Cavalleria rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) is one of the primary examples of Italian realism. It was both the best and worst thing that happened to Mascagni, for its success - never to be repeated - weighed upon the composer all his life. Based on Verga’s play of the same name, the libretto by Targioni-Tozzetti runs as follows: Lola and Turiddu had been lovers, but when Turiddu went away to battle Lola married Alfio. When Turiddu returned, he and Lola continued their affair secretly, while he tried to make Lola jealous by starting a casual affair with Santuzza, who fell genuinely in love with him.
On Easter Sunday Santuzza, realising the affair, goes to see Turiddu's mother, Lucia, who keeps a tavern in the village. She is horrified to learn of her son’s infidelity and leaves for the church, just missing Turiddu who saunters in, thinking of his night with Lola. He is surprised and annoyed to find Santuzza there and the two begin to quarrel. Lola makes things worse by appearing and taunting Santuzza. Turiddu finally hits Santuzza and escapes.
Santuzza tells Alfio of the illicit affair, whereupon Alfio flies into a rage and swears that he will avenge himself – the code of honour requires Turiddu's blood to be shed. According to tradition, he refuses a glass of wine from Turiddu, indicating the dispute, and the two make plans to fight. Rushing into the tavern, Turiddu bids his mother her to take care of Santuzza. Mamma Lucia is alarmed, and as he rushes off, Santuzza enters and throws her arms around Lucia's neck, just as a woman screams that Turiddu has been killed.
This is the Schirmer edition of the Libretto, in the original Italian with an English translation by Joseph Machlis.