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Title: Giacomo Puccini
Author: Dry, Wakeling
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  Tavistock Street, London





  _To face

  GIACOMO PUCCINI                                     _Frontispiece_
    _From an autographed copy of a photograph by Bertieri,
        Turin, in the possession of the author_

    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

  PUCCINI'S VILLA AT TORRE DEL LAGO                               22
    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

  PUCCINI IN HIS 24-H.P. "LA BUIRE" MOTOR-CAR                     24
    _From a photograph by R. de Guili & Co., Lucca_

  PUCCINI AFTER A "SHOOT"                                         28
    _From a photograph by S. Ernesto Arboco_

  PUCCINI IN HIS STUDY AT TORRE DEL LAGO                          40
    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

  PUCCINI IN HIS MILAN HOUSE                                      48
    _From a photograph specially taken by Adolfo Ermini, Milan_

    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

  MISS ALICE ESTY AS MIMI IN "LA BOHÈME"                          68
    _From a photograph lent by Madame Alice Esty_

    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

      TORRE DEL LAGO                                              82


  *PUCCINI SNOWBALLING IN SICILY                                  86

  *PUCCINI WRESTLING AT POMPEII                                   86

  *PUCCINI DESCENDING ETNA ON A MULE                              90

  *PUCCINI ON HIS FARM AT CHIATRI                                 90

    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

      ACT OF "MADAMA BUTTERFLY"                                  102
    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

      BUTTERFLY"                                                 112
    _From a photograph lent by Messrs. Ricordi_

* _From a series of snapshots given to the author by Signor Puccini_
(_Copyright reserved_)


  CHAP.                                          PAGE


    II. PUCCINI'S EARLY LIFE                        9


    IV. "LE VILLI"                                 30

     V. "EDGAR"                                    40

    VI. "MANON"                                    50

   VII. "LA BOHÈME"                                68

  VIII. "TOSCA"                                    83

    IX. "MADAMA BUTTERFLY"                        101




A big broad man, with a frank open countenance, dark kindly eyes of
a lazy lustrous depth, and a shy retiring manner. Such is Giacomo
Puccini, who is operatically the man of the moment.

It was behind the scenes during the autumn season of opera at Covent
Garden in 1905 that I had the privilege of first meeting and talking
with him, and about the last thing I could extract from him was
anything about his music. While his reserve comes off like a mask when
he is left to follow his own bent in conversation, one can readily
understand why he adheres, and always has done, to his rule of never
conducting his own works.

One thing struck me as peculiarly characteristic about his nature and
personality. The success of _Madama Butterfly_--for that was the work
in progress on the stage as we passed out by way of the "wings" to the
front of the house--was at the moment the talk of the town. Puccini
was full, not of the success of his opera, but of the achievements of
the artists who were interpreting it. "Isn't Madame So-and-so fine?"
"Doesn't Signor So-and-so conduct admirably?" "Isn't it beautifully put
on?" The composer was content and happy to sink into the background and
think, in the triumph, of all he owed to those who were carrying out
his ideas. He has a quiet sense of fun, too. "Let us step quietly,"
he said--as we came into the range of the scene that was being
enacted--"like butterflies."

I have called Puccini the operatic man of the moment. It is not
difficult to account for his popularity. His whole-souled devotion
to this one form of musical art, in which he has certainly achieved
much, has by some been pointed to as defining his limits. Apart from
a few early string quartets, which mean nothing more than the usual
preliminary studies of a gifted student, Puccini has written absolutely
nothing but operas since he started. In this respect his music has a
certain well-defined natural characteristic that gives him--if it be
necessary in these days to fit any particular composer into his own
special niche--a distinct place in the history of the progress and
development of the art and science of music making.

Roughly speaking, the opera had its beginnings in the dance, but almost
at the same time it travelled along the road of the development of
vocal expression by music. As early as the days of Peri and Caccini,
who reverted to the old Greek drama as the basis on which to build
something anew, and by so doing brought forth the germ which was
afterwards to bear fruit through Gluck and Wagner, the feeling for
freedom of expression, the desire to snatch music away from the
tyranny of a set form--counterpoint, as it was then understood--strove
to make itself felt and understood. It must not be taken to mean that
the old contrapuntists did not endeavour to combine the adherence to
a form with some degree of definite expression; for in the works of
one of the greatest of this school, old Josquin des Près, are to be
found plenty of emotional touches by which, even in so restricted a
pattern as the madrigal form, it was plain that a closer union between
words and music--an emotional feeling, in short--was clearly the thing
striven for.

Still dealing briefly with beginnings, one may point to the dramatic
cantatas--particularly in Italy, but found in France as well--or
madrigal plays, by which, in distinction to what may be called little
comedies with music, this essential "operatic" feature in the union of
the arts of speech and song, comes out with special clearness.

In Italy then, the land which owns Puccini as one of its most
distinguished sons, the opera had its rise; and in _Dafne_, the first
child of a new art, it is curious to note, it immediately turned
aside into one of those many by-paths which led it very far away from
the goal of its promise. Curious again is the reason for its first
fall--the desire of the leading singer for vocal display, and the
introduction of long vocal flourishes, which, having nothing to do with
the case, yet pleased the public mightily. In this _Dafne_--the score
of which has been lost--it was the great singer Archilei who was the
offender. Yet again a strange thing comes down to us after these many
years. Peri, the composer, was highly delighted with the interpolations
and the vocal gymnastics.

But out of something dead, something very much alive was destined to
develop. The old Greek drama was not to be resuscitated by a sort of
transfusion of blood--music, the newest and most emotional of the arts,
being the medium to carry life into the structure. There is not space
here to do more than hint at the various fresh phases--the reforms, as
they have been called--each of which, in trying to deal with what was
already built up, really brought to an achievement the ideal which had
floated before many a worker in the same field.

In Italy, as early as Cimarosa's day--he died in 1801--the opera,
regarded purely as a musical form, attained as near perfection as
possible. It is difficult, even when dealing with a period that,
unlike our own, was very much more concerned about the manner than
the matter of things, to distinguish between the various styles of
opera; but taking the opera seria and the opera buffa as representing
two great phases of the art, Cimarosa stands out as one who combined
the essential qualities of both into products which had the stamp of
individuality. Pergolesi is another shining light who stands out in the
long line of illustrious workers whose efforts were entirely cast into
the shade by the arrival of Rossini and his followers, Donizetti and
Bellini. All this time, during which so-called Italian opera dominated
the whole of Europe, nothing was done in Italy in the way of developing
orchestral writing, which in Germany had made such marvellous strides.
At the psychological moment--for Italy--came Verdi, who, if he took
the opera very much as he found it, breathed from the very first a
new spirit into its composition. His artistic growth, as seen by his
later operas, was one of the most remarkable things in modern musical
history. And in the fulness of time we come to Puccini, to whom it is
reasonable to point as the successor of Verdi. These two, who may be
linked up with reason with Boïto and Ponchielli, present many features
of resemblance. Puccini's musical expression, at first purely vocal,
has in his later work shown that same growth in artistic development.
From the beginning he was concerned with the continuous flow of melody,
since he had not, like Verdi, to get away exactly from the old form
of the set numbers; but in Puccini's case, the growth referred to is
seen in his latest work in the further elaboration of the orchestral
portion. Although in England we have had few experiments worked out in
the way of the development of opera, it is safe to say that such new
modern works as have been taken to our hearts have owed not a little to
the orchestral part of the fabric. Tchaikovsky's _Eugen Oniegin_ and
Humperdinck's _Hänsel und Gretel_ are at least two notable cases in

But in whatever way we view an opera, mere orchestral fulness will
not serve to land the work very high up in the esteem of music
lovers. Nor will the purely beautiful in music--melody worked out
with transparent clearness of form--save a poor, unconvincing or
uninteresting dramatic fabric from passing into the great storehouse
of the unacted. Puccini's music is dramatic, and by far the greater
part of it, by a sort of quick natural instinct, is purely of the
theatre. His first and most direct appeal is by the charm and vitality
of the vocal expression, while his whole plan is one of movement.
From the first--if we except for the moment his _Le Villi_, which
was first called a ballet-opera--he called his operas _Dramma per
lyrica_--lyric dramas, a term first established, and moulded into a
definite art-form, by Wagner. With his first opera, Puccini started
something of a new form in the short opera; and two remarkable works
of the kind in _Cavalleria Rusticana_ by Mascagni and _I Pagliacci_
by Leoncavallo, which came very soon after, clearly indicate that he
had founded a school as it were; and so from Italy to-day, as in times
past, this particular fashion spread to other countries. Puccini,
still exhibiting, with a strong and in many ways typical national
feeling, spontaneous vocal melody as his leading characteristic, did
not limit himself to the perfection of the short opera. His subsequent
works were of larger calibre. He left the fanciful and imaginative and
the old world legends, and turned to everyday life for his subjects.
In general form--for one must revert to this not particularly lucid
description when dealing with opera--Puccini must be placed among the
shining lights who have chosen to deal with what may be called light
opera. _Opéra comique_, as translated by our term "comic opera,"
means something so entirely different, that although "light opera"
is but a poor expression, it is one that may perhaps be most readily
"understanded of the people."

