Traditional Easter Hymns are not part of the classical opera repertoire. However, the opera Cavalleria Rusticana does include and an opera song, which is one from among favourite Easter Hymns. Additionally, the Richard Wagner Parsifal opera includes a passing reference to Easter – although, no specific Easter Hymns or Easter songs.
Mascagni's one great hit premiered in Rome on May 17, 1890. While it shares some elements with earlier works such as 'La Gioconda,' 'Cavalleria Rusticana' was the first and it still remains the defining work of the style that has come to be known as 'verismo.' Pietro Mascagni (7 December 1863 – 2 August 1945) was an Italian composer primarily known for his operas. His 1890 masterpiece Cavalleria rusticana caused one of the greatest sensations in opera history and single-handedly ushered in the Verismo movement in Italian dramatic music.
Certainly, an opera performance is an opportunity to listen and enjoy opera music. The Cavalleria Rusticana opera is a one act opera that includes several famous opera songs including the performance of an Easter Hymn – first, in the classical church Latin and, then followed by the vernacular Italian.
A translation of the eastern Hymn is included as you listen to opera as performed by an opera singer and choir.
Read to Discover the Opera Easter Hymn
What is Easter and Why Do We Celebrate It?
Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Saviour. The Feast of Easter is celebrated in the spring. For Christians, Easter is the feast that coincides with the rebirth of nature and the annunciation of everlasting life.
The word “hymn” is of Greek origin and means “a song of praise”. In the Christian world, hymns are songs that are sung in prayer while glorifying God and asking for His help and support. Since Easter is the most important feast of the Christian world, it is fitting that there are many hymns specifically created for the celebration of Easter.
Easter morning and Easter day are joyous. It is a time to celebrate rebirth and everlasting life.
How We Celebrate Easter in Ukraine
Are there any Easter Opera Songs?
Cavalleria Rusticana is the only opera regularly performed in opera houses around the world that takes place at Easter time. Yes, Easter is mentioned in the opera Parsifal by Richard Wagner (1813-1883), but it is not central to the opera plot.
In Cavalleria Rusticana, events begin on Easter morning – joyously as befits the joyous characteristics of the day. The opera also ends on Easter Day – but, tragically.
The famous opera repertoire does not really include Easter as a theme. Hence, there is only one opera, Cavalleria Rusticana, that includes a memorable opera song – an Easter Hymn.
Easter Hymn at the Lviv Opera House
Are there Memorable Performances of Mascagni’s Easter Hymn?
As Santuzza sings the words of the Easter Hymn, the bearers enter with a statue of the Resurrected Christ. In the opera performance below, the villagers and townspeople join Santuzza in proclaiming Christ’s Resurrection. Listen to opera and view an opera performance.
The Easter Hymn from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana composed by Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) and lyrics by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti (1863-1934) and Guido Menasci (1867-1925) was performed at the Lviv Opera House.
The soprano role of Santuzza is performed by Lyudmyla Savchuk. Staging for this production was done by Italian bornGiuseppe Visciglia. The Easter Hymn performance is conducted by Myron Yusypovych.
What are the Easter Hymn Lyrics?
As the Easter morning church service is beginning, the Easter Hymn can be heard off-stage. The Easter Hymn begins with the sound of the organ. The organ is a traditional musical instrument in Roman Catholic Churches around the world. The Easter Hymn sung inside the church is performed in Latin.
The villagers, townspeople and Santuzza are outside the church in the village square. They participate in the Easter Hymn. The villagers and townspeople declare the Resurrection of Christ and perform the Easter Hymn lyrics in their native Italian.
|Italian original||English translation|
|Inneggiamo, il Signor non è morto.||Rejoice, the Lord is not dead|
|Ei fulgente ha dischiuso l'avel,||And, we mourn no longer|
|inneggiamo al Signore risorto||Instead, we exalt the risen Lord|
|oggi asceso alla gloria del Ciel!||For, today He has risen in all His glory!|
The Easter Hymn lyrics proclaim that it is a time to rejoice for the Lord (il Signor) has risen.
We Exhalt the Risen Lord
Is Easter Celebrated This Way Today?
The Cavalleria Rusticana opera takes place in a small village or town in southern Italy. Most sources claim that the events take place in Sicily, the island off the southern tip of present-day Italy.
Easter Hymn in Cavalleria Rusticana
According to Christian tradition, the week before Easter is referred to as Holy Week. According to Holy Scriptures, this was a period when Christ spent time with his friends and disciples preparing them for His upcoming death. The feast of the Last Supper, which is commemorated on Thursday before Easter, was not a happy affair. As such, the days prior to Easter are days of fasting, contemplation and deep mourning.
