Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci

Mascagni / Leoncavallo

Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci

Arts Centre Melbourne, State Theatre


Roll up for a double dose of desperation and drama in this classic double bill of tragedies with stories that cut all too close to home.

In a small Italian town, lusting after someone who is not yours is a dangerous game. And falling in love? Even more treacherous. Two short operas explore the full spectrum of emotion: passionate love, consuming lust, bitter suffering and boundless rage.

This Olivier Award-winning co-production with the Royal Opera House lays bare the raw heart of each opera — ordinary people, driven by emotion to the limits of what we know is human. The result is pure catharsis: everyday tragedy writ large on stage.

Diego Torre sings the famous 'Vesti la giubba' as he performs both challenging tenor roles in one evening, and the Opera Australia Chorus sings the famous Easter Hymn as Dragana Radakovic's voice soars above.



Enjoy dinner before the opera at Arts Centre Melbourne

A couple dines at Arts Centre Melbourne before the operaAllow us to make your dinner reservation for you: 6pm at Café Vic. You'll be served a themed three-course menu for just $75, including matched wine. View the menu.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting tickets.

Conductor Andrea Licata
Director Damiano Michieletto
Revival Director Andy Morton
Set Designer Paolo Fantin
Costume Designer Carla Teti
Lighting Designer Alessandro Carletti
Cavalleria Rusticana
Turiddu Diego Torre
Santuzza Dragana Radakovic
Alfio José Carbó
Mamma Lucia Dominica Matthews
Lola Sian Pendry
Canio Diego Torre
Nedda Anna Princeva
Tonio José Carbó
Silvio Samuel Dundas
Beppe John Longmuir

Opera Australia Chorus

Orchestra Victoria

This production features scenes of violence and may not be appropriate for children under 15.

A co-production with the Royal Opera House, Götebord Opera Sweden and La Monnaie Brussels

Running time: approximately 3 hours and 5 minutes, including one interval.

Production Partner

Opera Society

Cavalleria Rusticana

While Turiddu was away in the army, his lover Lola turned to Alfio. Turiddu returned home to find Lola and Alfio married. He consoled himself by seducing Santuzza, but has now abandoned her for an adulterous affair with Lola. 

Turiddu’s voice is heard singing of Lola and the reckless love he has for her. 

Villagers prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday. Santuzza arrives to see Turiddu, but Turiddu’s mother, Lucia, tells her that he is still away in another town fetching some more wine. Santuzza had heard he had returned to the village the previous night. The women’s conversation is interrupted by Alfio returning home. He enthuses about his enjoyable job and lovely wife ('Il cavallo scalpita') and in passing mentions that he saw Turiddu near his house early that morning. 

The whole village gathers for the morning service, and Santuzza joins in with their Easter Hymn ('Inneggiamo, Il Signor non è morto'). When everyone else goes on to church, Santuzza and Mamma Lucia stay. Santuzza tells Lucia how Turiddu seduced her, and then abandoned her for Lola ('Voi lo sapete, o mamma'). Because she has slept with a man outside of marriage, Santuzza considers herself excommunicated and unable to enter the church. She asks Mamma Lucia to pray for her. 

Turiddu arrives. Santuzza reproaches him for his behaviour with Lola, while he accuses her of irrational jealousy ('Tu qui, Santuzza?'). Lola arrives, singing. She flirts with Turiddu, mocks Santuzza and goes on to church. Santuzza begs Turiddu to stay, but he rejects her violently. Santuzza curses him. Alfio comes looking for his wife, and Santuzza impulsively tells him about Lola’s affair with Turiddu. Alfio swears revenge ('Ad essi non perdono'). 


Turiddu invites his friends to drink with him ('Viva il vino spumeggiante'). Alfio refuses. The women, Lola among them, leave. Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel. Turiddu accepts the challenge, and Alfio heads to the orchard to wait for Turiddu. Turiddu tells his mother he has to go ('Mamma, quel vino è generoso!'), and that if he does not return, she must be a mother to Santuzza. As Lucia waits anxiously, first Santuzza joins her, then other villagers. Suddenly, a woman cries out that Turiddu has been killed.