The term "light" is associated practically entirely with the music. The
subjects of Puccini's operas are all of them tragic, but the expression
of the theme, the working out along the already roughly defined paths,
is not by the heavy, the big, or the strongly moving in music. One may
point almost to Bizet, as shown in _Carmen_, as the special point from
which Puccini started. Furthermore, Puccini stands almost unrivalled
in his own particular way in giving us, by means of operatic music,
something very near akin to the comedy of manners in drama. Much might
with advantage be deduced from the success of Puccini in this country,
and the same result applied to the question of our national opera; or,
seeing that such a thing does not exist, to the crying need for some
encouragement to be given to native composers. Puccini, it may be, has
become the vogue simply because he is light and lyrical, not so much
here in the dramatic, but in the musical sense. No one, it is safe to
say, at this time of day desires to go back in any shape or form to the
old "set-number" sort of piece. Such a reversion may fittingly form
the ideal towards which a follower of Sullivan--who in his _Yeomen of
the Guard_ gave us unquestionably the best definite "light" opera of
the last generation--may strive to bring to perfection. Puccini has by
the general mould of his work made his place and found his following
on the operatic stage, and it is surely by the vocal strength and
vocal continuity of his work that this place of his has been achieved
and maintained. It is easy, of course, to point to the simplicity of
the achievement when one sees the fruit of the labour: but without
urging any one to copy an accepted model, or to merely repeat what
has been already designed, one may wonder why, with so many gifted
melodists among contemporary British musicians, no one has given us
definite light opera. It is a direction in which our composers have
never moved. If a reason for Puccini's greatness--or popularity, if
you will--is wanted, it may be found in this extremely clever use of
the light lyrical style. And lest there be any misunderstanding, let
it be said that hardly one of Puccini's songs or dramatic numbers can
be pointed to as making this or that opera an accepted favourite. "Che
gelida manina" from _La Bohème_ is trotted out by not a few budding
tenors, and it may be occasionally heard at a ballad concert, but even
this is not sung one-tenth as many times as, say, the prologue to _I
Pagliacci_, leaving out of the question the extreme popularity, as an
instrumental piece, of the Intermezzo from _Cavalleria_. Puccini's
melodies, if they do not actually fall to pieces away from their
surroundings, at least very quickly lose their full significance, and
not a little of their charm. And it is for this reason, therefore,
that Puccini stands as the most definitely operatic composer of the
moment. He has had great opportunities, it is true, but he has had
great struggles. Like Wagner, he is concerned, and ever has been, with
just one phase of art. To those that come after may be left the task of
deciding as to his exact place in the roll of fame. By the oneness of
his endeavour, by the sincerity of his expression, by the spontaneity
of his vocal melody, does Puccini stand worthily among the living
masters of music.




In Lucca in 1858, in a house in the Via Poggia, Giacomo Puccini was
born. The family originally came from Celle, a typical mountain village
on the right bank of the Serchio. From the earliest times the family
was one devoted to the art of music, and while the world knows only of
the musician who is the subject of this book, the achievements of his
musical ancestors were of no mean order.

It will be sufficient to trace back the family to one of the same name,
a Giacomo Puccini, who, born in 1712, studied with Caretti at Bologna.
During his student days he was the friend of Martini, and thus from
very early days the Puccini family have had intimate connection with
those musicians whose names will live as long as musical history. On
returning to Lucca this Puccini was appointed organist of the cathedral
and subsequently _maestro di capella_. His compositions were entirely
in the domain of ecclesiastical music, and include a motet, a Te Deum,
and some services.

His son, Antonio, also proceeded to Bologna for his musical training,
and in process of time succeeded to the post at Lucca. Antonio's chief
composition was a Requiem Mass, which was sung at Lucca on the occasion
of the funeral of Joseph II. of Tuscany.

The first of the family to turn his attention to opera was Domenico
Puccini, the son of the foregoing, who, like his father and grandfather,
after studying at Bologna, and under the famous Paisiello at Naples, also
held the post at Lucca. Of his several operas, _Quinto Fabio_, _Il
Ciarlatano_, and _La Moglie Capricciosa_ had a certain vogue in his day,
but have passed into oblivion. Dying at the age of forty-four, he left
four children, of whom Michele was the father of the Puccini with whom
we are dealing.

The grandfather Antonio helped this young Michele and sent him to study
at Bologna, where he came under the influence of Stanislaus Mattei,
the teacher of Rossini. Later on he proceeded to Naples, where he was
taught by Mercadente and Donizetti. Returning to Lucca he married
Albina Magi, and was appointed Inspector of the then newly formed
Institute of Music. Some masses and an opera, _Marco Foscarini_, stand
to his credit, but it was as a teacher that this Puccini did his best
work. Among his pupils were Carlo Angeloni and Vianesi, who afterwards
won distinction as a conductor, not only in Italy but at Paris and

Michele Puccini died at the age of fifty-one in 1864, leaving his wife,
who was then thirty-three, to provide and care for his seven children.
It is interesting to record that the famous Pacini, the composer of
_Saffo_, which is still regarded as perhaps the chief classic of the
purely Italian school, conducted the Requiem sung at his funeral.

Puccini's mother and her noble work in bringing up her large
family--for she was left with no great share of this world's
goods--deserves infinitely more than this bare mention of her
excellence. In the present instance, it is her patient care in making
her fifth child, our Giacomo Puccini, a musician, that we have to
recognise. But for this patience, the way of the man who was destined
to achieve his own place in the annals of fame must have been still
more rough. All praise then to the patient mother whose memory is still
so lovingly cherished by her distinguished son.

Giacomo Puccini was only six when his father died, and as a child was
remarkable for a restless nature and a keen desire to travel. He was
sent to school at the seminary of S. Michele, and afterwards to San
Martino. Arithmetic appears to have been his chief stumbling-block,
but in everything, his curious irresponsible nature, his strong
dislike to anything like guidance and restraint, made the acquisition
of knowledge a hard task. Failing to acquire any sort of distinction
in any branch of scholarship, an uncle of his, on his mother's side,
tried to make him a singer; but the future musician, whose triumph was
gained, curiously enough, in the display of the very art he despised,
added, in this particular subject, one more to his many failures. The
mother, in spite, doubtless, of a good deal of well-meant advice as
to wasting time and money on a singularly unpromising youth, stuck
to her conviction that Giacomo was destined by his gifts to carry
on the long line of family musicians; and with many real sacrifices
in the way of pinching and scraping, sent him to Lucca, where, at
the Institute of Music, founded by Pacini, he came first under the
influence of Angeloni, who, it will be remembered, was a pupil of
his father. Infinite patience seems to have been the chief quality
possessed by Angeloni, and by dint of great tact and sympathy, he
infused an interest and something of a passion for music into his
wayward young pupil. Giacomo became a fair player, and was sent off to
take charge of the music at the church of Muligliano, a little village
three miles from Lucca, and in a short time he had the church of S.
Pietro at Somaldi added to his responsibilities. It was during the
exercise of his church duties that the spirit of composition seems to
have descended upon him, and certainly, if not in actually a novel way,
a rather disconcerting one. During the offertory, and at other places
in the Mass, it was the custom of the organist to improvise a more or
less extended _pièce d'occasion_, a custom which still obtains. The
officiating priests were more than occasionally startled by hearing,
mixed up with these spirited improvisations of their young organist,
certain plainly recognisable themes from operas, old and new.


There is no definite record of any specific continuation of studies
while Puccini was contributing in a questionable way to the dignity of
the church's service; but in 1877 there was an exhibition at Lucca, and
a musical competition was announced, a setting of a cantata _Juno_,
and young Puccini entered. As happened with Berlioz, so too the
young composer's work was rejected, as not conforming in any way with
the accepted canons of the art of music. Puccini at this point gave
an early indication of that doggedness of purpose, a quiet pursuance
of his own aims and working out his own ideas, which marked his later
career, and which must have come as rather a surprise to his family,
who regarded him in all probability as a lazy wayward youth. He did
not take the refusal of the Lucca authorities to accept his work the
least to heart, but arranged for a performance of it, and the public
found it very much to their taste. About this time another early
composition, a motet for the feast of San Paolina, was performed. With
these successes, Lucca and its restricted area, with the evidently
uncongenial work of a church organist, soon became entirely distasteful
to him, and after hearing Verdi's _Aïda_ at the theatre, his mind was
made up. To Milan, the Mecca of the young Italian musician, he must go.

His mother still was his best friend; and although the cost of living
and studying in Milan was sufficient to daunt the courage of any one
far less hampered with domestic difficulties than she was, she bravely
set about making the necessary sacrifices. Through a friend at Court,
the Marchioness Viola-Marina, she enlisted the kindly sympathy of Queen
Margherita, who generously agreed to be responsible for the expense of
one of the necessary three years, while an uncle of hers came to her
assistance by defraying the cost of the other two.

The Conservatory of Music at Milan is best known perhaps from the fact
that the great teacher of singing, Lamperti, whose pupils number
Albani and Sembrich, was a professor there up to the date of his
retirement, in 1875. With the Royal College at Naples it represents at
the present day the only survival of the most ancient teaching schools
which began to be founded in Italy at the end of the fifteenth century,
the name Conservatorio being given to the union of music schools
for the preservation of the art and science of music. The oldest of
them were the four schools at Naples, all of which were attached to
monastical foundations, and which had their rise in the schools founded
by the Fleming, Tinctor. There were four other schools, similar as to
their foundation, at Venice, the origin of which was due to another
great Fleming, Willaert.

On reaching Milan, Puccini's first thought was to bring himself
earnestly to study, and to pass the necessary examination for entrance
into this "Reale Conservatorio de Musica." Apart from his steady
determination to mend his haphazard ways, it is good to note that his
good resolutions were put to the test, for he does not appear to have
succeeded at the first trial. But he had grit in him, and he stuck to
his work bravely; and in 1880, towards the end of October, he passed
his entrance examination with flying colours, coming out with top marks
over all the competitors. His actual work as a student did not begin
till December 16 of that year, and we get from an interesting letter
to his mother a vivid picture of his doings at this time. Bazzini,
the master with whom he was put to study, will be remembered as the
composer of that favourite violin piece with virtuosi, the _Witches'

"DEAR MAMMA,--On Thursday, at eleven o'clock, I had my second lesson
from Bazzini, and I am getting on very well. To-morrow I start my
theory lessons. My daily life is very simple. I get up at 8.30, and
when I do not go to the school I stay indoors and play the pianoforte.
For this I am trying now a new technical method by Angeloni, which is
very simple.

"At 10.30 I have my lunch, and a short walk afterwards. At one I return
home and study Bazzini's lesson for a couple of hours; after that from
three to five I go to the piano again and play some classic. I have
been playing through Boïto's _Mefistofele_, a kind friend having given
me the vocal score. On! how I wish I had money enough to buy all the
music I want to get!

"Five is dinner time, and it is a very frugal meal--soup, cheese, and
half a litre of wine. As soon as it is over I go out for a walk and
stroll up and down the Galleria. Now comes the end of the chapter--bed!"

All through the three years of his sojourn at Milan, Puccini, from the
evidence of his letters which he sent home, seems to have preserved
the simplicity of his nature, and to have kept in a remarkable way to
his good resolutions. For composition he was put, shortly after his
entrance, with Ponchielli, the composer of _La Gioconda_. For both
his teachers Puccini had the liveliest admiration, and the following
extract from another of his characteristic letters to his mother
towards the end of his student days, showed how lively an interest
Ponchielli took in his future:--

"To-morrow I have to go to Ponchielli. I have already seen him this
morning, but we have had little opportunity of talking about what I am
to do in the future, as his wife was with him. However, he promised to
mention me to Ricordi, and he assures me that in my examinations I have
made a favourable impression. I am now working hard at my exercise,
towards the completion of which I have made good progress."

