Puccini: His Life & Music

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Manon Lescaut was a great success and established Puccini's reputation as the most promising rising composer of his generation, and the most likely "successor" to Verdi as the leading exponent of the Italian operatic tradition. Puccini's own life as a young man in Milan served as a source of inspiration for elements of the libretto. In early , the two composers discovered that they were both engaged in writing operas based on Murger's work. Leoncavallo had started his work first, and he and his music publisher claimed to have "priority" on the subject although Murger's work was in the public domain.

Puccini responded that he started his own work without having any knowledge of Leoncavallo's project, and wrote: "Let him compose. I will compose. The audience will decide. Puccini had been considering an opera on this theme since he saw the play Tosca by Victorien Sardou in , when he wrote to his publisher, Giulio Ricordi , begging him to get Sardou's permission for the work to be made into an opera: "I see in this Tosca the opera I need, with no overblown proportions, no elaborate spectacle, nor will it call for the usual excessive amount of music.

The music of Tosca employs musical signatures for particular characters and emotions, which have been compared to Wagnerian leitmotivs, and some contemporaries saw Puccini as thereby adopting a new musical style influenced by Wagner. Others viewed the work differently. Rejecting the allegation that Tosca displayed Wagnerian influences, a critic reporting on the 20 February Torino premiere wrote: "I don't think you could find a more Puccinian score than this.

On 25 February , Puccini was seriously injured in a car crash during a nighttime journey on the road from Lucca to Torre del Lago. The car was driven by Puccini's chauffeur and was carrying Puccini, his future wife Elvira, and their son Antonio.

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It went off the road, fell several metres, and flipped over. Elvira and Antonio were flung from the car and escaped with minor injuries. Puccini's chauffeur, also thrown from the car, suffered a serious fracture of his femur. Puccini was pinned under the vehicle, with a severe fracture of his right leg and with a portion of the car pressing down on his chest. A doctor living near the scene of the crash, together with another person who came to investigate, saved Puccini from the wreckage. During the medical examinations that he underwent it was also found that he was suffering from a form of diabetes.

It was initially greeted with great hostility probably largely owing to inadequate rehearsals. When Storchio's kimono accidentally lifted during the performance, some in the audience started shouting: "The butterfly is pregnant" and "There is the little Toscanini". The latter comment referred to her well publicised affair with Arturo Toscanini. In , Puccini made his final revisions to the opera in a fifth version, [25] which has become known as the "standard version". Today, the standard version of the opera is the version most often performed around the world.

However, the original version is occasionally performed as well, and has been recorded. After , Puccini's compositions were less frequent. In Giacosa died and, in , there was scandal after Puccini's wife, Elvira, falsely accused their maid Doria Manfredi of having an affair with Puccini. Finally, in , the death of Giulio Ricordi, Puccini's editor and publisher, ended a productive period of his career.

Puccini completed La fanciulla del West , based on a play by David Belasco , in Toscanini, then the musical director of the Met, conducted. Some contemporaries also criticized the opera for failing to achieve an "American" tone. It is said that during World War I , Italian soldiers sang this aria to maintain their spirits. The opera had been originally commissioned by Vienna's Carltheater ; however, the outbreak of World War I prevented the premiere from being given there.

La rondine was initially conceived as an operetta, but Puccini eliminated spoken dialogue, rendering the work closer in form to an opera. A modern reviewer described La rondine as "a continuous fabric of lilting waltz tunes, catchy pop-styled melodies, and nostalgic love music," while characterizing the plot as recycling characters and incidents from works like 'La traviata' and 'Die Fledermaus'. In , Il trittico premiered in New York. This work is composed of three one-act operas, each concerning the concealment of a death: a horrific episode Il tabarro in the style of the Parisian Grand Guignol , a sentimental tragedy Suor Angelica , and a comedy Gianni Schicchi.

Turandot , Puccini's final opera, was left unfinished, and the last two scenes were completed by Franco Alfano based on the composer's sketches. The libretto for Turandot was based on a play of the same name by Carlo Gozzi. Turandot contains a number of memorable stand-alone arias, among them Nessun dorma. The libretto of Edgar was a significant factor in the failure of that opera. Thereafter, especially throughout his middle and late career, Puccini was extremely selective, and at times indecisive, in his choice of subject matter for new works. Puccini's relationships with his librettists were at times very difficult.

