The short opera Cavalleria Rusuticana won first prize in a young composer's opera contest and premiered in 1890. This tragic love story is based upon several sources: Giovanni Verga's novel, other plays and a true account from Sicily. Considered a hallmark of the opera verismo (reality) movement of the late 19th century, the masterpiece instantly established Mascagni's fame.
This movement is an instrumental interlude between two scenes evoking the spirit of opera's Easter Day setting. Certainly the opera's most memorable remnant, the Intermezzo has been featured in film (Raging Bull, The Godfather Pt. III) and the HBO series The Sopranos.