2. ARETHA FRANKLIN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmXkEhs00lo On 20 minutes notice, Aretha Franklin stepped in for her friend Luciano Pavarotti at the 1998 Grammy Awards. Franklin infused the aria (sung in Italian and English) with her remarkable blend of soul and power.
Giacomo Puccini, in full Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (born December 22, 1858, Lucca, Tuscany [Italy]—died November 29, 1924, Brussels, Belgium), Italian composer, one of the greatest exponents of operatic realism, who virtually brought the history of Italian opera to an end. His mature operas include La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot, left incomplete.
Early life and marriage
Puccini was the last descendant of a family that for two centuries had provided the musical directors of the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. Puccini initially dedicated himself to music, therefore, not as a personal vocation but as a family profession. He was orphaned at the age of five by the death of his father, and the municipality of Lucca supported the family with a small pension and kept the position of cathedral organist open for Giacomo until he came of age. He first studied music with two of his father’s former pupils, and he played the organ in small local churches. A performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, which he saw in Pisa in 1876, convinced him that his true vocation was opera. In the autumn of 1880 he went to study at the Milan Conservatory, where his principal teachers were Antonio Bazzini, a famous violinist and composer of chamber music, and Amilcare Ponchielli, the composer of the opera La gioconda. On July 16, 1883, he received his diploma and presented as his graduation composition Capriccio sinfonico, an instrumental work that attracted the attention of influential musical circles in Milan. In the same year, he entered Le villi in a competition for one-act operas. The judges did not think Le villi worthy of consideration, but a group of friends, led by the composer-librettist Arrigo Boito, subsidized its production, and its premiere took place with immense success at Milan’s Verme Theatre on May 31, 1884. Le villi was remarkable for its dramatic power, its operatic melody, and, revealing the influence of Richard Wagner’s works, the important role played by the orchestra. The music publisher Giulio Ricordi immediately acquired the copyright, with the stipulation that the opera be expanded to two acts. He also commissioned Puccini to write a new opera for La Scala and gave him a monthly stipend: thus began Puccini’s lifelong association with Giulio Ricordi, who was to become a staunch friend and counselor.
After the death of his mother, Puccini fled from Lucca with a married woman, Elvira Gemignani. Finding in their passion the courage to defy the truly enormous scandal generated by their illegal union, they lived at first in Monza, near Milan, where a son, Antonio, was born. In 1890 they moved to Milan, and in 1891 to Torre del Lago, a fishing village on Lake Massaciuccoli in Tuscany. This home was to become Puccini’s refuge from life, and he remained there until three years before his death, when he moved to Viareggio. But living with Elvira proved difficult. Tempestuous rather than compliant, she was justifiably jealous and was not an ideal companion. The two were finally able to marry in 1904, after the death of Elvira’s husband. Puccini’s second opera, Edgar, based on a verse drama by the French writer Alfred de Musset, had been performed at La Scala in 1889, and it was a failure. Nevertheless, Ricordi continued to have faith in his protégé and sent him to Bayreuth in Germany to hear Wagner’s Die Meistersinger.
Mature work and fame
Puccini returned from Bayreuth with the plan for Manon Lescaut, based, like the Manon of the French composer Jules Massenet, on the celebrated 18th-century novel by the Abbé Prévost. Beginning with this opera, Puccini carefully selected the subjects for his operas and spent considerable time on the preparation of the librettos. The psychology of the heroine in Manon Lescaut, as in succeeding works, dominates the dramatic nature of Puccini’s operas. Puccini, in sympathy with his public, was writing to move them so as to assure his success. The score of Manon Lescaut, dramatically alive, prefigures the operatic refinements achieved in his mature operas: La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and La fanciulla del west (1910; The Girl of the Golden West). These four mature works also tell a moving love story, one that centres entirely on the feminine protagonist and ends in a tragic resolution. All four speak the same refined and limpid musical language of the orchestra that creates the subtle play of thematic reminiscences. The music always emerges from the words, indissolubly bound to their meaning and to the images they evoke. In Bohème, Tosca, and Butterfly, he collaborated enthusiastically with the writers Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. The first performance (February 17, 1904) of Madama Butterfly was a fiasco, probably because the audience found the work too much like Puccini’s preceding operas. For a 1908 recording of Emma Eames singing “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca, see Emma Eames.
