A cornerstone of Italian verismo ("reality") opera, Cavalleria Rusticana ("Rustic Chivalry") is composer Pietro Mascagni's first opera, and his only one still regularly performed nowadays. Traditionally, it is staged with Leoncavallo's Pagliacci back-to-back.
The story is revolves around a Sicilian village on Easter Sunday. Turiddu, a young ex-soldier, is in love with Lola, the wife of a local carter named Alfio, so he dumps his girlfriend Santuzza. Enraged at this turn of events, Santuzza tells Alfio about Turiddu's perfidy and Lola's infidelity. Alfio in turn swears revenge.
This is the part where the Intermezzo plays, providing a momentary relief from all the drama.
The title of the opera, "Rustic Chivalry", refers to the villagers' unwritten Code of Honor, which demands that the cuckolded husband take justice into his own hands. Therefore, after the Intermezzo, when Alfio encounters Turiddu, he challenges him to a knife fight. Turiddu, knowing he is in deep trouble, bids his mother farewell, asks her to care for Santuzza, and then goes offstage to be killed by Alfio.
- All of the Other Reindeer: According to Santuzza, she has become an outcast after being abandoned by Turiddu. However, we don't actually see any of the villagers bullying her.
- Artistic License Religion: For a verismo (or so-called "realistic") opera, Cavalleria Rusticana has some pretty skewed ideas of how excommunication works. Apparently, Santuzza's membership in the Catholic Church hinges entirely on whether she is a virgin or not. So, when Santuzza is deserted by her lover, the Church wastes no time in excommunicating her even though she has not committed any serious heresy, without even giving her a chance to tell her side of the story. Also, despite the fact that the Book of Deuteronomy prescribes a Shotgun Wedding as punishment for pre-marital sex, none of the Sicilian villagers ever seriously considered pressuring Turiddu into marrying Santuzza.
- Asshole Victim: Turiddu
- Clingy Jealous Girl: Santuzza
- Code of Honor: It is implied that the Sicilian villagers have an unwritten code of honor, hence the title of the opera.
- Counterpoint Duet: This opera includes two of them back-to-back:
- "Tu qui, Santuzza?", in which Santuzza tries to get Turiddu to stay with him, but Turiddu is trying to get away from Santuzza to be with Lola. Followed immediately by...
- "Il Signor vi manda, compar Alfio", the final part of which Alfio vows revenge against the guilty couple while Santuzza expresses her guilt for having tattled on Turiddu.
- Crossover: The 2018 San Francisco Opera production not only gives this opera a Setting Update to Buenos Aires in the 1920's, but also incorporates characters from Pagliacci, with Silvio being Mamma Lucia's waiter, and Canio and Nedda frequenting Mamma Lucia's tavern.
- Faint in Shock: Santuzza and Mamma Lucia when Turridu's death is announced.
- Gory Discretion Shot: Notably for an opera, Turiddu's death occurs offstage, with a Screaming Woman informing the villagers (and us) that he was killed.
- Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: This opera is set on Easter Sunday to heighten its dramatic impact.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: For much of the opera, Turiddu has been nothing but a hormone-addled pain. But as soon as Alfio challenges him to a knife fight, Turiddu realizes that it means death for him. So he asks his mother to care for Santuzza as her own daughter, as he failed to keep his promise to marry her (Santuzza).
- Karma Houdini Warranty: For most of the opera, Turiddu wasn't punished for deserting Santuzza and smooching with a married woman because the villagers allowed him to. However, when Alfio finds out, he kills Turiddu in a knife fight.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Upon seeing that Alfio is going to kill Turiddu, Santuzza feels guilty for telling him. Later, Turiddu himself realizes too late that he should have kept his promise to marry Santuzza, the very girl that up until now he took for granted.
- Redemption Equals Death: After asking his mother to look after Santuzza, Turiddu is killed by Alfio.
- Slut-Shaming: Apparently, Santuzza has been excommunicated for her affair with Turiddu. Realistically, if it was that easy for someone to get excommunicated, then Turiddu should have been excommunicated as well, but he isn't.
- The Stool Pigeon: Santuzza is one of the Petty Patty type: Upon seeing Alfio pass by, she sings like a love-struck canary.
- Would Hit a Girl: Turiddu ends the dramatic "Tu qui, Santuzza" duet by savagely hurling Santuzza to the ground. Santuzza loses no time in cursing him.