His publisher, Casa Ricordi, was frequently required to mediate disputes and impasses between them. Puccini explored many possible subjects that he ultimately rejected only after a significant amount of effort—such as the creation of a libretto—had been put into them. From onwards, Puccini spent most of his time, when not traveling on business, at Torre del Lago , a small community about fifteen miles from Lucca situated between the Ligurian Sea and Lake Massaciuccoli , just south of Viareggio.

Torre del Lago was the primary place for Puccini to indulge his love of hunting. By , he had acquired land and built a villa on the lake, now known as the "Villa Museo Puccini". He lived there until , when pollution produced by peat works on the lake forced him to move to Viareggio, a few kilometres north.

After his death, a mausoleum was created in the Villa Puccini and the composer is buried there in the chapel, along with his wife and son who died later. The Villa Museo was owned by his granddaughter, Simonetta Puccini , until her death, and is open to the public. An annual Festival Puccini is held at Torre del Lago. Elvira's husband, Narciso Gemignani, was an "unrepentant womanizer", and Elvira's marriage was not a happy one.

Elvira left Lucca when the pregnancy began to show, and gave birth elsewhere to avoid gossip. Narciso was killed by the husband of a woman that Narciso had an affair with, dying on 26 February , one day after Puccini's car accident.

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In , Puccini's wife Elvira publicly accused Doria Manfredi, a maid working for the Puccini family, of having an affair with the composer. After being publicly accused of adultery, Doria Manfredi committed suicide. An autopsy determined, however, that Doria had died a virgin, refuting the allegations made against her. Elvira Puccini was prosecuted for slander, and was sentenced to more than five months in prison, although a payment to the Manfredi family by Puccini spared Elvira from having to serve the sentence.

According to documents found in the possession of a descendant of the Manfredi family, Nadia Manfredi, in , Puccini was actually having an affair with Giulia Manfredi, Doria's cousin. Press reports at the time when these documents were discovered alleged that Nadia Manfredi was Puccini's granddaughter, by a son, Antonio Manfredi, born to Giulia. Unlike Wagner and Verdi , Puccini was not active in politics. Puccini biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz wrote: "Throughout this entire period [of World War I and its immediate aftermath], Puccini's interest in politics was close to zero, as it had been all his life, so far as one can judge.

He seemed almost indifferent to everything from mayoral elections in Viareggio to cabinet appointments in Rome. Puccini's indifference to politics caused him problems during World War I. Puccini's long-standing and close friendship with Toscanini was interrupted for nearly a decade because of an argument in the summer of in the opening months of the war during which Puccini remarked that Italy could benefit from German organization. Puccini did not participate in the public war effort, but privately rendered assistance to individuals and families affected by the war.

The work, Inno a Roma Hymn to Rome , was to premiere on 21 April , during a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of Rome. The premiere was delayed to 1 June , when it was played at the opening of a gymnastics competition. Puccini had some contact with Benito Mussolini and the Italian Fascist Party in the year preceding his death. In the Fascist Party in Viareggio made Puccini an honorary member and sent him a membership card.

Puccini hoped to attain this honor, which had been granted to Verdi, and undertook to use his connections to bring about the appointment. While honorary senators could vote, there is no indication that Puccini sought the appointment for this purpose. Puccini also wished to establish a national theater in Viareggio, a project which would require government support.

Puccini met with Mussolini twice, in November and December , seeking support for the theater project. While the theater project never came to fruition, Puccini was named Senator senatore a vita a few months before his death. At the time Puccini met with Mussolini, Mussolini had been prime minister for approximately a year, but his party had not yet taken full control of the Italian Parliament through the violence and irregularities of the general election. Puccini was no longer alive when Mussolini announced the end of representative government, and the beginning of a fascist dictatorship, in his speech before the Chamber of Deputies on 3 January A chain smoker of Toscano cigars and cigarettes, Puccini began to complain of chronic sore throats towards the end of A diagnosis of throat cancer led his doctors to recommend a new and experimental radiation therapy treatment, which was being offered in Brussels.

Puccini and his wife never knew how serious the cancer was, as the news was revealed only to his son. Puccini died in Brussels on 29 November , aged 65, from complications after the treatment; uncontrolled bleeding led to a heart attack the day after surgery. The opera was immediately stopped, and the orchestra played Chopin 's Funeral March for the stunned audience. In his son arranged for the transfer of his father's remains to a specially created chapel inside the Puccini villa at Torre del Lago. Most broadly, Puccini wrote in the style of the late-Romantic period of classical music see Romantic music.