In 1908, having spent the summer in Cairo, the Puccinis returned to Torre del Lago, and Giacomo devoted himself to Fanciulla. Elvira unexpectedly became jealous of Doria Manfredi, a young servant from the village who had been employed for several years by the Puccinis. She drove Doria from the house threatening to kill her. Subsequently, the servant girl poisoned herself, and her parents had the body examined by a physician, who declared her a virgin. The Manfredis brought charges against Elvira Puccini for persecution and calumny, creating one of the most famous scandals of the time. Elvira was found guilty, but through the negotiations of the lawyers was not sentenced, and Puccini paid damages to the Manfredis, who withdrew their accusations. Eventually the Puccinis adjusted themselves to a coexistence, but the composer from then on demanded absolute freedom of action.
The premiere of La fanciulla del west took place at the Metropolitan in New York City on December 10, 1910, with Arturo Toscanini conducting. It was a great triumph, and with it Puccini reached the end of his mature period. He admitted “writing an opera is difficult.” For one who had been the typical operatic representative of the turn of the century, he felt the new century advancing ruthlessly with problems no longer his own. He did not understand contemporary events, such as World War I. In 1917 at Monte-Carlo in Monaco, Puccini’s opera La rondine was first performed and then was quickly forgotten.
Always interested in contemporary operatic compositions, Puccini studied the works of Claude Debussy, Richard Strauss, Arnold Schoenberg, and Igor Stravinsky. From this study emerged Il trittico (The Triptych; New York City, 1918), three stylistically individual one-act operas—the melodramatic Il tabarro (The Cloak), the sentimental Suor Angelica, and the comic Gianni Schicchi. His last opera, based on the fable of Turandot as told in the play Turandot by the 18th-century Italian dramatist Carlo Gozzi, is the only Italian opera in the Impressionistic style. Puccini did not complete Turandot, unable to write a final grand duet on the triumphant love between Turandot and Calaf. Suffering from cancer of the throat, he was ordered to Brussels for surgery, and a few days afterward he died with the incomplete score of Turandot in his hands.
Turandot was performed posthumously at La Scala on April 25, 1926, and Arturo Toscanini, who conducted the performance, concluded the opera at the point Puccini had reached before dying. Two final scenes were completed by Franco Alfano from Puccini’s sketches.
Solemn funeral services were held for Puccini at La Scala in Milan, and his body was taken to Torre del Lago, which became the Puccini Pantheon. Shortly afterward, Elvira and Antonio were also buried there. The Puccini house became a museum and an archive.
The majority of Puccini’s operas illustrate a theme defined in Il tabarro: “Chi ha vissuto per amore, per amore si morì” (“He who has lived for love, has died for love”). This theme is played out in the fate of his heroines—women who are devoted body and soul to their lovers, are tormented by feelings of guilt, and are punished by the infliction of pain until in the end they are destroyed. In his treatment of this theme, Puccini combines compassion and pity for his heroines with a strong streak of sadism: hence the strong emotional appeal but also the restricted scope of the Puccinian type of opera.
The main feature of Puccini’s musicodramatic style is his ability to identify himself with his subject; each opera has its distinctive ambience. With an unfailing instinct for balanced dramatic structure, Puccini knew that an opera is not all action, movement, and conflict; it must also contain moments of repose, contemplation, and lyricism. For such moments he invented an original type of melody, passionate and radiant, yet marked by an underlying morbidity; examples are the “farewell” and “death” arias that also reflect the persistent melancholy from which he suffered in his personal life.