This exercise Puccini speaks of was the equivalent to the composition
demanded by our Universities before a student passes to the degree of
Bachelor of Music. With this _Capriccio Sinfonica_ Puccini made his
first mark as a rising composer. It was not apparently an entirely
spontaneous outpouring, for he wrote it on all sorts of odd scraps of
paper, just as the mood took him. It is curious to note that although
in his general character he had made a radical change from waywardness
to a steady determination and purposeful endeavour towards one definite
goal, his methods of work and his music writing remained, to this
day in fact, as very typical of the carelessness of the artistic
temperament. His scores were, and still are, exceedingly difficult
to decipher. Both Bazzini and Ponchielli were much attached to the
promising young musician, but his handwriting--more particularly his
way of setting down notes on paper--was more than once a great trial
to their patience. Bazzini on one occasion inquired about this final
exercise, and Ponchielli replied: "I really cannot tell you anything
yet about it. Puccini brings me every lesson such a vile scrawl, that I
confess, up to the present, I do no more than stare at it in despair."

When Ponchielli came to sit down and study the score of this Capriccio,
the black-beetle-like splotches on the untidy manuscript did not
prevent the worth of the music from coming through and making its
appeal to the kindly teacher's mind. Both Bazzini and he were struck
by its freedom, its freshness, its general grip of the orchestra. It
was performed at one of the Conservatory concerts, and Puccini's fame,
heralded by the critic Filippi, who wrote in a special article in the
_Perseveranza_ about the first performance, travelled round Milan. It
is interesting to read what Filippi said about the first serious work
by the future hope, operatically speaking, of young Italy:

"Puccini has decidedly a musical temperament, especially as a
symphonist, having unity of style and personality of character. There
are more of such qualities in this Capriccio than are found in most
composers of to-day, thorough grasp of style, a quick sense of colour,
an inventive genius. The ideas are bright, strong, effective. He is not
concerned with uncertainties, but fills up his scheme with harmonic
boldness, and knits the whole together logically and with perfect

This discerning writer goes on to speak of the skilful way in which the
melodic material is worked up, and the general feeling for movement,
states that it called forth the warmest enthusiasm, and dubs it by far
the most promising work of that year.

Faccio, a well-known conductor, made arrangements to have it played at
an orchestral concert, and Puccini wrote with joy and alacrity to his
mother to arrange to have the parts copied, asking to have sent to him,
without a moment's delay, twelve first violin parts, ten seconds, nine
violas, eight cellos, and seven basses.


Flushed with his first real success Puccini was ready to act upon
any suggestion that would enable him to keep the ball, once started,
rolling along merrily. Ponchielli was struck with the essentially
dramatic quality of Puccini's mind and bent, and promised to find him
a suitable libretto so that he might start on an opera. He invited
Puccini to spend a few days at his country villa at Caprino, and there
Puccini met Fontana, who, like himself, was at the beginning of his
career. After much cogitation, it was decided to collaborate in a short
work, so that it might be ready for the Sozogno competition, the limit
of time for that event having nearly expired. Thus it was that Fate,
or Chance, settled the form in which, as it subsequently transpired,
Puccini was from the very beginning to appear as a setter of fashion in
opera. But, as we shall see, the path to fame did not immediately open
to Puccini. The Sozogno prize was not won, but _Le Villi_, his first
opera, was born, and, like Wagner, the ardent and now well-equipped
young composer began to experience those pains and penalties, and
bravely ploughed his way through thorns and over the rough places, and
finally conquered by the sheer force of perseverance, endurance, and
singleness of aim.



Puccini, after the death of his beloved mother, sought consolation in
hard work, and _Edgar_ was written in Milan during a period, which was
in like manner experienced by Wagner, of additional anxiety, brought
about by the want of the actual means to live. But it is undoubtedly
that out of such trials and troubles the best work of the brain is
forged and brought to an achievement.

Puccini was living at this time in a poor quarter of Milan with his
brother and another student. With the £80 he received for _Le Villi_ he
paid away nearly half of it to the restaurant keeper who had allowed
him credit.

Milan, the chief operatic centre of opera-loving Italy, is full of
music schools, agencies, restaurants and cafés, whose reason for
existence, practically, is found in the fact that half the population
is in one way or another connected with the operatic stage. Milan is
even more Bohemian than Paris in this respect, and it is not difficult
to understand why the subject of unconventionality, as treated by
Puccini in _La Bohème_, should have come to him with such force. He
had, in fact, gone through the whole thing completely, so far as living
on nothing and making all sorts of shifts for existence were concerned.
Milan's social atmosphere is almost completely that of theatrical
Bohemianism, and all the students come very intimately into contact
with its essence and spirit.

There are many little stories of Puccini in his early days, which,
after all, only represent the common lot of many a struggling genius
the wide world over. He and his companions at the time _Edgar_ was in
the process of making rented one little top room in the Via Solferino,
for which, according to Puccini's friend Eugenio Checchi, who has
recorded the history of these early days, they paid twenty-four
shillings a month. Puccini kept a diary, which he called "Bohemian
Life," in 1881. It was little more than a register of expenses. Coffee,
bread, tobacco and milk appear to be the chief entries, and there is
an entire absence of anything more substantial in the way of food. In
one place there was a herring put down; and on this being brought to
Puccini's recollection, he laughingly said: "Oh, yes, I remember. That
was a supper for four people."

As will be seen in the chapter on _La Bohème_, this incident was made
use of by the librettists in the third act of that opera.

From the Congregation of Charity at Rome, Puccini was in receipt at
this time of £4 per month. The sum used to come in a registered letter
on a certain day, and he and his companions usually had to suffer
the landlord to open it and deduct, first, his share for the rent.
Many were the scenes they had with this worthy possessor of real
estate. He had forbidden them to cook in the room, and even with the
marvellously cheap restaurants, where at least the one national dish
of spaghetti could be indulged in for the merest trifle, our group of
young strugglers found it even cheaper to do their cooking at home. As
the hour of a meal drew near, the landlord used to go into the next
room, or prowl about the landing, to listen and to smell. The usual
stratagem was to place the spirit lamp on the table and over it a dish
in which to cook eggs. When the frizzling began, the others would call
out to Puccini to play "like the very devil," and going over to the
piano he would start on some wild strains which stopped when the modest
omelette--two eggs between three--was ready to turn out.

The material for firing was another source of expense. Their modest
order did not warrant the coal-merchant sending up five flights of
stairs to deliver it in whatever receptacle took the place of the usual
cellar: so Michael Puccini, the brother, used to dress up in his best
clothes, including a valuable relic in the shape of a "pot-hat," and
take with him a black-bag. The others said, "Good-bye, bon voyage,"
with some effusion on the door-step to let the neighbours imagine he
was going away for a visit; and off Michael would go, to return in the
dusk with the bag full of coal.

There is something infinitely pathetic in recording that Puccini, when
fortune smiled upon him, wrote to this brother in great glee to tell
him of the success of _Manon_, and to say that he was able to buy the
house in Lucca where they were born. But Michael, who had departed to
South America to mend his own fortunes, was then lying dead of yellow
fever, to which he had succumbed after three days' illness.

_Edgar_ being completed, the work brought him in about six times the
amount he had obtained for _Le Villi_, while with _Manon_, which
followed, his position became practically assured for the future.
Always of a shy, retiring disposition, he had often longed to get
away from the cramped conditions of town life, and Torre del Lago,
on a secluded lake not far from Lucca, lying in beautiful country,
surrounded by woods, and connected by canals with the sea--into which
it flows just by the spot where Shelley's body was washed ashore and
afterwards burned--was an ideal spot to which his thoughts had often
turned. He went there to reside first in 1891, about the time he was
writing _La Bohème_; but some time before that he had found a partner
of his joys in Elvira Bonturi, who, like himself, came from Lucca, and
whom he married. Their only son, Antonio, was born in the December of
1886. It was not until 1900 that Puccini built the delightful villa at
Torre del Lago to which he is so devotedly attached, and to which he
always refers as a Paradise.


Before finally deciding on a site at Torre del Lago--the Tower of the
Lake--Puccini stayed for a time at Castellaccio, near Pescia, where
a good deal of _La Bohème_ was put to paper. _Tosca_ was begun at
Torre del Lago, and finished during a visit at the country house,
Monsagrati, not far from Lucca, of his friend the Marquis Mansi. At
the time of _Madama Butterfly_ he was back at Torre del Lago, to which
he was taken after his motor accident, but he was at this time the
possessor of another country villa at Abetone, in the Tuscan Appenines,
and in this latter place a good deal of his latest opera was set down.
He has more recently built yet another country villa on the opposite
side of the lake to Torre del Lago, on the Chiatri Hill. It is a
charming example of the Florentine style of architecture, in which
brick and marble are most skilfully blended. But Puccini told me, when
last I saw him, that so far he had only spent a week-end in it.

Puccini, who was always addicted to sport and an open-air life, went in
for motoring in the year 1901. His accident, by which he broke his leg
and suffered a great deal of pain and anxiety owing to the difficulty
of the uniting of the bone, took place in the February of 1903. He had
left his beloved Torre del Lago and gone into Lucca for a change of air
and place, owing to a bad cold and sore throat from which he could not
get free. One of Puccini's characteristics is a certain obstinacy which
very often leads him to do things in direct opposition to anything like
a command. The fact that his doctor had told him not to go out in his
car at night was sufficient, of course, for "Mr. James"--Puccini is
invariably addressed by those round him as "Sor Giacomo"--to decide on
a little evening trip; and he and his wife and son with the chauffeur
started off in the country.

