An Opera Fit for Hollywood

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone sits outside with a small dog at his feet.
Al Pacino as Michael Corleone at the end of The Godfather: Part III
Source: moviemaker.com

By: Jennifer Colgan

The one-act opera Cavalleria rusticana was an instant success for a young Pietro Mascagni. Audiences loved the intense drama and sweeping melodies, demanding no less than sixty curtain calls after its 1890 premiere. 100 years later, the powerhouse opera continues to gain fans—including Hollywood legends Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. Both directors, a decade apart, featured the same piece, “Intermezzo,” from Cavalleria rusticana in their films—Scorsese’s Raging Bull (1980) and Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III (1990).

Tickets to Opera Colorado’s one-night-only concert production of Cavalleria rusticana are on sale now! Join us Saturday, September 10, with tickets starting at just $39>>

Why Does Hollywood Love This Opera?

What about the gorgeous “Intermezzo” caught the ear of these two influential filmmakers? Mascagni used it to denote the passage of time between the two scenes of the opera’s single act, just after Santuzza tells Alfio about Turiddu and Lola’s affair. (Need the cliff notes for the plot? Check out Cavalleria rusticana 101—Characters and Plot)  It is peaceful, evocative, and lush, all while foreshadowing the conflict to come.

Cavalleria rusticana in Scorsese’s Raging Bull

You don’t need to wait long to hear the beloved “Intermezzo” in Raging Bull. In what has been called one of cinema’s greatest opening sequences, it floats alongside romanticized, black-and-white footage of boxer Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) gracefully moving around the ring. Scorsese used Mascagni’s beautiful music to drive home the contrast between these elegant images of Jake and the images of his swiftly approaching downfall.

Cavalleria rusticana in Coppola’s The Godfather: Part III

In The Godfather: Part III, the “Intermezzo” appears at the end of the film. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) and his family watch his son perform in Cavalleria rusticana while his enemies execute a wide-reaching plan for revenge. Michael’s daughter is accidentally killed, and Mascagni’s music is the only sound as he cradles her, screaming. The scene fades into a montage of Michael’s memories, ending with his lonely death in a Sicilian villa. The “Intermezzo” is the perfect accompaniment to this heart-wrenching and poignant sequence and one of the few pieces of music to equal its emotional intensity.

Whether you’d like to imagine Jake LaMotta sparring, the demise of a powerful mobster, or simply want to enjoy the music, we invite you to experience Cavalleria rusticana and its inspirational “Intermezzo” live at the Ellie on September 10. Tickets start at just $39>>

What other movies feature famous operatic excerpts? Did you know this famous “Intermezzo” was from Cavalleria rusticana?

One Reply to “An Opera Fit for Hollywood”

  1. This is my favorite opera
    I am a singer, soprano
    And Santuzza’s Aria “Voi lo sapete o Mamma” is the aruia I know the best, I sing it in my auditions.
    I hope one day to sing Cavalleria as my debut

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