Puccini’s approach to dramatic composition is expressed in his own words: “The basis of an opera is its subject and its treatment.” The fashioning of a story into a moving drama for the stage claimed his attention in the first place, and he devoted to this part of his work as much labour as to the musical composition itself. The action of his operas is uncomplicated and self-evident, so that the spectator, even if he does not understand the words, readily comprehends what is taking place on the stage.
Puccini’s conception of diatonic melody is rooted in the tradition of 19th-century Italian opera, but his harmonic and orchestral style indicate that he was also aware of contemporary developments, notably the work of the Impressionists and of Stravinsky. Though he allowed the orchestra a more active role, he upheld the traditional vocal style of Italian opera, in which the singers carry the burden of the music. In many ways a typical fin de siècle artist, Puccini nevertheless can be ranked as the greatest exponent of operatic realism.
• Le Villi, libretto by Ferdinando Fontana (in one act – premiered at the Teatro Dal Verme, 31 May 1884)
• second version (in two acts – premiered at the Teatro Regio of Torino, 26 December 1884)
• third version (in two acts – premiered at La Scala (the Teatro alla Scala), 24 January 1885)
• fourth version (in two acts – premiered at the Teatro dal Verme, 7 November 1889)
• Edgar, libretto by Ferdinando Fontana (in four acts – premiered at La Scala, 21 April 1889)
• second version (in four acts – premiered at the Teatro del Giglio, 5 September 1891)
• third version (in three acts – premiered at the Teatro Comunale, 28 January 1892)
• fourth version (in three acts – premiered at the Teatro de la Opera Buenos Aires, 8 July 1905)
• Manon Lescaut, libretto by Luigi Illica, Marco Praga and Domenico Oliva (premiered at the Teatro Regio, 1 February 1893)
• second version (premiered at the Teatro Coccia, 21 December 1893)
• La bohème, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (premiered at the Teatro Regio of Torino, 1 February 1896)
• Tosca, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (premiered at the Teatro Costanzi, 14 January 1900)
• Madama Butterfly, libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa (in two acts – premiered at La Scala, 17 February 1904)
• second version (in two acts – premiered at the Teatro Grande di Brescia, 28 May 1904)
• third version (premiered at Covent Garden, London 10 July 1905)
• fourth version (premiered at the Opéra-Comique in Paris, 28 December 1906)
• fifth version (premiered at the Teatro Carcano, 9 December 1920)
• La fanciulla del West, libretto by Guelfo Civinini and Carlo Zangarini (premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, 10 December 1910)
• second version (premiered at La Scala, 29 December 1912)
• La rondine, libretto by Giuseppe Adami (premiered at the Opéra of Monte Carlo, 27 March 1917)
• second version (premiered at the Opéra of Monte Carlo, 10 April 1920)
• third version (possible premier at the Teatro Verdi, 11 April 1924); orchestration of the third act completed in 1994 by Lorenzo Ferrero (premiered at Teatro Regio di Torino, 22 March 1994)
• Il trittico (premiered at the Metropolitan Opera, 14 December 1918)
Il tabarro, libretto by Giuseppe Adami
Suor Angelica, libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
Gianni Schicchi, libretto by Giovacchino Forzano
• Turandot, libretto by Renato Simoni and Giuseppe Adami (incomplete at the time of Puccini's death, completed by Franco Alfano: premiered at La Scala, 25 April 1926; an alternative completion was commissioned from Luciano Berio in 2002)
Outside the Imperial Palace in Peking, a mandarin reads an edict to the crowd: any prince seeking to marry the princess Turandot must answer three riddles. If he fails, he will die. The most recent suitor, the Prince of Persia, is to be executed at the moon’s rising. Among the onlookers are the slave girl Liù, her aged master, and the young Calàf, who recognizes the old man as his long lost father, Timur, vanquished King of Tartary. When Timur reveals that only Liù has remained faithful to him, Calàf asks why. She replies that once, long ago, Calàf smiled at her. The mob cries for blood but greets the rising moon with a sudden fearful silence. When the Prince of Persia is led to his execution, the crowd calls upon the princess to spare him. Turandot appears, and with a contemptuous gesture orders that the execution proceed. As the victim’s death cry is heard from the distance, Calàf, transfixed by the beauty of the unattainable princess, strides to the gong that announces a new suitor. Suddenly Turandot’s three ministers, Ping, Pang, and Pong, appear to discourage him. Timur and the tearful Liù also beg him not to risk his life (“Signore, ascolta!”). Calàf tries to comfort her (“Non piangere, Liù”) but then strikes the gong and calls Turandot’s name.