About five miles from Lucca there is a little place called Vignola,
where is a sharp turn in the road by a bridge. Going at full speed,
this was not noticed in the dark, and as the car turned, it went over
an embankment and fell nearly thirty feet into a field. Mdme. Puccini
and Antonio were unhurt, but the chauffeur had a fractured thigh and
Puccini a fractured leg. Unfortunately, Puccini was pinned under
the car, stunned and bruised by the fall; and, moreover, suffered
considerably from the fumes of the petrol. A doctor, luckily, was
staying at a cottage near by, and he was able to render first aid.
Afterwards another doctor was sent for from Lucca, and it was decided
to make a litter and carry Puccini to Torre del Lago by boat, as
owing to the inflammation the leg was not able to be set immediately.
Puccini's great friend, Marquis Ginori, went with him on the boat; and,
although in great pain, the invalid found himself regretting that on
the journey so many wild duck flew within range, just at the time, as
he laughingly remarked, he could not shoot them. Three days after his
arrival home, Colzi, a famous specialist from Florence, came and set
the leg. The actual uniting of the bone was a long and tedious process,
which spread over eight months, and Puccini was not really able to
walk again properly until he had been to Paris--where his _Tosca_ was
produced at the Opera Comique--and undergone a special treatment at the
hands of a French specialist. His first visit to Paris had been in 1898
for the rehearsals of _La Bohème_.

[Illustration: PUCCINI IN HIS 24-H.P. "LA BUIRE"

_Photo. by R. de Guili & Co., Lucca_]

Puccini visited London for the first time when he came over for the
production of _Manon_ at Covent Garden in 1894. He came again in 1897
for the production in English of _La Bohème_ at Manchester by the Carl
Rosa Company. This was not, by all accounts, one of his most pleasant
visits to a country of which he is very fond. Apart from the nervous
worry of a first performance of a brand new work in a strange language,
there were difficulties which made it a peculiarly trying time for the
composer. Robert Cuningham, the Rodolfo, was unfortunately seized with
a fearful cold which made him practically speechless on the night of
the performance, and he could do no more than whisper his part. All
things considered, it is not to be wondered at that Puccini, after
spending nearly three weeks in rehearsal, decided to keep away from
the theatre on the eventful night. He has himself written down his
impressions of Manchester, as well as those of London and Paris.

"Manchester, land of the smoke, cold, fog, rain and--cotton!

"London has six million inhabitants, a movement which it is as
impossible to describe as the language is to acquire. A city of
splendid women, beautiful amusements, and altogether fascinating.

"In Paris, the gay city, there is less traffic than in London, but life
there flies. My chief friends were Zola, Sardou and Daudet."

It was when Puccini was in Paris for the production of _La Bohème_
that he first met Sardou and arranged about the setting of _La Tosca_.
Sardou invited him to dinner, and after the coffee and cigars asked him
to play a little of the music he thought of putting in the new opera.
Sardou's knowledge of music, by the way, has, to say the least of it,
its limitations, and Puccini is very loth to play anything he may have
in his mind in the way of a composition. Puccini sat down at the piano,
however, and played a good deal, which Sardou liked immensely. But
Sardou did not know that the composer was merely stringing together all
sorts of odd airs out of his previous operas.

Puccini's days at his beloved Torre del Lago are divided between sport
and work. The beginning of his house, by the way, was a keeper's
lodge, a mere hut, on the edge of the wood. It is so white that in
the distance it looks like marble, but as a building it is quite
unpretentious. There is a little garden leading down to the lake, while
at the back stretches the fine open country. He is usually up and away
early in the morning, accompanied by his two favourite dogs, "Lea"
and "Scarpia." He goes to and fro from his shoots in his motor-boat
"Butterfly." The place abounds with wild duck, wild swans and all sorts
of water-fowl, the principal quarry from the sportsman's point of view
being coots, hares, and wild boar. Puccini has been frequently snowed
up while away shooting as late as April.

To the south of the lake, in the plain, are some remains of a bath
attributed to Nero, with undoubted traces of a Roman road and a fosse.
One can hardly move a yard in Italy without coming across villas of
Lucullus, roads of Hannibal, or fields of Cataline, but this particular
place, not only from the traces of buildings which remain, but from
the result of excavation, by which many Roman remains were brought to
light, is of great antiquity.

Coming in from a "shoot" Puccini often allows the best part of the
day to pass in more or less what seems like idleness, preferring to
put down his music at night--the one relic, one may say, of his old
wayward restless ways. He works chiefly on the ground floor of his
house at Torre del Lago, in a spacious apartment which is a sort of
dining-room, study and music-room all in one. The ceiling is crossed
with large wooden beams, and he calls the Venetian blinds, which are
outside the many and large windows, "mutes" for the sun, using the
word, of course, in its sense of a device for softening the tone of
a musical instrument. The walls of the room are decorated with some
quick impulsive designs, dashed on by his friend the artist Nomellini,
representing the flight of the hours from dawn to night. For the rest,
the room is full of photographs of all sorts of distinguished people,
from Verdi downwards, and stuffed birds.

When the desire for work is upon Puccini, "it catches him," as
an Italian would say, "by the scalp," and he works at a thing
continuously. During the recovery from his motor accident he was
wheeled to the piano each day and planned out _Madama Butterfly_,
although the actual writing down of the melodies and the general work
of construction was done, of course, away from the instrument. He makes
a rough sketch of the whole score as a rule, which he subjects to all
sorts of weird alterations only intelligible to himself, and from this
makes a clean copy embodying all the process of polishing and finishing
to which the original idea was subjected.

[Illustration: PUCCINI AFTER A "SHOOT"

_Photo. by S. Ernesto Arboco_]

It is difficult to get from Puccini any particulars of his ideas and
aims. He much prefers to do things rather than to talk about them. He
has on one or two occasions, however, given a hint of his views which
may be worth putting down again. One is on the interesting question as
to dramatic instinct in music. Puccini maintains that it is a question
not of instinct but experience. He says himself that his early works
were lacking in dramatic quality, but he does not agree that if it is
not inborn it cannot be developed. He maintains that the choice of
librettos has more to do with it than anything else, and from the first
he has worked a good deal in this way by more than the usual amount
of consultation and exchange of ideas that goes on between a composer
and the writer of the book. Marie Antoinette, at the time when I had
the pleasure of talking with him, was the subject for an opera which
was, at least, uppermost in his mind. "But I have thought of many
subjects and stories," he said. "La Faute de l'Abbé Mouret and the
Tartarin of Daudet are two well-known ones. The latter is pure fun,
but I have always thought, when coming to the point, that I should be
accused, if I set it, of copying Verdi's _Falstaff_. The former, I
believe, Zola promised to Massenet. I have also thought of Trilby; and
several excellent themes for plots could be gathered from the stories
of the later Roman Emperors." One statement at least was very
characteristic of Puccini. "My next plot must be one of sentiment to
allow me to work in my own way. I am determined not to go beyond the
place in art where I find myself at home."

Puccini is very fond of the theatre, and when last in London enjoyed
the production of _Oliver Twist_--he is specially fond, in our
literature, of Dickens--and _The Tempest_.



The Dal Verme Theatre, where Puccini's first opera was produced, has
been the scene of many experiments in the art of opera. More than one
composer has been able to get a hearing there, if no more, and among
the list of trials and experiments--the value of which taken as a whole
will doubtless some day be accounted at their proper worth, and which
still come out like shades of the night to remind us how little we
appreciate native endeavour--are to be found the names of more than one
English composer. Among the notable successes which have been first
launched at this theatre is Leoncavallo's _I Pagliacci_.

The cast and general production of _Le Villi_, as has been mentioned,
was apparently more or less in the nature of a friendly "helping hand"
held out to the unknown composer. The first performance was on May 31,
1884, and the cast as follows:

  _Anna_               CAPONETTI.
  _Roberto_            D'ANDRADE.
  _Guglielmo Wulf_     PELZ.

When one thinks of modern extravagance, supposedly so necessary for
the production of a new play or musical piece, it is little short of
amazing to learn that the first performance of _Le Villi_ cost a little
over £20. Of course the main expenses were the costumes and the copying
of the orchestral parts. Puccini's fellow-students, with that generous
enthusiasm which is ever part of the artistic temperament, cheerfully
swelled the ranks of the theatre orchestra, and Messrs. Ricordi printed
the libretto for nothing.

_Le Villi_ met with a favourable verdict, and Puccini's mother received
the following telegram on the night of its production: "Theatre packed,
immense success; anticipations exceeded; eighteen calls; finale of
first act encored thrice."

The outcome of it all was that Messrs. Ricordi not only bought the
opera, but commissioned Puccini to write another, thus beginning an
association which has not only been marked by commercial success but by
a very real and close friendship.

The following year it was given in a slightly revised version, divided
into two acts, at the Scala, Milan, that Temple of Operatic Art which
is the Mecca of every aspiring Italian musician. This performance
took place on January 24, and was conducted by Faccio, the cast being
Pantaleoni, Anton, and Menotti. It was not published by Ricordi until
1897, when it appeared with an English version of Fontana's libretto by
Percy Pinkerton. In this year it was done at Manchester, at the Comedy
Theatre, by Mr. Arthur Rousby's company, Mrs. Arthur Rousby being the
Anna, Mr. Henry Beaumont the Roberto, and Mr. Frank Land the Wulf. Mr.
Edgardo Levi conducted.

Fontana's story was a curious one to be dealt with by a Southern poet;
for the basis of _Le Villi_ is found in one of those curious Northern
legends which seem to be the exclusive property of natures of far
sterner mould. The Villis, or witch-dancers, are spirits of damsels
who have been betrothed and whose lovers have proved false. Garbed in
their bridal gowns, they rise from the earth at midnight and dance in
a sort of frenzy, till the dawn puts an end to their weird revelry.
Should they happen to meet one of their faithless lovers, they beguile
him into their circle with fair promises; but, like the sirens of old
mythology, they do so only to take their revenge; for once within their
magic ring, the unrestful spirits whirl their victim round and round
until his strength is exhausted, and then in fiendish exultation leave
him to die in expiation of his broken vows.

The scene of _Le Villi_ is laid in the Black Forest. An open clearing
shows us the cottage of Wulf, behind which a pathway leads to some
rocks above, half hidden by trees. A rustic bridge spans a defile, and
the exterior of the cottage is decorated with spring flowers for the
festival of betrothal. With this, his first opera, Puccini adopted the
Wagnerian plan which he has since always adhered to, of a preludial
introduction, indicative of the general atmosphere of the drama to
follow, in place of the conventional overture. As the curtain rises,
Wulf, Anna and Roberto are seated at a table outside the cottage, and
the chorus hail the betrothed pair in a joyful measure. As the lovers
move off to the back, the chorus tells something of the prospects of
the two young people. Roberto is the heir of a wealthy lady in Mayence.
He will have to visit her for the arrangement of the details of his
inheritance, and will then return to wed the bride. The chorus then
sings a characteristic waltz measure, whirling and turning and singing
that the dance is the rival of love. It is a quick impulsive measure in
A minor, and foreshadows in a clever way the weird dance which later on
plays such an important part in the scheme. Guglielmo, the father, is
asked to join in the dance, and he does so after a short instrumental
passage leading back to the dance and chorus proper. Guglielmo dances
off with his partner and the stage is clear.