Puccini's career extended from the end of the Romantic period into the modern period. He consciously attempted to 'update' his style to keep pace with new trends, but did not attempt to fully adopt a modern style. One critic, Anthony Davis has stated: "Loyalty toward nineteenth-century Italian-opera traditions and, more generally, toward the musical language of his Tuscan heritage is one of the clearest features of Puccini's music.

All of Puccini's operas have at least one set piece for a lead singer that is separate enough from its surroundings that it can be treated as a distinct aria, and most of his works have several of these. At the same time, Puccini's work continued the trend away from operas constructed from a series of set pieces, and instead used a more "through-composed" or integrated construction.


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His works are strongly melodic. In orchestration, Puccini frequently doubled the vocal line in unison or at octaves in order to emphasize and strengthen the melodic line. Verismo is a style of Italian opera that began in with the first performance of Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana , peaked in the early s, and lingered into the s. It by and large rejects the historical or mythical subjects associated with Romanticism.

Puccini's career as a composer is almost entirely coincident in time with the verismo movement. Only his Le Villi and Edgar preceded Cavalleria rusticana. Some view Puccini as essentially a verismo composer, [56] while others, although acknowledging that he took part in the movement to some degree, do not view him as a "pure" verismo composer.

Two of Puccini's operas, Tosca and Il tabarro, are universally considered to be verismo operas. Both during his lifetime and in posterity, Puccini's success outstripped other Italian opera composers of his time, and he has been matched in this regard by only a handful of composers in the entire history of opera. Between and , Puccini ranked third behind Verdi and Mozart in the number of performances of his operas worldwide, as surveyed by Operabase. Although the popular success of Puccini's work is undeniable, and his mastery of the craft of composition has been consistently recognized, opinion among critics as to the artistic value of his work has always been divided.

Grove Music Online described Puccini's strengths as a composer as follows:. Puccini succeeded in mastering the orchestra as no other Italian had done before him, creating new forms by manipulating structures inherited from the great Italian tradition, loading them with bold harmonic progressions which had little or nothing to do with what was happening then in Italy, though they were in step with the work of French, Austrian and German colleagues.

In his work on Puccini, Julian Budden describes Puccini as a gifted and original composer, noting the innovation hidden in the popularity of works such as "Che gelida manina". He describes the aria in musical terms the signature embedded in the harmony for example , and points out that its structure was rather unheard of at the time, having three distinct musical paragraphs that nonetheless form a complete and coherent whole.

This gumption in musical experimentation was the essence of Puccini's style, as evidenced in his diverse settings and use of the motif to express ideas beyond those in the story and text. Puccini has, however, consistently been the target of condescension by some music critics who find his music insufficiently sophisticated or difficult.

He willingly stops himself at minor genius, stroking the taste of the public A little heroism, but not taken to great heights; a little bit of veristic comedy, but brief; a lot of sentiment and romantic idyll: this is the recipe in which he finds happiness. Un po' di eroismo, ma non spinto a grandi altezze, un po' di commedia verista, ma breve; molto idillio sentimentale e romantico: ecco la ricetta in cui egli compiace.

Budden attempted to explain the paradox of Puccini's immense popular success and technical mastery on the one hand, and the relative disregard in which his work has been held by academics:.

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No composer communicates more directly with an audience than Puccini. Indeed, for many years he has remained a victim of his own popularity; hence the resistance to his music in academic circles. Be it remembered, however, that Verdi's melodies were once dismissed as barrel-organ fodder. Blending astute musical analysis with a colorful account of Puccini's life, here is an illuminating look at some of the most popular operas in the repertoire, including Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly , and Turandot. Budden provides an illuminating look at the process of putting an opera together, the cut-and-slash of nineteenth-century Italian opera--the struggle to find the right performers for the debut of La Boheme , Puccini's anxiety about completing Turandot he in fact died of cancer before he did so , his animosity toward his rival Leoncavallo whom he called Leonasino or "lion-ass".

Budden provides an informative analysis of the operas themselves, examining the music act by act. He highlights, among other things, the influence of Wagner on Puccini--alone among his Italian contemporaries, Puccini followed Wagner's example in bringing the motif into the forefront of his narrative, sometimes voicing the singer's unexpressed thoughts, sometimes sending out a signal to the audience of which the character is unaware.