Tonio, one of the actors, introduces the opera in the character of the Prologue. He tells the audience that they will see a drama about real people. 

Act I

Villagers are excited by the arrival of travelling actors. Canio, the leader of the troupe, announces that their play that evening will be about the misadventures and eventual triumph of the cuckolded husband Pagliaccio. The villagers invite Canio and his fellow actors Beppe and Tonio to have a drink with them. Tonio says that he will join them shortly. The villagers joke that Tonio wants to stay and flirt with Canio’s wife Nedda. Canio responds that while he’s happy to play a cuckolded husband on stage, he will not countenance any infidelity from Nedda in real life. 

Left alone, Nedda broods on her husband’s jealousy and envies the freedom of the birds ('Stridono lassù'). Tonio has been secretly listening, and now emerges from hiding to plead with Nedda: he knows that he is unattractive, but he loves her. Nedda mocks him. When he tries to kiss her, she strikes him. Tonio leaves, now provoked to revenge. 

Silvio, one of the villagers, comes looking for Nedda: he is her secret lover. The troupe will be leaving the next day, and he can’t bear the thought of Nedda going. He urges her to run away with him. She is initially reluctant, but agrees to come to Silvio that night. The couple do not realise that Tonio has overheard their conversation. He has fetched Canio, who is in time to hear the lovers plan to meet later. Silvio escapes before Canio discovers his identity. Tonio laughs at having got his own back on Nedda. 

Canio theatens Nedda to make her reveal who her lover is, but she refuses to name him. Beppe interrupts them: the audience are arriving for the show. As Canio dresses for the performance, he rails against a life in which he must play the clown while his heart is breaking ('Vesti la giubba'). 


Act II

Tonio orders the audience to their seats while Nedda takes the ticket money. Silvio comes to remind her of their rendezvous, and she warns him to keep out of sight of Canio. 

The play’s story mirrors the troupe’s real-life situation. Arlecchino (Beppe) serenades Colombina (Nedda), who announces that her husband Pagliaccio (Canio) is away from home. Her servant Taddeo (Tonio) attempts to flirt with her, but she scornfully sends him away so that she can enjoy a supper with Arlecchino. Taddeo interrupts with the news that Pagliaccio is returning home early. Arlecchino escapes as Pagliaccio enters. As scripted, Pagliaccio accuses Colombina and demands her lover’s name. But Nedda realises that Canio is not acting. She attempts to go on with the play, but Canio will not 'o! Pagliaccio non sono'). The audience applaud his apparently life-like acting, but Silvio grows nervous. Ignoring Nedda’s attempts to keep to the script, Canio denounces her. Enraged that Nedda still refuses to reveal her lover’s name, he kills her. Silvio runs onto the stage. Canio kills him too. The audience are horrified. Tonio announces that ‘the play is over’.

Synopsis reprinted by permission of Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

"Damiano Michieletto's production was almost mesmeric in its chilling intensity, aided by thrilling performances from Diego Torre and Jose Carbo.” "

The Age

"Emotionally vivid and stirring "

Herald Sun

"The performance is a marvel."

In Review

"It’s a must see."

The F

Revenge, adultery, and murder... And that's just in the first course.

Allow us to make your dinner reservation: 6pm at Café Vic. You'll be served a themed three-course set menu for just $75, including matched wine.

Simply add dinner to your cart after selecting your tickets.


Veal carpaccio, rocket leaaves, oven-roasted capsicum, aged balsamic and EVOO
a glass of sparkling wine on arrival


Fresh prawn ravioli, crayfish-infused lemon butter sauce, served with pearls of the sea.
+ a glass of riesling


Blood orange semifreddo soufflé, chiacchiere
+ tea or coffee

Specific dietary requirements can be accommodated, please send us an email after booking.

Published menu is subject to change without notice.
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