People say verismo and think: Mascagni and Leoncavallo. Rightly so? Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci are among the most popular and most frequently played verist opera’s ever. What many people don’t know: there are actually two (and even three if you include La Mala Pasqua by a certain Stanislao Gastaldon from 1888) Cavalleria Rusticana’s.
Domenico Monleone (1875 – 1942), a composer not unknown at the time at the time, also used the story of Giovanni Verga for his one-acter, which his brother Giovanni converted into a libretto.
Illustration Gamba Pipein. Courtesy Boston Public Library, Music Department
Sonzogno, Mascagni’s publisher, accused Monleone of plagiarism (and indeed: careful study shows that Monleone’s libretto is closer to Mascagni than to Verga’s original story), after which the opera was not performed anywhere for a long time.
Until 1907, when Maurice de Hondt brought Monleone to Amsterdam, where his opera had its belated premiere. Coupled with … yes! Cavalleria Rusticana.
Both works were directed by their composers: it apparently did not bother Mascagni that his colleague had “borrowed” his libretto from him.
Intermezzo played by Hauser:
And the whole opera:
Nevertheless, Monleone had to accept the court ruling, which meant that he had to find a new libretto for his music
It was changed into Il Mistero, another story by Verga, and this time the author himself had helped Giovanni Monleone with the libretto.
Both operas with the same music but on two different libretto’s were released by Myto on CD’s (Cavalleria Rusticana: 012.H063; Il Mistero: 033.H079). In both works the leading role (Santuzza/Nella) is sung by Lisa Houben, originally from the Netherlands.
Duett (romance e scena): Santuzza & Nunzia – Il dì che andò soldato…
The whole Il Mistero:
An ‘encore’: duet Santuzza/Turiddu, sung here by Denia Mazzola-Gavazzeni and Janez Lotric. Recording was made in Montpellier, in 2001: