed Turridu, and Santuzza falls to the ground.
The opera begins with Tonio, a hunchbacked clown who reminds the audience that actors in the story are also real life people with emotions that they can't convey in their onstage personas. He functions as a narrator, and welcomes them to the performance.
The story begins as Canio and his band of Commedia players arrive in an Italian Village. The crowd is excited to see the troupe's performance, which will be presented after evening mass. Canio is invited into town for a drink, but is warned that his wife, Nedda, may be unfaithful in his absence. Canio responds that if Nedda were to cheat on him, he would not be as comic as his stage persona and not to joke about such matters.
As the crowd and Canio leave, Nedda reveals that she does not enjoy the traveling life and wants to be free from her husband. Tonio, hearing her singing, confesses his love for her but is rejected for his deformity. Nedda mocks Tonio’s confession and Tonio tries to rape her. Nedda hits Tonio with a whip, chasing him away.
Silvio, one of the villagers, comes out of hiding, and it is revealed that Silvio and Nedda have been seeing each other in secret. They plan to elope after the performance, but are interrupted by Tonio and Canio who overhear the plans. Silvio escapes unseen and Canio threatens to kill Nedda unless she confesses the name of her new lover. They are interrupted as the crowd starts to form to watch the show, and Canio mourns his plight.
As the performance begins, it is realized that the plot is a reenactment of previous events. The wife is having an affair with the Harlequin and is discovered by the husband. When Canio makes his entrance, he hears the same words spoke to harlequin that she said to Silvio, infuriating him to break character. Canio renounces Nedda and once again demands that she reveals the name of her lover. Finally, Canio stabs Nedda, who calls out for Silvio. Silvio, who is in the audience, runs to aid her but is also stabbed by Canio. As the crowd rushes to restrain him, Canio utters the line “The Comedy has finished” and weeps over Nedda’s body.