Cavalleria Rusticana. Scene popolari. [Con disegni di Edoardo Calandra].

Turin, F. Casanova, 1884.

Small 8vo, pp. 61, [1], with 15 illustrations in the text; some old tape marks to first and last leaf, but generally a very good copy in the original publisher’s illustrated wrappers, some minor cracks to spine; in a folding cloth box.


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First edition. This is the source for Pietro Mascagni’s opera of the same name.

‘In its original form Cavalleria Rusticana was a short story, compact and tense, by one of Italy’s great writers, Giovanni Verga. From the story Verga made a play for Eleonora Duse, greatly enlarging the role of Santuzza (the part taken by Duse), moving the knife-fight offstage, and ending with the screamed announcement “Hanno ammazzato compare Turiddu!” (“They have murdered Turiddu!”).

‘Though the story and play are quite different, both were successful, have a permanent place in Italian literature, and gave Verga reputation and pleasure. Then came Mascagni with his opera (1890) based on the play, and Verga’s joy in his work turned sour. Mascagni was the third composer to try his hand at the play, but unlike his predecessors neither he nor his [two] librettists asked permission to use it. Verga first heard of Mascagni’s opera only ten days before it won a much-publicized national contest’ (‘Literary sources of opera libretti’, Gazette of the Grolier Club, New Series, no. 25, pp. 30–31). The disputes and law-suits which followed continued over the next twenty-eight years.

Parenti, Prime edizioni italiane, p. 507.

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