Cavalleria Rusticana / Un mari à la porte
What is better than one wonderful opera performance? Two wonderful performances, of course! Florence’s Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino presents two classic one-act wonders that explore the themes of love, jealousy and honour: the opera Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni and the operetta Un mari à la porte by Jacques Offenbach.
When news of a contest for one-act operas came to the Mascagni household in 1888, the Italian composer was in doubt: he had recently completed Cavalleria rusticana but was not confident enough to send it in. While he pondered submitting one act from a previously staged opera, his wife went behind his back and entered the new work in the contest. As proof of spousal intuition, Cavalleria rusticana won the top prize and enjoyed lasting success after its official premiere on 17 May 1890 at Teatro Costanzi in Rome.
With a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti and Guido Menasci, based on the original story by Giovanni Verga, Cavalleria rusticana takes place in a small Sicilian village and describes a love rectangle. Turiddu and Lola used to be sweethearts until he went off to war; tired of waiting, she married Alfio instead. Upon his return, the scorned Turiddu had a brief affair with Santuzza. Now Lola has seduced Turiddu again while Santuzza still fights for his heart, and Alfio is growing increasingly suspicious… The story unravels dramatically!
A more light-hearted look at love and jealousy is at the basis of Offenbach’s one-act operetta Un mari à la porte (‘A Husband at the Door’). The vaudeville-like plot, with a libretto by Alfred Delacour, follows Florestan, an operetta composer in severe debt and on the run from a jealous husband and an officer. Coming down the chimney of a stranger’s house in the middle of the night, he inadvertently crashes the wedding party of Suzanne and Martel.
As the story unfolds, we find out Martel happens to be just the bailiff whom Florestan is fleeing. Suzanne uses the opportunity to make her newlywed man jealous, and the tension reaches a fever pitch. Just as he is about to get caught in a married woman’s room, Florestan has the brilliant idea to propose marriage to Rosita, Suzanne’s friend, which takes care of his moral and financial troubles all at once.
This one-act double feature showcases two different approaches to romantic love and jealousy, to honour and betrayal. Both Mascagni and Offenbach apply their unique musical talents to the two storylines and deliver stage works that have stood the test of time.