Tuesday, 2 August 2011

August Opera Challenge Day Two: Best Composer

For many, this would be a difficult choice, but not for me. My heart belongs to Giacomo Puccini. Some opera fans may accuse GP of creating music that is occasionally a bit on the light side, but I don't care. Or agree. His compositions- which veer from the dramatically intense to the unbelievably beautiful- move me more than I could ever describe. As the great Puccini interpreter Renata Scotto has said, "You cannot keep your eyes dry. You cannot. You have to cry."

The Tuscan composer, who was born in 1858 and had an untimely death from throat cancer in 1924, created some of the most memorable operatic moments of all time (who doesn't recognise Nessun dorma or O mio babbino caro?) Fond of fast cars, hunting and women, Puccini led a life that could have easily formed the basis of an opera. He composed ten of them- Le Villi, Edgar, Manon Lescaut, La boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La fanciulla del West, La rondine, Il trittico (which is comprised of three one act operas) and Turandot, which was left incomplete on his death.

I haven't chosen a particular Puccini favourite, as I predict he will come up in the August Opera Challenge again and again. Instead, here's a clip of Royal Opera House Music Director Antonio Pappano from the Puccini episode of his BBC series Opera Italia. If you want to get started with Puccini, then this documentary is a great way in (you can move on to Mary Phillips-Matz's brilliant biography afterwards!) And of course, Maestro Tony P can sum up it up better than anyone else. "Apart from the colourful biography, there's the music. It is some of the most ravishing, intimate, passionate, sometimes even erotic and clever music ever heard in the theatre. And beyond."

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