Scene One: Inside the palace, Ping, Pang, and Pong lament Turandot’s bloody reign, praying that love will conquer her heart and restore peace. The three let their thoughts wander to their peaceful country homes (Trio: “Ho una casa nell’Honan”), but the noise of the people gathering to hear Turandot question the new challenger calls them back to reality.
Scene Two: The old emperor asks Calàf to reconsider, but he will not be dissuaded. Turandot enters and describes how her beautiful ancestor, Princess Lou-Ling, was abducted and killed by a conquering prince. In revenge, she has turned against men and determined that none shall ever possess her (“In questa reggia”). Facing Calàf, she poses her first question: What is born each night and dies each dawn? “Hope,” Calàf answers, correctly. Turandot continues: What flickers red and warm like a flame, yet is not a flame? “Blood,” Calàf replies after a moment’s thought. Shaken, Turandot delivers the third riddle: What is like ice but burns? Tense silence prevails until Calàf triumphantly cries, “Turandot!” The crowd erupts in joy, and the princess vainly begs her father not to give her to the stranger. Hoping to win her love, Calàf offers Turandot a challenge of his own: if she can learn his name by dawn, he will forfeit his life.
Scene One: In the Imperial Gardens, Calàf hears a proclamation: on pain of death no one in Peking shall sleep until Turandot learns the stranger’s name. Calàf is certain of his victory (“Nessun dorma!”), but Ping, Pang, and Pong try to bribe him to leave the city. As the fearful mob threatens him to learn his name, soldiers drag in Liù and Timur. Calàf tries to convince the crowd that neither of them knows his secret. When Turandot appears, commanding Timur to speak, Liù replies that she alone knows the stranger’s identity and will never reveal it. She is tortured but remains silent. Impressed by such fortitude, Turandot asks Liù’s secret. It is love, she replies. When the soldiers intensify the torture, Liù tells Turandot that she, too, will know the joys of love (“Tu, che di gel sei cinta”). Then she snatches a dagger and kills herself. The crowd forms a funeral procession and the body is taken away. Turandot remains alone to confront Calàf, who impetuously kisses her (Duet: “Principessa di morte!”). Knowing emotion for the first time, Turandot weeps (“Del primo pianto”). Calàf, now sure of winning her, reveals his identity.
Scene Two: Once again before the emperor’s throne, Turandot declares she knows the stranger’s name: it is Love.
The premiere of Turandot was at La Scala, Milan, on Sunday 25 April 1926, one year and five months after Puccini's death, with Rosa Raisa in the title role. Tenors Miguel Fleta and Franco Lo Giudice alternated in the role of Prince Calàf in the original production, although Fleta had the honor of singing the role for the opera's opening night. It was conducted by Arturo Toscanini. In the middle of act 3, two measures after the words "Liù, poesia!, the orchestra rested. Toscanini stopped and laid down his baton. He turned to the audience and announced: "Qui finisce l'opera, perché a questo punto il maestro è morto" ("Here the opera ends, because at this point the maestro died"). The curtain was lowered slowly. These are the words reported by Eugenio Gara, who was present at the premiere.
The quotation, however, appears to be based on memory, and differs in different sources. According to a 1974 interview with another eyewitness, Toscanini's words were: "Qui termina la rappresentazione perché a questo punto il maestro è morto" ("Here the performance finishes because at this point the maestro died") and the English translation of this interview seems to say "Here the Maestro finished". The article on the life of Puccini notes that some record that he said, more poetically, "Here the Maestro laid down his pen".
