Easter Sunday in a Sicilian village
The villagers gather in the square to attend mass. Santuzza appears: a young peasant woman, tormented by jealousy. She suspects that her fiancé, Turiddu, has betrayed her for her former passion, coquettish Lola, who is now married to Alfio. Santuzza asks Lucia, Turiddu’s mother, where her son is. Lucia affirms that Turiddu left to fetch wine from a neighboring village. Their conversation is interrupted by the merry-maker, Alfio, who sings about the small joys of his life. Alfio intimates that he has just seen Turiddu near his own house, and his intimation hardens Santuzza’s suspicions. Alfio enters the church, and Santuzza confides in Lucia, telling her that Turiddu was deeply in love with Lola and longed to lead her to the altar. He had to leave the village and go to the army. When he returned and found Lola married to Alfio, he pined after her love but later took a fancy for Santuzza and engaged himself to her. Having learned of his engagement, Lola took pains to attract him anew. Tortured by grief, Lucia goes into the church, and Santuzza remains outside to wait for Turiddu, intending to draw the honest confession from him.
Turiddu is confronted by Santuzza about his affair with Lola. He shifts, lies and denies her accusations. In the heat of their cross-talk, Lola arrives in the square, singing a ditty to laugh at Turiddu’s expense. The two lovers exchange taunts with each other. Lola goes into the church. The quarrel scene cements Santuzza’s suspicions. She is caught in confrontation with Turiddu who finally loses his temper and pushes her away to follow Lola. Drunk with despair, Santuzza is intent on being revenged. Alfio seems fated to be met by Santuzza who reveals that Lola has been cheating on him. Alfio’s gaiety turns into a hot gush of anger. With revenge in his heart, he goes off together with Santuzza.
The mass having ended, the villagers file out and make themselves comfortable at the osteria to drink some wine. Turiddu and Lola are among them. The festivity reigns with singing and laughing around. Alfio appears. Turiddu raises a toast, inviting Alfio to join in, but the latter refuses disdainfully. Full of misgivings, the women leave the osteria. The romantic opponents understand that their duel is inevitable. In accordance with the Sicilian ritual, they embrace each other and Turiddu challenges Alfio by biting his ear. All the villagers drift apart.
Turiddu calls for his mother to tell her that he is going out to get some air. He wants her blessing and, the fatal duel in mind, asks her to take care of Santuzza. He bids farewell to his mother and embraces her to rush off.
Mad with anguish, Lucia watches him go off and feels that her foreboding cannot be compassed. In fear he calls for Santuzza. Excitement, agitation, and nervous expectation fill the air. A murmur of voices is heard in the distance, and then a woman cries shrilly that Turiddu has been murdered. Santuzza and Lucia faint away. The stupefied crowd looks on in horror.