The tradition of conducting processions within churches and through the streets and squares of villages and towns while carrying statues depicting the events of Holy Week, is widespread in Italy – particularly in present-day, southern Italy. But, for the most part these processions occur during Holy Week – the week before Easter.
In Italy, the tradition of carrying a statue of the Risen Christ on Easter Day appears not to be widespread. The village of Scicli in the south-eastern part of Sicily, in the province of Ragusa is perhaps the only place where such a tradition continues to be fostered.
Following Easter Mass, the people of Scicli celebrate “Cristo Risorto” (The Risen Christ). A statue of the Risen Christ is carried through the town streets after the conclusion of the Easter Mass celebrations in church. Consequently, Easter Day in Scicli has become a tourist attraction.
“The wooden statue of Christ, the eighteenth-century work attributed to Civiletti and usually hosted in the Church of Santa Maria La Nova, is carried on parade through the streets of the city…” Scent of Sicily Blog (a new window will open).
On the other hand, the procession with a statue of the Risen Christ is celebrated widely in Malta. Malta is a small island-state just south of Sicily. Is this tradition an example of the historical and linguistic links between Sicily and Malta? Perhaps. But, that is a discussion for a different time. Stay tuned!
Text by: Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych
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Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945) is a classical opera in the verismo style of Italian opera. Among popular operas, Cavalleria Rusticana is the only one that contains traditional Easter Hymns. Many an opera concert will include famous opera songs from this favourite opera.
Today, many opera lovers listen to opera in the comfort of their homes. You can listen to opera online, free below as an orchestra, a choir, an opera singer and a conductor perform.
The two shorts – Pagliacci and Cavalleria Rusticana opera are part of the standard classical opera repertoire. Discover them!
Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni
Read to Discover the Cavalleria Rusticana Opera
A Short Synopsis of the Cavalleria Rusticana Story
A short, three-sentence synopsis of the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by the Italian composer Pietro Mascagni (1863 – 1945) is the following:
In late nineteenth century Sicily (present day Southern Italy), a young man returns from serving in the army to discover that his former love has married the local rich merchant. In an attempt to make her jealous. The young man courts another young village girl, who is in love with him. Things turn out bad when the current love finds out that her lover is continuing to visit his now-married old love – and, tells all to the husband.
Cavalleria Rusticana Story Synopsis
The Easter Hymn by Mascagni is a Unique Opera Addition
The opera Cavalleria Rusticana is the only opera in the classical opera repertoire that takes place at Easter time. The story begins on Easter morning and continues throughout Easter Day.
The Lviv House production was staged to recreate the village and town life of southern Italy. The Easter Hymn scene borrows on the tradition of street processions prevalent in this part of Italy.
Easter Hymn in Cavalleria Rusticana
Gemma Bellincioni – the First Santuzza
The premiere of the opera Cavalleria Rusticana took place on May 17, 1890 at the Constanzi Theatre in Rome, the capital of the Kingdom of Italy (1861-1946).
Gemma Bellincioni (1864-1950) performed the first Santuzza and Roberto Stagno (1840-1897) performed the first Turridu. Interesting to note, that although Bellincioni and Stano never married they had a daughter – Bianca Bellincioni Stagno (1888-1980).
Gemma Bellincioni and Roberto Stagno
Performing Cavalleria Rusticana from an Opera Conductor's Point of View
Opera conductors tend to have their personal likes and dislikes when it comes to the operas they conduct. Certainly, Myron Yusypovych is no different!
For many opera buffs, Pietro Mascagni is not as well known as the titans of opera, such as, Wagner, Verdi, Puccini or the genius Mozart, Rossini….
And yet, the world opera treasury is richer for the presence of this exquisite pearl called Cavalleria Rusticana.
Indeed! Cavalleria Rusticana is a bright example, of the master reaching the heights of professionalism and combining them with true inspiration.
Continue reading Opera MusicNotes by Myron Yusypovych….
From Verga's Short Story to Mascagni’s Opera to Coppola’s Film
Giovanni Verga (1840 – 1922) was an Italian writer who, in the opera world, is best known for his short-story Cavalleria Rusticana written in 1880. Four years later, in 1884, Verga rewrote the short story into a one-act play with the same title. Six years later, in 1890, the Italian opera composer Pietro Mascagni (1863 – 1945) created a one-act opera based on the original short story and play. One hundred years later, in 1990, Francis Coppola (born: 1939), an American film director, producer and screenwriter of Italian immigrant ancestry, incorporated Verga’s plot and Mascagni’s music into his film The Godfather Part III.