Anna comes down alone as the orchestra finish off the rhythmic figure
of the waltz. She holds a bunch of forget-me-nots in her hand, and
sings of remembrance in a characteristic melody which at once reveals
Puccini's individuality both in melody and structure. It varies
considerably in the time, and has all that impulsive charm of movement
with which Puccini always fits the situation and the sentiment. In
actual structure the melody moves along in flowing vocal phrases, but
they invariably drop on to an unexpected note and reveal thereby that
piquancy of flavour which makes them singularly attractive. Anna is
putting the bunch of flowers, the token of remembrance, in Roberto's
valise when her lover comes in. Taking the little bunch he kisses
it and puts it back, and then begs a token more fair--a smile. A
characteristic duet then follows, in which Anna gives expression to the
doubts she feels at her lover's enforced absence. A delightfully suave
second section is sung by Roberto, in which he tells her of his love,
strong and unending, born in the happy days of childhood. Anna catches
the spirit of his fervent devotion, and the duet ends with their voices
blending in a song of triumphant trust. The voices end together on a
low note, but the orchestra carries the melody up to a high C by way
of a climax, and then gives out a bell-like sound skilfully preceded
by a chord of that somewhat abrupt modulation in which Puccini always
delights, which portends the approach of night and the departure of
Roberto. This bell-like note of warning comes in again during the short
interlude which leads to the chorus, who return to sing of Roberto's
departure ere the bright beams of sunset fade in the western sky.

Roberto bids Anna to be courageous, and asks her father's blessing.
Slow and solemn chords usher in Guglielmo's touching prayer, in which
after the opening phrases the lovers join their voices, repeating the
sentiment of his pious utterances. Towards the end the full chorus is
added to the trio; and this solidly written number, backed by a moving
orchestral figure, ends impressively. Anna sings her sad farewell, the
voice rising to a characteristic high A, and a short orchestral passage
finishes the scene.

The second act is headed "Forsaken" in the score, and to the opening
prelude is attached a short note explanatory of what has happened
in the meanwhile. "In those days there was in Mayence a siren, who
bewitched all who beheld her, old and young." Like the presiding
spirit of the Venusberg who held Tannhäuser in thrall, so Roberto is
attracted to her unholy orgies and Anna is forgotten. Worn out by
grief and hopeless longing Anna dies, and in the opening chorus of the
second act we learn that she lies on her bier, her features of marble
paler than the moonlight. An expressive and solemn funeral march, the
main theme of which is indicated by this preceding chorus, is then
played by the orchestra, during which the funeral procession leaves
Guglielmo's house and passes across the stage. In order to add to the
air of mystery this is directed to be done behind a veil of gauze. At
the end, a three-part chorus of female voices chants a phrase of the
_Requiescat_. The tableaux curtains are dropped for a change of scene.
The place is the same, but the time is winter, and the gaunt trees are
snow laden. The night is clear and starry, and pulsing lights flash
from the sides, adding their lurid and fitful brilliance to the calm
cold light of the moon.

With a sharp detached full chord in G minor, the weird unearthly
dance begins in quick duple time, the quaint rhythmic melody being
composed of staccato triplets. Out of the darkness the figures of the
witch-dancers appear and join in the dance as the frenzy increases. It
is a highly characteristic movement, and one can hardly agree with the
critic who on its first production, as will be seen hereafter, wished
that it might be in the major key. For an uncanny, utterly restless
and grim effect, most subtly presented by means of purely legitimate
music, this number stands as an exceptionally fine example. The dance
ends, and the witch-dancers are swallowed up in the darkness, while
Guglielmo comes out to dwell on the villainy of Roberto and the cruel
wrong done to his dead child. The prelude to his plaintive number is
prefaced with a striking descending passage for the chorus. As he
sings of the pure and gentle soul of his daughter, the legend of the
witch-dancers comes into his mind, but at once he prays for forgiveness
for such unworthy thoughts of vengeance.

From a passage for the hidden voices of the sopranos we expect the
approach of Roberto. The recalcitrant lover is startled by the sounds
he hears, but he thinks remorse, and not the Villis of the legend,
is the cause of it. Into his mind there flashes the remembrance of
all that has passed, and he goes towards the cottage-door with a
pathetic hope that Anna may still be living. But he starts back as
some irresistible force compels him to retreat. Again he thinks a wild
fancy has deceived him, but once more the voices sound the note of
approaching doom. "See the traitor is coming." He kneels in prayer, but
at the end comes in the sinister phrase, "See the traitor is coming."
He rises from his prayer to curse the evil influence that has wrought
his destruction.

Then, at the back, on the bridge, appears the spirit of Anna. Amazed,
Roberto exclaims, "She is living, not dead!" but Anna replies that she
is not his love but revenge, and reminds him, by a repetition of her
solo in the first act, when she sang to the bunch of forget-me-nots,
of all his broken promises. Roberto joins in this strenuous and
moving duet, and accepts with resignation the fate that has been
too strong for him. Torn with the anguish of remorse he expresses
his willingness to die. Anna holds out her arms, and Roberto seems
hypnotised. Gradually the witch-dancers come on, and surrounding
the pair dance once more in frenzy row carry them off. Over the
characteristic dance is now placed a full chorus. The words "whirling,
turning," which frequently occur as the movement gains in intensity,
show the connection with the joyous measure in the first act. In this
we find one of those effects of unity which, although slight enough in
many cases, reveal the hand, if not exactly of a great master, of an
original thinker and a particularly finished craftsman. Roberto, at
the end of the main section of the chorus, ending on a long sustained
top A, and then dropping sharply to the tonic (it is still as before
in G minor), breaks away breathless and terrified and strives to enter
the cottage; but the spirits drive him again into the arms of Anna,
and once more he is drawn into the whirlpool. With a last despairing
shriek, "Anna, save me!" he dies; and Anna, with an exultant cry of
possession, vanishes, while the chorus change the words of their song
to a shout of exultation.

By this first effort, slight in texture as it is, Puccini gave
unmistakable evidence of that power of giving, by a series of detached
scenes, an idea of impressionistic atmospheric quality which was
afterwards so beautifully achieved in his _La Bohème_. From the
criticism of Sala, who, as we saw in a preceding chapter, was present
at the meeting at Ponchielli's house which led to the production of
the opera, we get a sound idea of the general effect and trend of the
music, which is worth quoting. It appeared in _Italia_ of the day
after the performance, at which, it may be mentioned, Boïto applauded
vigorously from a box.

"It is, according to our judgment, a precious little gem, from
beginning to end. The prelude, not meant to be important, is full of
delicate instrumental passages, and contains the theme afterwards used
in the first duet between the lovers. The chorus which follows is gay
and festive and shows masterly handling of the parts: the waltz, which
we should have preferred in a major key, is entrancing, one of the
most characteristic numbers of the opera is the duet between Anna and
Roberto. The prayer of benediction is another inspired page, in spite
of its length. The polyphony of the vocal parts is masterly and the
melodic flow most charming. The symphonic nature of the intermezzi
which connect the scenes, more particularly the wild dance of the
spirit forms, distinctly points to the arrival of a great composer."

While the salient points of the music appear to have been unerringly
seized upon by the writer, the subtlety of the composer in making the
first dance of the peasants foreshadow the furious revelry of the
witch-dancers appears to have escaped the critic. But this desire for
strongly marked effects is after all essentially typical of the race.
In Italy, the clear, radiant sky, the pure air, the glorious strength
of the light, does not permit of an appreciation for half-tones and
the fascination of shadows. If all need not exactly be dazzlingly
bright it must be quite distinct. _Le Villi_ was a remarkable first
opera, but it has not succeeded in keeping a place in the current
repertory. The music is unquestionably dramatic, but the whole
structure, words and music, has not that quality of characterisation
which, together with the necessary dramatic force, makes up the
theatrical effectiveness without which no opera can ever expect to hold
the stage. To use a hackneyed phrase, _Le Villi_ has the defects of
its qualities, but from the freshness and individuality of its music
there is no reason why it should not be given in our concert-rooms as
a cantata. The dance movement, after all, would lose nothing by being
given as an orchestral piece, and the spirit forms might well be left
to the imagination. At any rate, _Le Villi_ is, by a very long way,
a far greater work than many a so-called "dramatic" cantata. These
things take the place in our provincial towns of the opera abroad; and
since we do not appear in the least likely to establish opera houses,
it would be a good plan for the British composer to take Puccini's _Le
Villi_ as an example of what might be done with a cantata--an opera,
after all, played without action or scenery.



With his second work for the stage, _Edgar_--the libretto being by
Fontana, the author of the opera-ballet _Le Villi_--Puccini adopts the
designation of lyric drama. _Edgar_ is in three acts, and with it the
composer attained to the dignity of a first performance at the Scala,
Milan. It saw the light on April 21, 1889, with the following cast, the
conductor being Faccio:

  _Edgar_        GABRIELESCO.
  _Gualtiero_    MARINI.
  _Frank_        MAGINI COLETTI.
  _Fidelia_      AURELIA CATAREO.
  _Tigrana_      ROMEIDA PANTALEONE.

The vocal score was not published by Ricordi until 1905.

The theme of the drama is the familiar one of a man tempted by passion,
who swerves from the "strait and narrow path," and who afterwards makes
atonement. In the case of our hero, Edgar, the atonement comes too
late, and the end, as in _Carmen_--which in general dramatic outline
may be called the foremost if not the first operatic exploitation of
the idea--is Tragedy.


In front of his book Fontana places a foreword to the effect that we
are all Edgars, because fate brings to each of us love and death. He
winds up with a moral statement, true if trite, that it is wrong to let
ourselves be dragged away from pure love to mere sensual passion.

The action takes place in Flanders in the early fourteenth century. The
scene of the first of the three acts shows us a square in a Flemish
village, at the back of which is Edgar's house, and before it an almond
tree. On the one side is the entrance to a church, on the other an inn.