And Budden also paints an intriguing portrait of Puccini the man--talented but modest, a man who had friends from every walk of life: shopkeepers, priests, wealthy landowners, fellow artists. Affable, well mannered, gifted with a broad sense of fun, he rarely failed to charm all who met him. A new volume in the esteemed Master Musicians series, Puccini offers a masterful portrait of this beloved Italian composer.

Puccini: His Life and Music

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Puccini: Turandot from Teatro Regio di Torino

Page 1 of 1 Start over Page 1 of 1. Julian Budden. William Berger. The Operas of Puccini Cornell Paperbacks. William Ashbrook. Review "He makes one hungry to hear the operas once again and reconsider one's own response--what can be higher praise for music criticism? At the most, he has given us the best survey we have of Italian opera around He has made a minor art form of operatic description in prose, expanding the old format of plot-summary-plus-favoritie-themes to include music analysis, critical response, and secure judgments as to the echoes of other composers heard at any moment.

He joins all this is a prose that will engage even those who cannot follow all the musical particulars. There is more: Budden contrives in the introductory sections of his chapters to give us a canny glimpse of Puccini's life at the time of each opera. And--this is one of the most impressive features of his study--he provides in each chapter vignettes that add up to a historical sketch of the musical culture Puccini lived and worked in.

His prose style is appealingly informal while not sacrificing scholarly integrity, and he has an effective way of drawing the reader into each new chapter Budden is ever alert to the impact Puccini's environment had upon his art. Here is a single volume combining excellent biography with an often illuminating discussion of the work Budden's approach to the individual operas is often fresh and engaging. His investigation of the dramatic and musical problems that Puccini encountered while writing Manon Lescaut is fascinating Budden's is a book for the library shelf, a reliable reference work that the reader will want to consult when program notes fail or a fresh view of the operas.

Finely researched, surely the most thoughtful biography to date of Italy's last great opera composer. His books on Verdi have been an invaluable aid to my study and role preparation over the years, and now the Puccini volume joins them in my library. Budden manages to synthesize the historical, academic, artistic, and human aspects of Puccini's operas in a way that is totally accessible, and most useful to any serious artist or music lover.

Certainly the best book on Puccini in English. As we would expect from the author of The Operas of Verdi , Budden's discussion of Puccini's alarmingly popular music is both sensitive and challenging in its insights.

Puccini – His Life & Music

His elegant turns of phrase "rhythmic scaffolding" and obvious expertise combine in an exceptional whole. Read more. Tell the Publisher! I'd like to read this book on Kindle Don't have a Kindle? Chance to win daily prizes. Get ready for Prime Day with the Amazon App. No purchase necessary. Get started. Share your thoughts with other customers. Write a customer review. Showing of 5 reviews. Top Reviews Most recent Top Reviews. There was a problem filtering reviews right now.

Please try again later. Format: Paperback Verified Purchase. This book is a must for all Puccini scholars and any Music Composition student. Budden's impressive knowledge covers the musical aspect of the Puccini operas in depth as well as his extensive musical innovations. Being a great fan of Puccini's operas, I wished to deepen my appreciation of his genius by continuing to read more about him and Julian Budden does not disappoint.

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The major events of Puccini's life are covered, and the chapters are divided according to the chronological order of his operas. The interesting aspects of the background of each opera has been well researched and discussed in a refreshing manner. The backgrounds are then followed by technical observations of Puccini's innovations demonstrating with examples of his written music. These technical discussions are clearly designed for scholars of music composition and often difficult for the layman to grasp, but Budden has organized each chapter so that the layman may easily skim these technical sections.

This book was very helpful to achieve this end and I highly recommend it. Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase. This is a very comprehensive volume. If you want to know all about Pacini, then the story of his life and the stories of his operas are presented expertly and in great detail. The book offers a thorough biography, a thorough plot synopsis of each opera, and a thorough technical analysis. It is enlightening to read the book while following along with the score of each opera. In his technical analysis, however, he sometimes misses the forest for the trees.

He neglects to tell us that the prelude to Manon Lescaut is in the rondo form, the prelude to Madama Butterfly is in the sonatina form, or that the waltz in Il Tabarro is in the rondo form. Also, there is one question which the author leaves unanswered: What is the purpose of the mock funeral in Edgar?

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