Those who have seen Mascagni’s famous one-act Cavalleria rusticana will never forget the Easter Hymn. The tragic story taking place at Easter is a perfect match for Messa di Gloria, which exudes the euphoria of resurrection, but which is above all a Southern Italian mass of innocent faith. The artists of the Hungarian State Opera will be preparing for the Easter Sunday event with a concert performance with a unique atmosphere. It is also of no little relevance that Mascagni himself rehearsed and conducted his opera in Budapest, and as rumour has it, its success here ignited it like a rocket on its way to becoming a worldwide sensation.
Easter Sunday in a Sicilian village.
Mother Lucia’s son Turiddu is singing to his beloved Lola. Although she is already married, he would not hesitate to die for her and would not find happiness even in heaven without her...
We are in the Village square with its church and Mother Lucia’s wine shop. Santuzza is looking for Turiddu. Lucia says her son has left for Francofonte to bring wine, but Santuzza knows he was seen in the village the previous night. Lucia’s suspicion is raised as her son did not return home... Mother Lucia invites the girl into her house so they can talk in peace, but Santuzza does not dare enter her home: “Into your house I cannot enter! I am condemned!”
Lola’s husband, Alfio the carter, arrives at the square in good spirits. He is escorted by the people of the village. “Merry is the carter’s life. He can travel all around. Happy is his calling, Richest treasures haulin,” people sing. Alfio is content with his life: he loves his work and beautiful wife.
Alfio asks for some wine, but Lucia apologises: she has run out but already sent her son to bring some more. “I saw him but this morning; and very near my dwelling!”he says. Lucia looks at him with amazement, but Santuzza tells her to be silent. The chorus sings Regina Coeli. Alfio sends the women to church and then leaves. The people of the village go to church – except Santuzza and Mother Lucia.
Mother Lucia does not understand why Santuzza told her to be silent before Alfio. The girl reminds her of Turiddu and Lola’s previous relationship, and reveals that Lola has not accepted that Turiddu now belongs to someone else: the two old lovers are still lovers, and she has been left in shame... She begs to Lucia to pray for her; she will talk to Turiddu once again – and for the last time. Mother Lucia returns to the church with a troubled mind.
Turiddu arrives. Santuzza tries to talk to him, but he refuses to respond. Santuzza starts to question to him: “Where have you been?” “Why do you ask me? At Francofonte,” he replies. Santuzza does not believe him: she saw him on another street and Alfio himself saw him at his house the previous night... “Thus you return the love I gave you? You wish him to kill me?” Turiddu asks. “You love her! curses on her!” Santuzza cries desperately. Turiddu warns the girl that he will never be a slave to her vain jealousy. “Beat me! insult me! I love and pardon; But all too heavy is my deep anguish!” the desperate Santuzza says.
“There are a thousand beautiful angels sitting in heaven, but none is fairer than he.” Lola’s song can be heard as she is approaching. They meet. Lola asks with a touch of sarcasm why the two of them are not listening to the mass inside. The two women begin to argue. Turiddu wants to leave Santuzza, but eventually Lola enters the church alone. Santuzza tries to reconcile with him, but he pushes her away: “Never will I relent.” Turiddu rushes into the church after Lola. Santuzza, overwhelmed by anguish, cries in wrath: “On thee come Evil Easter, thou false swearer!”
Alfio arrives again and Santuzza tells him everything in her deep sorrow: “Turiddu betrayed me, despoiled me of honor; And your bad wife has taken him from me.”
Santuzza swears to the carter that she has told him the bitter truth, but regrets doing so immediately: “‘Twas wicked in me to have spoken thus!” “They are infamous, unfit for living! And blood I’ll have before the close of day!” Alfio replies.
The mass is over: the people come out of the church, men and women go home to their spouses with peace in their hearts. Turiddu approaches Lola as she leaves: does she really want to leave without saying goodbye? Lola explains to him that she must go home, and she has not seen her husband since he returned. Turiddu tries to convince her not to rush and have some wine instead. The glasses are filled, and Turiddu raises his glass to Lola: “To love!” “To your most happy fortune!” - Lola replies.
People drink merrily.
Alfio arrives at the square. Turiddu offers him a glass of wine immediately. “Thanks, sir! … In me it would be poison, my heart’s blood chilling!” the carter rejects the offer provocatively. Turiddu smashes the glass on the ground. Everybody knows what it means... The frightened women take Lola away from the square. The two men embrace and Turiddu bites the carter’s ear as a sign of challenging him to duel.
“Master Alfio, I know that the fault is my own; to you I swear, in the name of heaven, that like a dog I should be slaughtered.” Alfio accepts the challenge – he will be waiting for his adversary in the orchard.
Turiddu says goodbye to Mother Lucia: he asks for his mother’s blessing just as he did when he joined the army. He also makes her promise, should he not return, to take care of Santuzza as if she were her mother. Mother Lucia does not understand what her son means. Turiddu blames the wine for his strange words... “Pray you to heaven for me,” he asks her and rushes away. Lucia cries after him with terrible apprehension. Santuzza appears and a crowd covers the square. A murmur is heard from the distance. “They have murdered Turiddu!”