A newspaper report published the day before the premiere states that Puccini himself gave Toscanini the suggestion to stop the opera performance at the final notes composed by Puccini: A few weeks before his death, after having made Toscanini listen to the opera, Puccini exclaimed: "If I don't succeed in finishing it, at this point someone will come to the footlights and will say: 'The author composed until here, and then he died.'" Arturo Toscanini related Puccini's words with great emotion, and, with the swift agreement of Puccini's family and the publishers, decided that the evening of the first performance, the opera would appear as the author left it, with the anguish of being unable to finish.
Two authors believe that the second and subsequent performances of the 1926 La Scala season, which included the Alfano ending, were conducted by Ettore Panizza and Toscanini never conducted the opera again after the first performance. However, in his biography of Toscanini, Harvey Sachs claims that Toscanini did conduct the second and third performances before withdrawing from the production due to nervous exhaustion. A contemporary review of the second performance states that Toscanini was the conductor, taking five curtain calls at the end of the performance.
Turandot quickly spread to other venues: Rome (Teatro Costanzi, April 29, four days after the Milan premiere), Buenos Aires (Teatro Colón, June 23), Dresden (September 6, in German), Venice (La Fenice, September 9), Vienna (October 14; Mafalda Salvatini in the title role), Berlin (November 8), New York (Metropolitan Opera, November 16), Brussels (La Monnaie, 17 December, in French), Naples (Teatro San Carlo, January 17, 1927), Parma (February 12), Turin (March 17), London (Covent Garden, June 7), San Francisco (September 19), Bologna (October 1927), Paris (March 29, 1928), Australia 1928, Moscow (Bolshoi Theatre, 1931). Turandot is a staple of the standard operatic repertoire and it appears as number 17 on the Operabase list of the most-performed operas worldwide.
For many years, the government of the People's Republic of China forbade performance of Turandot because they said it portrayed China and the Chinese unfavourably. In the late 1990s they relented, and in September 1998 the opera was performed for eight nights as Turandot at the Forbidden City, complete with opulent sets and soldiers from the People's Liberation Army as extras. It was an international collaboration, with director Zhang Yimou as choreographer and Zubin Mehta as conductor. The singing roles saw Giovanna Casolla, Audrey Stottler, and Sharon Sweet as Princess Turandot; Sergej Larin and Lando Bartolini as Calàf; and Barbara Frittoli, Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, and Barbara Hendricks as Liù. As with Madama Butterfly, Puccini strove for a semblance of Asian authenticity (at least to Western ears) by using music from the region in question. Up to eight of the themes used in Turandot appear to be based on traditional Chinese music and anthems, and the melody of a Chinese song named "Mò Li Hūa (茉莉花)", or "Jasmine", is included as a motif for the princess.
Franco Alfano's and other versions
The debate over which version of the ending is better is still open, but the consensus generally tends towards Alfano's first score. The opera with Alfano's original ending has been recorded more than once. The first verifiable live performance of Alfano's original ending was not mounted until 3 November 1982, by the Chelsea Opera Group at the Barbican Centre in London. However, it may have been staged in Germany in the early years, since Ricordi had commissioned a German translation of the text and a number of scores were printed in Germany with the full final scene included. Alfano's second ending has been further redacted as well: Turandot's aria "Del primo pianto" was performed at the premiere but cut from the first complete recording; it was eventually restored to most performances of the opera.
From 1976 to 1988 the American composer Janet Maguire, convinced that the whole ending is coded in the sketches left by Puccini, composed a new ending, but this has never been performed. In 2001, Luciano Berio made a new completion sanctioned by Ricordi and the Puccini estate, using Puccini's sketches but also expanding the musical language. It was subsequently performed in the Canary Islands and Amsterdam conducted by Riccardo Chailly, Los Angeles conducted by Kent Nagano, at the Salzburg Festival conducted by Valery Gergiev in August 2002. However, its reception has been mixed.