Over the distant landscape dawn is breaking. With a bell effect, of
which Puccini is so fond, the simple prelude begins. The plain and
straightforward progression of light chords is French in character, but
the bell effect is established musically by the simple leap of a fifth
in the bass. The chords continue, with a filagree figure placed above
them, and from delicate musical suggestion the effect turns to realism
as the bell itself sounds, ushering in the notes of the unseen chorus,
as the Angelus rings from the church.

Edgar is asleep on a bench before the inn, and peasants and shepherds
cross the stage, greeting each other as they go to their daily toil.
Fidelia, the daughter of Gualtiero, then comes on to the balcony and
salutes the dawn in a characteristic melody which, although not based
on the bell theme in the way of the use of a representative phrase,
seems very naturally to grow out of the musical idea. She calls to
Edgar and comes down, plucking a branch from the almond tree. Fidelia
continues her address to Edgar in a melody which is much more broken in
rhythm than her former one; and on her departure a curious chromatic
passage, which seems to presage unrest and stress, leads to the entry
of the chorus, who repeat, from afar but coming nearer, their greeting
to the dawn, while Edgar turns to go after Fidelia.

Strongly dramatic and of distinctive colour is the orchestral passage
which accompanies the entrance of Tigrana. She is a gipsy girl, who has
been brought up by the villagers. She enters with a species of lute--or
guitar, more properly perhaps--called the dembal, a stringed instrument
in common use even now by descendants of the Magyar race. She laughs at
Edgar with a fine scorn of his tame admiration for the gentle village
damsel. "There! I have made Fidelia run away," she sings with a mixture
of sarcasm, irony, and hypocrisy. "I am so sorry. I did not know a
pastoral love affair was at all in your way."

Gualtiero, Fidelia's father, now comes on, and, with the gathering
crowd of villagers, enters the church. The beginning of the voluntary
on the organ is heard, and over and above this simple diatonic,
ecclesiastical tune, come, in skilful and expressive contrast, the
remarks of the gipsy girl to Edgar, by which she reminds him that she
has opened to his nature the delights of an intense full-blooded love
in place of the mildly inocuous affection of peasant girls. "Trot
along, good little boy," she sings, "and go to church." Edgar's feeling
about the matter is quickly shown by his emphatic "Silence, demon!"
which comes out like the crack of a whip. But Tigrana only laughs at

As Tigrana turns to go into the inn she is stopped by Frank, the
brother of Fidelia. Frank is in love with the gipsy girl, and from
him we learn that fifteen years ago she was abandoned in the village.
Questioned as to her doings, Tigrana tells Frank that he is a tiresome
bore, while he proceeds with the not very tactful method of reproaching
her for her ingratitude. "You were the child of us all," he sings, "and
we did not know we were nursing a viper in our midst."

Tigrana, who is not given to wasting much time with preliminaries,
tells Frank that if he has any regard for his virtue he had better not
be seen talking to her; and she goes towards the inn. Frank bursts out
with the confession that he has tried to tear her out of his heart, but
although she brings nothing but grief to him she remains there in full

From the church comes the sound of a fragment of a motet, begun by the
sopranos and swelling out afterwards in a six-part chorus. Tigrana
sits on the table outside the inn and jeers at the piety of those
peasants who, not being able to find room in the church, kneel outside
and join in the devotion. To her dembal she sings a quaint and springy
sort of tune which is thoroughly impudent in character. With a murmur
of disapproval, which afterwards grows into a demand, the peasants
indignantly ask her to desist from her frivolity. As she proceeds with
her melody the peasants threaten to take stronger measures to stop
the interruption to their prayers, and Edgar, coming out, rushes at
once to Tigrana's defence. This open devotion to her cause apparently
surprises the villagers greatly, and Edgar finds himself called upon at
once to make up his somewhat vacillating mind. With rather curious and
certainly sudden access of ardour, he rails against his lot, and curses
the home of his fathers. Egged on to a species of frenzy, he rushes
into the house and comes out bearing an ember from the hearth. In spite
of the efforts of the villagers to restrain his mad impulse he flings
the brand into the house, and clasping Tigrana to him, announces his
intention of fleeing with her. Frank then rushes on to prevent their
departure, and the two young men draw their daggers. A lull in the fray
is caused by the entrance of Gualtiero and Fidelia from the church; and
the old man's counsel for peace backed up by pious ejaculations from
the crowd, seems likely at first to prevail. But Tigrana puts an end
to Edgar's hesitation, and he attacks Frank with fury. Frank is badly
wounded, and falls in his father's arms as the chorus curse Edgar for a
reprobate, and the curtain falls as the house, now well ablaze, lights
up the scene with its lurid glare.

The second act shows us a terrace in a garden with the brilliantly
lighted rooms of a sumptuous mansion glimmering in the distance.
The stillness of the night is broken by the sounds of revelry, more
languorous than strident. The chorus, which sing of the splendour of
the night, is made up of two sopranos, an alto, two tenors, and a
bass; and the essentially nervous, close harmonies--the light detached
phrase begins with a chord of the 13th--establish the atmosphere.
There is some fine and characteristic music in this rather long scene
between Edgar and Tigrana, who have, it is easy to understand, been
partaking too freely of the joys which soon pall. Edgar is weary of
his enervating surroundings, and his thoughts turn to the glory of
the April dawn and the calm love of Fidelia. Tigrana taunts him with
reproaches, and there follow the inevitable mutual recriminations. In
vain does she bring her fascinations to bear upon her lover. The sound
of drums and the march of soldiers is heard, and Edgar calls out to
them as they pass to stay their march and partake of his hospitality.
Tigrana at once begins to be suspicious. Frank, as it turns out, is
the captain of the band. Edgar hails him with joy as the saviour of
the situation. "Frank, forgive me," he cries. "You alone can save me
and enable me to redeem my past." Tigrana is distracted, but she is
powerless to prevent Edgar's departure, and with a menacing gesture she
sees her lover go, a characteristic phrase from the chorus forming the
background to the last utterances of the principals concerned in this
short and not particularly convincing act.

The third act is prefaced with a short prelude of melancholy mould.
The rising curtain discloses a courtyard within a fortress at
Courtray. In the battle which raged round this castle, the Flemish,
it will be remembered, with very few numbers--and these only armed
with agricultural implements for the most part--conquered the French
army led by Philip Le Bel. Their opponents were decoyed into a sort
of marshy swamp, and were not only hampered by their large retinue,
which included carriages, women-kind, and all sorts of paraphernalia,
but imagined that they were only to meet a handful of ignorant churls.
There is a chapel on one side of the scene, and distant trumpet calls
are heard as a funeral _cortège_ proceeds to range itself around a
hearse, and the monks in the procession light tapers.

Preceded by a draped banner, the soldiers bear on the body of a knight,
fully armed, which they place on the hearse and then deck it with
flowers and wreaths. Standing apart from the crowd are Frank and a
monk, while in the background are seen Fidelia and her father. The
chorus chant a _Requiescat_, and then Fidelia sings a most moving and
pathetic farewell, for the armed knight is Edgar. It may be stated,
however, that the monk who stands apart is really Edgar, who, for no
very clear or convincing reason, has chosen to be a witness of his
supposed funeral celebration.

Frank now adds his praise to the farewell of Fidelia, and extols in
an oration the splendid courage of the man Edgar who died for his
fatherland. Then the monk does a seemingly strange and unwarrantable
thing. He tells the soldiers that their hero, before death, directed
that all his misdeeds should be proclaimed publicly, in order that his
life might set an example in true penitence. The monk then relates
the story of Edgar's past life, and discloses among other details the
relations existing between the dead man and Tigrana.


_Specially photographed by Adolfo Ermini, Milan_]

Fidelia, filled with horror at the supposed treachery, boldly asks how
the soldiers dare to listen to this besmirching of their leader's
honour. The soldiers, however, appear to believe the tale, and make
an attempt to drag the body off to throw it to the vultures. The monk
is touched by the loyalty of Fidelia, who is prepared to defend, with
her life if needs be, the body of her hero. "By death," she cries, "he
has expiated his sins. Leave me to watch him through the night, and my
father and I will bear his body away in the morning and find for it
some resting-place in his native village." The monk then kneels for a
space by Fidelia; and the soldiers, touched by her devotion, move off,
and Fidelia leaves with her father.

Tigrana now enters, and, like Fidelia, would pay her tribute of
respect to the dead man. Frank and the monk, however, after a little
consultation, put a little plan of theirs into operation, and approach
Tigrana. "Would that I were the object of your grief," says Frank. "One
tear of yours is worth a thousand pearls." The monk then comes out with
some rather plainer speaking, and deliberately bribes the erstwhile
gipsy with some jewels if she will do their bidding. Tigrana very
readily falls into the trap and the soldiers are recalled. The monk
now calls on Tigrana to speak out, and prove that Edgar was a traitor
to his country. She hesitates for a moment, but finally acknowledges
that the accusation is true. In righteous anger the soldiers rush to
the hearse and drag the body away, but the armour is found to be merely
the empty pieces and no body is encased therein. Fidelia and her father
now come on, and the fraud is disclosed to them. "Yes," cries the monk,
throwing back his cowl, "for Edgar lives." Fidelia, at first stunned
by the joyful discovery that her lover lives, throws herself into his
arms, and Tigrana is spurned by the soldiers. With an exclamation, "I
am redeemed, only love is the real truth," Edgar leads Fidelia towards
the castle. Like a tiger cat, Tigrana follows them, and with a savage
leap stabs Fidelia, who dies instantly. Edgar and Frank turn and seize
the murderess, and the soldiers, with a bloodthirsty cry, hale her off
to instant execution. With a cry of despair Edgar falls senseless
across Fidelia's body.


