Cavalleria Rusticana

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The title Cavalleria Rusticana ("rustic chivalry") can refer to a short story (published in the collection Vita dei Campi in 1880) and a subsequent play (1884), both by Giovanni Verga, as well as the famous opera in one act (1890) by Pietro Mascagni.

Cavelleria Rusticana (the play)

The original text

Adapted by Giovanni Verga (1840-1922)[1] form his own popular short story (written in verismo style and published in 1880), as a vehicle for the actress Eleanora Duse, the play was produced in 1884 and became his most successful theatrical work.

Translations and adaptations

There have been a number of operas based on Verga's story, among them Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, Mala Pasqua! ("Bad Easter!") by Stanislao Gastaldon (1890) and La Giostra dei Falchi by Domenico Monleone (1907, 1914).

Performance history in South Africa

Cavelleria Rusticana (the opera)

The original text

Composed by Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)[2] with to an Italian libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti (1863-1934)[3] and Guido Menasci (1867-1925)[4], the opera is based on Verga's play. Considered one of the classic verismo operas, it premiered on 17 May 1890 at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome. Since 1893, it has often been performed in a so-called Cav/Pag double-bill with Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo.[1]

Translations and adaptations

A number of filmed versions have been made of the opera over the years, including one by Carmine Gallone (film musical, 1953), Alan Burke (Australian television play, 1959), and by Franco Zeffirelli (film, 1982).

First translation in Afrikaans by Con de Villiers (1940).

Performance history of the opera in South Africa

1893-4: Performed by the Lyric Opera Company on tour in South Africa, including performances in the Opera House, Cape Town, during October, under the management of Edgar Perkins and Arturo Bonamici, in this case done as a double bill with I Pagliacci (Leoncavallo), with a company that included Leonora Braham and Marguerite Macintyre.

1899: Performed and taken on a tour the South African cities and towns by the visiting Arthur Rousbey Grand English Opera Company, under the management of Frank de Jong and Herbert Flemming, appearing in Cape Town's Opera House in the second half of the year.

1905: Performed and taken on a tour the South African cities and towns by the visiting Moody-Manners Opera Company, under the management of the Wheeler Brothers. They opened their tour in the Opera House, Cape Town, during February, before going on a tour of the Northern provinces. Their repertoire consisted of Cavelleria Rusticana, I Pagliacci and Faust and the tour ended in Cape Town again, with a farewell season of the three operas in the Good Hope Theatre, opening on 24 April.

1938: Produced/directed by Signor Alessandro Rota at the Cape Town City Hall, conducted by William Pickerill and featuring Rosita Silvestri and Kristian Halvorsen (Friday 2 and Saturday 3 December 1938).

1940: de Villiers' Afrikaans translation performed in Stellenbosch.

1943: Presented in Cape Town at the Alhambra Theatre and in Johannesburg jointly by African Consolidated Theatres, the University of Cape Town, the National Opera Company, the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra under William Pickerill and the Johannesburg Philharmonic Society under John Connell (March/April).

1958: Presented by the EOAN Group.

1960: Presented by the EOAN Group.

1964: Presented by NAPAC Opera.

1965: Presented by NAPAC Opera.

1971: Presented by the EOAN Group.

1972: Presented by NAPAC Opera.

1978: Presented by CAPAB Opera.

1986: Presented by CAPAB Opera in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi (9–27 May)

2002: Presented by Cape Town Opera in a double bill with I Pagliacci (3–12 October)

2005: Presented by Cape Town Opera in a double bill with Gianni Schicchi (18–27 November)


D.C. Boonzaier, 1923. "My playgoing days – 30 years in the history of the Cape Town stage", in SA Review, 9 March and 24 August 1932. (Reprinted in Bosman 1980: pp. 374-439.)

F.C.L. Bosman. 1980. Drama en Toneel in Suid-Afrika, Deel II, 1856-1912. Pretoria: J.L. van Schaik: pp.401,

Wayne Muller. 2018. A reception history of opera in Cape Town: Tracing the development of a distinctly South African operatic aesthetic (1985–2015). Unpublished PhD thesis.

Sjoerd Alkema. 2012. "Conductors of the Cape Town Municipal Orchestra, 1914-1965: a historical perspective". University of Cape Town. Unpublished PhD thesis.

Alexandra Xenia Sabina Mossolow. 2003. The career of South African soprano Nellie du Toit, born 1929. Unpublished Masters thesis. University of Stellenbosch.

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