Uno Scrittore Siciliano
Giovanni Carmelo Verga was born on 2 September in Catania, Sicily, in 1840. His father was called Giovanni Battista and his mother's name was Caterina.
Giovanni Carmelo should have been the second oldest child in his family, but the first child died as an infant (a boy who was also named Giovanni). So, when the second son, Giovanni Carmelo was born, it meant that he was to be the oldest of five surviving children. His younger brothers and sisters were - Mario, Pietro, Teresa and Rosa.
Giovanni's family was wealthy. He received a private education and discovered his love of writing whilst a teenager. In 1858 he began to study Law at the University of Catania but he did not complete the course. Instead, he spent the university money that his father had given him on publishing his first books.
His first literary work was Amore e Patria (Love and Country). It was written around 1856 when he was just a teenager.
Giovanni Verga is most famous for his short stories. They tell of life for the poor people of Sicily. The style of his writing is very realistic - in fact, it is so real that a name was given to his writing-style. It is Verismo (meaning- a style that is realistic and true).
His most famous short story is Cavalleria Rusticana. It tells of life in a Sicilian village. Everyone must behave correctly by being polite to one another, going to church, working and looking after one's family.
The story was written around 1880. It tells of a young man called Turiddu who returns to his village after a period away from home, fighting as a soldier. He discovers that, whilst he was away, the girl he loved has married a well-to-do man called Alfio. The girl's name is Lola and it seems that she married Alfio for his money. She shows off her gold rings. This makes Alfio feel good, because he has the wife he wanted and she is exhibiting Alfio's wealth and success by showing off her gold jewellery. Alfio looks great and Turiddu looks inferior.
Turiddu has been insulted.
Turiddu chooses another girlfriend. She is called Santa. But it is no good - he just cannot forget Lola and, unfortunately, Lola's husband finds out that Turiddu still loves her.
Alfio feels insulted that another man dares to love his wife, so he challenges his rival to a fight and kills Turiddu. Below is an illustration from an early edition of Cavalleria Rusticana. It shows Turiddu lying on the ground after the fight.
Both men - Turiddu and Alfio - felt insulted. It was important to demonstrate their manliness and power. It was necessary to have respect and pride returned to their family's name. It was a question of honour. One of the two men would have to die. In this case, it was Turiddu.
The Italian composer Pietro Mascagni (born in Tuscany in 1863, and died 1945 ) created a famous and wonderful opera based on Cavalleria Rusticana. It was his first opera and became his most successful one. It was first performed in Rome in 1890. Below is a picture of Pietro Mascagni. There is also a photograph of the characters Turiddu and Santa in the very first performance of the opera in 1890.
To hear a famous piece of music from Mascagni's opera Cavalleria Rusticana click HERE and go to track 46. This piece of music is called L'Intermezzo and it is played half-way through the opera as a form of 'interval.'
Giovanni Verga died on 27 January 1922, in the house where he was born in Catania, Sicily. Below is a photo of a room in his house and also an image of his signature.
In remembrance of Giovanni Verga, a special stamp was produced in Italy, fifty years after his death.