In Giovanni Verga’s original short story, Turiddu, a young Sicilian tries to rekindle an old flame’s interest by courting another woman. Lola, his former love, is now married to Alfio, a prosperous local merchant. Santuzza, Turiddu’s temporary love, discovers his perfidy and tells-all to Alfio, Lola’s husband. In the time-honoured traditions of Sicilian “honour” and “revenge”, Alfio and Turiddu fight. Turiddu is killed.
In Verga’s short one-act drama, the plot remains the same. However, in the drama, Verga gives more prominence to Santuzza and her relationship with Turiddu. He explores the character of a woman caught between her love for a man and the social and religious norms of the culture in which she lives.
In Mascagni’s opera, Verga’s Cavalleria Rusticana plot-line, once again, remains unchanged. Instead, the composer and librettists incorporate additional aspects of Italian religious culture – the attendance at Mass, the rosary, confession and the celebration of Easter Sunday. Ironically, as with Verga, Cavalleria Rusticana is considered to be Marsacagni’s best opera.
Mascagni > Coppola' />
Cavalleria Rusticana: Verga > Mascagni > Coppola
Finally, in Coppola’s film, Verga’s theme of murderous honour is expanded into the Italian Mafia’s concept of vendetta and visually superimposed onto Mascagni’s opera music. In the film, the plot line becomes a story within a story. While the film’s main character, Michael Corleone watches his son’s operatic debut as Turiddu in Cavalleria Rusticana, we see as one by one, the perceived and real enemies of the Corelone family are murdered (A new window will open).
The Verismo Style in Italian Theatre and Opera
Such famous Italian operas as Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are labelled as verismo. In attempting to explain the style, many have focused on the musical aspects of the works, even contrasting verismo with bel canto. However, ironically for opera, it is not the musical elements that are central in verismo, but the topic chosen for the opera’s libretto.
Late nineteenth and early twentieth century Europe was undergoing a tremendous social-revolution.
The power and influence of European monarchies and titled elites, although very much present, was becoming more limited. The idea, that daily lives should be regulated by elected parliaments based on a multitude of points-of-view rather than on the whims of a hereditary elite, was becoming more widely promoted and accepted. Within idea, literary and artistic circles, freedom of expression and issues concerning the living conditions of the majority were being widely discussed.
At this time, wider access to education became the norm in Europe. At the end of the 19thC, most European states implemented some type of public education system where the basic elements of reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic were taught.
Italian Verismo at Lviv Opera
Across Europe, the system of infrastructure was enhance and expanded. As a result, transportation (travel over roads and railway lines) and communication (postal services) became more accessible and were no longer the exclusive prerogative of the moneyed elite.
Out of this was born a rejection of romantic art with its portrayal of royalty, mythical and magical creatures in opulent, exotic or ancient settings. Instead, the daily lives of people, peasants or the emerging middle class, began to be portrayed in literature, visual and dramatic art (for example – the opera Carmen).
In Italy, where a major art form was opera, this transformation in ideology was portrayed in opera and became known as verismo. Timberman download.
Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are Often Performed Together
Cavalleria Rusticana by Pietro Mascagni (1863 – 1945) premiered in the Teatro Costanzi, currently known as the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, on May 17, 1890. Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857 – 1919) was composed 2 years later and premiered in the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan, on May 21, 1892.
In the jargon of the opera world, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci are often referred to as operatic twins or Cav and Pav. Recently several opera stage directors (most notably Damiano Michelietto at the Royal Opera in London UK) have staged these two works as if they were a single opera, with the main characters from each of the operas appearing as supernumeraries in the other.
Cav and Pag
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Both Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci deal with marital fidelity (or, lack of it) in a 1880s-1890s Italian, Roman Catholic dominated culture. Both operas explore the male’s right in defending that which he considers to be his. Notwithstanding the strong religious overtones which reject human killing, both operas affirm this society’s acceptance of murder, when it is done to uphold the male’s honour.
Although sharing many similarities, there are differences in location and season between Cav and Pav. Cavalleria Rusticana takes place on the island of Sicily, in Southern Italy, in the spring, on Easter Sunday. Pagliacci takes place in Calabria, on mainland South-Western Italy, in the summer, on the Feast of the Assumption.
Cavalleria Rusticana by Italian composers Pietro Mascagni and Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo are both famous short staples in the opera classical music world.
Text by Oksana A. Wynnyckyj-Yusypovych