Cavalleria Rusticana is the short opera that has all the elements of a grand opera compressed into a single highly dramatic time span. The story of love, lust, blood-feud, and betrayal played out against the pageantry of the Easter celebrations in a Sicilian village delivers an emotional wallop because of the youthful vigor and musical wealth of its great score which includes the glorious "Easter Hymn" and the deeply moving "Intermezzo". Mascagni was never to repeat his youthful success but this brief work is enough to ensure his immortality.
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Thomson Smillie's series of Opera Explained audiobooks on individual operatic works is the perfect introduction for the would-be opera fan. Each title in the series runs about an hour, features plenty of recorded clips, and is narrated with pluck and good humor by David Timson. Your opera education starts here.
For those interested in opera but having a hard time buying the high-flying, opulent style associated with the baroque period, the late-19th century may be your era. The verismo style sought a greater realism than previous opera, including depictions of everyday life and common people. Cavalleria rusticana focuses on love and tragedy among a group of commoners in a Sicilian village on Easter morning. The music is impassioned and gorgeous. Note its famous "Intermezzo Sinfonico".
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