Shortly before the premiere of Cavalleria rusticana, Pietro Mascagni cut 246 measures from his opera. This substantial section of music has remained largely unknown and has never been examined. Recent access to the original prompter's score, the score once in the possession of the first conductor (Leopoldo Mugnone), autograph letters, unexplored reviews, and a rediscovered staging manual have made a thorough evaluation of the cuts possible. These cuts fall into three categories: (1) those tightening the pace, (2) those reducing the taxing part of the chorus, and (3) those accommodating transpositions requested at the last minute by the star singers Gemma Bellincioni (Santuzza) and Roberto Stagno (Turiddu). The article argues that the cuts had consequences beyond their originally intended function, affecting the staging, drama, and formal conception. In the “Introduzione,” for instance, they lead to confusion about the way in which the scene should be staged; in the “Sortita di Alfio,” they eliminate music that functioned as the culmination of the aria's large-scale formal plan; and in the composite No. 5, they exaggerate the so-called dramaturgy of harsh junctures. In short, these cuts shed important light on the composer's original dramatic intentions and technical aspirations, and have lingered for over one hundred years without being considered for reinstatement.

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