In 1889, music publisher Edoardo Sonzogno sponsored a competition for young Italian composers who had not yet brought an opera to stage. Cavalleria Rusticana was submitted, winning First Prize. It had ideology, principle, and the emotional extremes embraced by the Italian Verismo movement of the late 19th century, and Mascagni was credited with initiating the opera verismo style. The title means Rustic Chivalry, and its beautiful Intermezzo is internationally revered.
In the story, Turiddu, a young villager in Sicily, returns from military service to find his fiancée Lola married to Alfio, the prosperous village teamster. In revenge, Turiddu seduces Santuzza, a young woman in the village. As the opera begins, Lola, overcome by her jealousy of Santuzza, has begun an adulterous affair with Turiddu.
The arrangement includes three excerpts from the original opera. It starts with a prelude describing a calm Easter morning, followed by a trumpet solo used for Turiddu's Aria Siciliana, sung offstage in the opera. Next is Brindisi, Viva il vino spumeggiante - cheerful festival music. Introduced by sacred bells, a beautiful vocal prayer scene restates the original Intermezzo theme at the start of Scena e Preghiera which dynamically moves from the saxophones to the full ensemble. Ultimately the memorable Intermezzo motif returns as a coda for the grand finale. The remarkable recording sample below is of Saitama Sakae HS Wind Orchestra at national band contest.