_Specially photographed by Adolfo Ermini, Milan_]

Notwithstanding many serious shortcomings, _Edgar_, as a lyric drama,
contains much that is sincere and appropriate. It was not a success on
its first representation, and the blame was laid for the most part on
the libretto. Seeing, however, in the history of opera how many a worse
book has passed muster, it is a little curious that Puccini's second
work should have been so completely laid on the shelf. It is not the
lack of dramatic qualities that make the story of _Edgar_ a poor one;
it is rather that the story, as a play, does not contain enough of
characterisation to really retain the interest. In spite of the weak
third act, with its supposed dead body, and the hero in disguise, the
music of this section, both from its wealth of melody, its treatment,
and above all its powerful expressive qualities, stands as the best in
the work. A finer or more moving scene than that of Fidelia's farewell
is hardly to be found in the whole range of what may be termed modern
opera. Taken as it stands _Edgar_ proved that Puccini had emphatically
progressed beyond his achievement of _Le Villi_. Amid the sweet
notes of love there come strong and virile expressions of anger, tumult
and indignation, but the main theme is kept clearly to the front with
all that force that stands as the leading characteristic of Italian
opera, old or new--definite and direct vocal expression.

Puccini himself had, and still has by all accounts, a very warm
affection for this _Edgar_ of his; and it is not at all unlikely that a
revised version may be seen in the near future. Indeed, as it stands,
it might very well be permitted the test of a revival.



Auber was the first opera-composer to be attracted by the Abbé
Prévost's famous romance _Manon Lescaut_. It is one of those vivid
stories of love and passion which have ever made an appeal to those
in search of a theme for musical expression. As drama it has a very
close connection with life in general, and its human interest has that
full flesh-and-blood quality which gives it a certain quick vitality.
Sad and sordid it may be; but the story of the wayward Manon, as
fascinating a black sheep as ever graced the pages of fiction--or
history--is one which is likely to remain in the common stock of tales
which provides novelists with material for practically all time.


The chief romances of the Abbé are the _Mémoires d'un Homme de
Qualité_, _Cleveland_, and _Doyen de Killerine_ (the two latter, by
the way, books which show the result of his sojourn in England). While
these exhibit certain well-marked qualities, they are completely
cast into the shade by _Manon Lescaut_, his masterpiece, and one
of the greatest novels of the eighteenth century, while, from its
characterisation, it may be pointed to as the father of the modern
novel. The Chevalier des Grieux is an embodiment of the saying "Love
first and the rest nowhere," and it is curious that the Abbé made a
French translation of Dryden's once famous play on the same theme,
_All for Love_. Manon, as a creation, is a triumph, one of the most
remarkable heroines in fiction, springing red-hot as it were from the
imagination of the wandering scholar who brought her into existence.
It is all the more extraordinary that the novel which at once makes an
appeal by its interest and sincerity, but which repays study as a work
of art, should have been a sort of appendix to his first work.

Some years after Auber's opera had been laid on the shelf--it never
attained to any great popularity--Massenet, a notable "modern" French
composer, found by means of its story the expression of quite the
best that was in him. Since _Carmen_ modern French opera has no such
masterpiece of its kind to show. Massenet's _Manon_ was produced
in 1884, and in the fulness of time Puccini turned to the same
story, and after planning his own _scenario_, commissioned Domenico
Oliva--dramatic critic of the _Journal d'Italia_ of Rome, and author of
a play _Robespierre_ which had attained no little success--to write the
"book." This was afterwards so drastically altered and remodelled by
Puccini, in consultation with Ricordi, the publisher, that in justice
to Oliva, his name as the author of the libretto was removed from the
published score.

It was produced in 1893 at the Regio Theatre, Turin, on the 1st of
February, conducted by Alexander Pomé, and cast as follows:

  _Manon_                   FERRANI.
  _The Dancing Master_      CERESOLI.
  _Des Grieux_              CREMONINI.
  _Lescaut_                 MORO.
  _Geronte_                 POLONINI.
  _Edmund_                  RASSINI.

For a new work by a composer whose reputation at that time, much to the
wonderment of native judges and musicians, had not traversed beyond
Italy, its production in England was remarkably quick. It was given
the next year, on May 14, 1894, at Covent Garden with the following
cast, comprising a special company of Italian singers brought together
by Messrs. Ricordi, of which the exceptionally fresh chorus appears to
have been the chief point of excellence:

  _Manon_                   OLGHINA.
  _Des Grieux_              BEDUSCHI.
  _Lescaut_                 PINI-CORSI.
  _Geronte_                 ARIMONDI.

and A. Seppilli was the conductor. The occasion was interesting in more
than one way. The season under Sir Augustus Harris began on the very
unusual day--a Whit-Monday. The opera house had been renovated entirely
and re-upholstered, with new seats and curtains, and glittered fresh
in all the glories of paint and gilding. Tradition has it that this
was the only time in forty years--since the building of the present
house in fact--had a broom ever been known to go into every corner. Yet
another point makes this opening of the season memorable. It began with
this new opera of Puccini's, and then gave Verdi's _Falstaff_ the same

Without making an "odious" comparison it is obvious that reference
should be made to Massenet's work and the differences between that and
Puccini's opera briefly touched upon.

In both versions certain departures are made, so far as the story
goes, from the original tale. Let us first examine Massenet's book.
This opens in the courtyard of an inn at Amiens to which Lescaut, a
soldier who is evidently given to loose living, brings his pretty
little sister Manon _en route_ for the convent school to which she is
destined. She meets with the handsome Chevalier des Grieux, and easily
falls in love with him. The quiet life of schoolroom and convent does
not make a very strong appeal to the high-spirited girl, and she very
quickly decides to run away to Paris, and give her brother the slip.
At first honourable intentions as to the pretty and confiding Manon's
future seem to weigh with the lover, but in the second act we find
them installed in the customary _ménage à deux_, Des Grieux's father
having declined to give his consent to a marriage. Thus almost at
the beginning Fate seems to be against Manon, and she accepts only
too easily the situation and--drifts. Des Grieux's "sinews of war"
being anything but opulent, it is easy to understand why the offers
of the aristocrat De Bretigny are too tempting for Manon to refuse.
To him she transfers her affections, and we next see her established
at Cours-la-Reine, the fêted and admired mistress of Bretigny. But
during the ball she hears that her former lover has renounced the world
with its pomps and vanities and is preparing to take orders. With
that instinct known as the truly feminine, Manon immediately makes up
her mind that she wants Des Grieux back again; and after a strenuous
scene at the seminary of S. Sulpice we find, in the third act, that
Des Grieux has thrown his good resolutions to the winds and is again
with his charmer. Manon by this time has become rather more than a
fragile butterfly from whose wings the bloom has been brushed. She is
now running a gambling den, with the help, apparently, of one of her
numerous admirers. Des Grieux and this person come to loggerheads,
and the latter informs the police of the nature of the gaming house,
and Manon is ignominiously dragged off to the lock-up. The last scene
shows us Manon being taken by road to Havre, from whence she is to be
shipped, in company with other undesirables, to the New Continent. Des
Grieux sees her, and begs the warder to allow him an interview. Worn
out by remorse and weakened by her former life, Manon, now reduced to
the last stage of infirmity, dies peacefully in her lover's arms.

Puccini's librettists follow a different plan, and the _Manon_ of the
Italian composer is a species of impressionistic scenes more or less
loosely strung together, which, while they demand perhaps a knowledge
of the story for their full appreciation--and to opera goers the story
is, of course, quite familiar--exhibit that quality of conjuring
up the atmosphere not so much of the actual place and characters,
but of the spirit which underlies the pathetic tragedy. In short,
Puccini's _Manon_--music and story, for it is impossible to separate
them--exhibits that skilful picturing of the theme which is even more
apparent in the subsequent work, _La Bohème_.

In Puccini's opera we find after the meeting of Manon and Des Grieux at
the inn at Amiens that the gay young lady is installed as the mistress
of Geronte, and rather less stress, perhaps, is laid on the part her
rascally brother plays in the transaction. By giving the final scene
in America, whither Des Grieux follows the ruined girl, Puccini's
librettists follow the Abbe's original story rather more closely.
Other actual differences will be noted by following the plan, as in
the previous chapters, of giving a more or less detailed story of the
opera, with plot and music side-by-side.

Puccini begins his _Manon_ with a short, bustling, vivacious prelude
which continues for some twenty bars or so after the rise of the
curtain, which discloses, as in Massenet's first act, the exterior
of an inn at Amiens, with a crowd of citizens, students and girls,
strolling about the square and the avenue. One of the students, Edmund,
sings of the beautiful night dear to lovers and poets, and the band
of his merry companions cut his vapourings short with laughter and
jest. Presently the work-girls come down, and Edmund sings to two of
them a graceful, lively fantasy of youth and love, which is afterwards
taken up by the chorus of students. In characteristic fashion, the
citizens join in, and we get one of those solidly written but vivacious
choruses, a form which Puccini handles so well and dexterously, with
similar splendour of technic to the immortal Leipsic Cantor, keeping
each part clear and effective. Des Grieux comes on and laughingly asks
some of the girls whether among them is to be found the one his heart
dreams of. The chorus continues in its gay spirit of song, dance and
laughter until the sound of a postillion's horn calls their attention
to the arrival of the coach from Arras. An orchestral passage repeating
the brisk theme of the opening prelude leads up to the entry of the
diligence, from which Lescaut and Geronte di Lavoir descend, the latter
assisting Manon to alight. While the travellers give their orders to
the landlord, Des Grieux catches sight of Manon, and is attracted by
her face and figure. The crowd has dispersed and the students settle
down to cards, and then Des Grieux speaks to the girl. In a pretty
little musical dialogue, which Puccini always expresses so dramatically
and with a sort of naturalness that may be called colloquial, the pair
make each other's acquaintance, and, like the conventional action
of writing of letters on the stage, the result is arrived at in the
twinkling of an eye. Manon is called off by her brother's voice, and
Des Grieux has his first love song, a tender impassioned melody full
of great charm and lyrical strength. Edmund and the other students
then chaff him as to the fair charmer good fortune has sent him,
and Des Grieux makes his escape to think over his conquest. Another
typical number, a duet in chorus between the students and the girls
in a quick valse time, is broken by the arrival of Geronte and the
brother, from whose dialogue we learn the sister is destined for a
convent, and that the brother is not at all sorry to be quit of
his responsibility in the matter of looking after her. Geronte di
Lavoir, the elderly and lecherous nobleman, appears to be a chance
acquaintance, who has met with Lescaut and his sister while travelling
in the coach. The carelessness of Lescaut and his evidently mercenary
nature fits in only too readily with Geronte's desires, for he is
immediately attracted to the artless little girl from the country and
lays his evil plans. Darkness falls on the scene. Lescaut is attracted
to the card-players, and joins them quickly in the hopes of adding to
his store of wealth, and Geronte bargains with the innkeeper for a
post-chaise and some swift horses, giving instructions that a lady will
want to pop off very quickly to Paris in a short time. Edmund overhears
this little plot, and discloses it to his friend Des Grieux. A short
characteristic orchestral passage with a changing unrestful rhythm
leads up to Manon's entrance. With a _naïveté_ expressed in the music
she sings, she comes to Des Grieux and tells him that she has kept her
thoughtless promise. In a beautifully phrased impassioned passage Des
Grieux urgently presses his suit. Manon, who continues to hang back a
little, is overcome, and when an interruption from her brother, on whom
the effects of wine is beginning to tell, startles them out of their
ecstatic rapture, she attempts to return to the inn. But Des Grieux
takes her away, and tells her of the plot of the old reprobate to
abduct her, and urges her to escape with himself.

