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Described by Salzburger Nachricten as "Opera as Great Romantic Cinema", the two short operas, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci brought record attendances to the Salzburg Easter Festival. Adapted from the short story written by Giovanni Verga, Cavalleria Rusticana is a one-act opera considered one of the classics of verismo opera.
The opera was composed by Pietro Mascagni, with a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, as part of an 1888 competition by Milanese publisher Edoardo Sonzogno. Inspired by the success of Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, Ruggero Leoncavallo decided to compose Pagliacci based on the true events of an 1865 murder.