December 22, 2008

Oggi rivivi in me!

I am proudly and incurably a Puccini addict. There's not many other composers that combine such a lush surface with so many arresting, idiosyncratic details of harmony and orchestration—Messiaen, maybe, at least among this year's anniversary composers. It's sometimes startling to pick apart a Puccini score and realize just how many completely left-field things are going on beneath that gleaming hood. This is a guy who made parallel octaves a viable harmonic resource, after all.

For Puccini's 150th birthday, three versions of "In questa reggia" from Turandot. FIrst: Dame Eva Turner, who heard the premiere, first sang the role less than a year later, and recorded the aria in 1928.

Next is my personal favorite, Eva Marton singing at the 100th Anniversary Met Gala in 1983. (The non sequiter set is a David Hockney design for Les Mamelles des Tirésias.)

And finally: Puccini's music has carved out a small footprint for itself in popular culture, with varying degrees of success (do you really want to hear Neil Sedaka sing "Nessun dorma"?), but this Bob Belden big-band arrangement of (the first half of) "In questa reggia" (with Wallace Roney on trumpet) is pretty cool.

Buon compleanno!


rbonotto said...

Around a decade ago, I was commissioned by a small company to draw (and write) a "Verdi for Beginners" and then a "Puccini for Beginners." Unfortunately, the company that commissioned it was bought by another company ... which was then bought by another company. They suddenly weren't interested, and the artwork's in a couple of drawers somewhere.

I did go on an extended binge of looking through the orchestral scores of both composers, when I was working on the 80 or so pages of drawings. My respect for Puccini (ditto Verdi, but it was somewhat up there anyway) vaulted upward at that point.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Yikes, the glottal attacks in ever phrase Marton sings are scary! And the Met should have sent Domingo (or Charles Anthony!) out to sing Calaf's line in Marton's set, or had her do what Turner does and singing T's text to C's music.

Rodney Lister said...

I think Puccini is so much better than Messiaen.