Opera Scotland

Pietro Mascagni

Cavalleria Rusticana in Scotland

Posted 28 May 2012

The composer Pietro Mascagni (pictured) won unprecedented success with this one-act opera.  It took nearly two years to reach Scotland, Carl Rosa Opera gaving it its first performance at the Glasgow Theatre Royal on 26 April 1892.  They quickly performed it in all the other Scottish cities.

For those performances, a number of pairings were tried, including Bizet's Djamileh, The Elixir of Love in truncated form, and single acts of popular works including Il trovatore, Faust and the Bohemian Girl. It took several years for the partnership with Pagliacci to become established, and the pairing to become known as Cav and Pag.

The early performances of Cavalleria Rusticana (often advertised as Rustic Chivalry when performed in English) featured a well-known American soprano, Ella Russell, as Santuzza, while the Irish tenor Barton McGuckin played Turiddu.  It also featured in the programmes of Augustus Harris, Moody-Manners, O'Mara and touring Italian companies.  Of the many performances Carl Rosa Opera gave in Scotland over the next sixty years, perhaps the most notable were those in 1922, when the young Eva Turner sang Santuzza throughout Scotland before she was recruited to sing at La Scala, beginning her stellar international career.

Sadler's Wells Opera (now ENO) brought a staging to Edinburgh on its last visit in 1972, introducing a modern setting to Scottish audiences for the first time.  Turiddu appeared in khaki battledress, and after the interval the players drove into the same town square in an army surplus truck carrying both the stage and the electric lighting to be used in Pagliacci.

The Edinburgh Festival has never staged ths work nor indeed anything by Mascagni.  Scottish Opera toured a medium scale version in 1989, unusually playing Pagliacci before Cavalleria Rusticana.  In recent years, the only professional performances have been given by Ellen Kent's organisation, touring to our four largest cities.

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