Edmund now tells Geronte of the escape of his prize, and that
disappointed old _roué_ tries to rouse the brother from his lethargy.
Lescaut decides that pursuit is worthless, and suggests following the
pair to Paris, whither he is sure they have gone. Geronte stifles his
fury and goes in to supper, while the students join in with a merry
chorus, laughing at the old man's discomfiture as the act ends.

A few bars of a light tripping measure against a slight accompaniment
of pizzicato chords from the strings opens the second act, the scene
of which shows Manon installed in Geronte's luxurious house in Paris.
Manon's toilette is being finished off by the perruquier, and the
detached remarks and inquiries for the various articles necessary are
musically "popped in" with a skilful hand. The brother comes in, and
while the finishing process is still proceeding, he congratulates his
sister on the transference of her affections from the penniless Des
Grieux to the rich old nobleman. Manon, however, is by no means "off"
with the old love, and in a tender little melody she sings of the
humble dwelling where she and her lover passed a blissful time. Like
so many of Puccini's melodies it begins by a reiteration of a single
note, which gradually spreads itself into a lyrical flow. This works up
into an expressive little duet, in which Manon longs for Des Grieux's
return, and Lescaut promises to make him a successful gamester in order
to gather in the necessary funds.

Some singers now arrive, and Manon explains that Geronte is a composer,
and likes to air his art for her delectation. A mezzo soprano then
begins a tuneful madrigal of a pastoral character, pleasantly
melodious but which hardly gives the idea, in full, of a certain
stilted artificiality which is the peculiar flavour of the period.
The other female voices join in a three-part chorus. Manon is rather
bored with their music, and directs her brother to give them some money
to get rid of them. The brother then departs to find Des Grieux, and
Geronte and his friends arrive to a dainty little orchestral measure of
the character of a minuet, with its fanciful little trills and twirls,
but with its syncopated bass to preserve the idea of movement and
progress. The dancing-master gives some hints in deportment to Manon,
and the chorus of Abbés and other friends of Geronte's murmur their
admiration at her graces. In a spirited little number Manon, who has
politely told the company not to interrupt her lesson, sings to Geronte
of the pleasure she is experiencing in her present life, and with
characteristic skill the chorus is worked into the scheme as part of
the musical fabric, and not merely as a decorative background.

After the departure of Geronte and his guests, Des Grieux, who has been
told of Manon's whereabouts by the brother, comes in. The scene between
them is musically full of emotional force, Des Grieux expressing
his loneliness and despair at Manon's flight, while Manon deplores
her weakness and assures him of her love in spite of all that the
present situation entails. The highly dramatic duet works up to a fine
intensity, and at the end their voices blend in a clever climax of a
kind--a few strenuous reiterated notes in unison taking an upward leap
at the finish--so characteristic of the composer. Their happiness is
short lived, for Geronte comes in and puts them to confusion. After
cajoling him into something like sweet reasonableness, Manon thinks
the little affair will blow over. But her truly feminine desire for a
compromise, a gentle slipping over of things, is not to be fulfilled.
Des Grieux, when they are once more alone, tells Manon that her present
life is impossible, that she must give it all up and fly with him.
He has a fine broad melody when Manon tries to return to her plan of
letting things go on as they are. Manon is moved by his intensity, and
begs once again for forgiveness, and agrees to wholly give her heart to
him. Lescaut now rushes in breathless to acquaint Des Grieux and his
sister that Geronte has put the police on their track. The scene works
up into a clever trio of quick movement, Manon imperilling herself
and her companion by her desire to carry off as much spoil as she can
lay hands on. Geronte, attended by a sergeant and two men, block the
entrance, and Manon in her surprise and agitation drops her cloak,
and the jewels roll to the floor. With this effective finish--Manon
being arrested, as we may suppose, in this instance for larceny, and
the grimness of the situation intensified by the rascally brother's
double-dealing in the matter being hinted at--the act closes, Des
Grieux being held back from rescuing his beloved, and uttering a cry of

Before the third act comes a characteristic orchestral interlude,
in which the Wagnerian plan of continuing the story by means of a
symphonic tone poem is employed with individuality by Puccini.
This intermezzo deals with two main ideas or phases, first the
imprisonment of Manon, and secondly the sad journey to Havre, the port
whence the _filles de joie_--how intensely sad is the irony of the
description!--are to be taken over seas. To the score is appended a
quotation from the Abbé Prévost's story, giving the clue to the strain
of passion that comes in the music of this number, and blends skilfully
with the sadness and the sense of movement which are its leading
flavours, so to speak.

Des Grieux says in the story, "How I love her! My passion is so ardent
that I feel I am the most unhappy creature alive. What have I not
tried in Paris to obtain her release. I have implored the aid of the
powerful. I have knocked at every door as a suppliant. I have even
resorted to force. All has been in vain. Only one thing remains for me,
and that is to follow her--go where she may--even unto the end of the

The scene of the third act shows the square near the harbour at Havre,
with the sea and a ship in the distance. To the left is the barracks
serving as a temporary prison, and at the gate a sentinel keeps guard.
Des Grieux and the brother have evidently been keeping their vigil
all through the night, and dawn is about to break. Very poignant and
striking is the fevered agitation shown in the dialogue passages which
open the scene. The brother has done his best to arrange for a rescue
when his unhappy sister shall be brought forth and marched on board.
The sentinel who now comes on duty has been bribed, and Des Grieux is
able to hold a conversation with Manon through the barred window. As
the night passes into day, the all too short interview ends, and Des
Grieux gives some final instructions to Manon. But the plans for the
rescue fail, and Lescaut comes back to tell Des Grieux of their failure
as the clamour of citizens and soldiers is heard. After a spirited
snatch of chorus, the roll on the drums gives the signal for the gate
of the barracks to open, out of which the women, in chains, pass out to
the ship. The chorus in some telling little abrupt phrases pass remarks
as the various names are read out, and the vivacious comments and rough
laughter heighten the effect of sadness as Manon and Des Grieux snatch
their last farewell. Manon hangs behind a little, only to be roughly
pushed on by a sergeant. Then it is that Des Grieux's despair gets the
upper hand. "Kill me," he cries, "or take me along with you as your
meanest servant." The captain is touched by his devotion, and in the
bluff, good-natured fashion of the sailor, agrees to take Des Grieux.

In the fourth act the death of Manon puts an end to this sad but
very human tragedy. The music is one long duet, full of the highest
emotional expression, and musically reaches to the highest heights
of pure tragedy. The scene shows us a desolate dreary plain on the
outskirts of New Orleans. Manon and Des Grieux by their dress and
manner show the destitution of their circumstances. "Lean all your
weight on me, love," murmurs Des Grieux, as he supports his companion,
worn out by fatigue and privation. Manon suffers from thirst, and Des
Grieux, who can find no water in this arid waste, goes out to search
farther afield. Memories of the life that is past now come to torture
poor Manon, and when Des Grieux comes in again he finds her hopelessly
distraught and at the point of death. Very touchingly does the music
Manon sings picture the ebbing life, the faltering breath, the approach
of the end; and, with a long, low phrase on one note, Manon, whose last
words are that her love for Des Grieux will never pass although her
sins will be cleansed away, sinks peacefully in her long last sleep.
Bursting into tears Des Grieux falls senseless over her body.

It is inevitable to return to a comparison between this work of
Puccini's and that of Massenet. Massenet remains supreme in his own
place from the delicate and spirited characterisation of his music.
His Manon is essentially French, entirely of the eighteenth century,
bringing out in the music all the artificiality, all the airs and
graces. While the story is not without flesh and blood, it remains
as a thing apart, moving in its own sphere, full of its own special
atmosphere. Puccini takes the same French story and gives us a moving
lyric drama, which is on a far broader plane, is essentially human and
common to every place, every race and all time, since it deals with
purely elemental passions.

Since _Manon_ was the work by which Puccini's operatic music was first
given to the English music-lovers, the following extracts from the
critiques which appeared after its first performance in England will
be of interest.

There is nothing which brings back the past so vividly as the
fascinating process of turning up back files of daily papers. The
actual day and all the "common round" come back like a living thing; so
many of the "trivial tasks" seem to assume quite a special importance
of their own. To read the advertisements, the announcements of
concerts, theatres and picture galleries, is to remember events and
pleasant moments which have long passed out of one's mind. Speaking as
a journalist, the astonishing thing to me is that the daily paper of
twelve years ago or so should seem such an old-fashioned thing to look
at. One does not feel this with regard to the journals of a far more
remote age. It is only these few recent years that seem to have rushed
along at such a fearful pace.

The _Morning Post_ calls attention to the enterprise shown by
producing a new work on the opening night of the season and promising
another--Verdi's _Falstaff_ to wit--within the first week.

Mr. Arthur Hervey, its critic, says: "Now that Italian composers have
once more come to the fore we may expect to be well provided with
operas from the quondam land of song, and now the home _par excellence_
of the melodramatic opera. Mascagni and Leoncavallo having been duly
welcomed, it is now the turn of Puccini, the much applauded author of
_Manon Lescaut_." After pointing out the differences in the two books,
he says that they offer the same amount of similarity the one to the
other as do those of Gounod's _Faust_ and Boïto's _Mefistofele_. "The
seeds of Wagnerian reform have not fallen on barren ground. Puccini
reveals himself in _Manon_ as a composer gifted with strong dramatic
power, possessing an apparently innate feeling for stage effect and
considerable melodic expression. His score is exempt from the crudities
and vulgarities from which certain modern Italian operas are not
free. The entire first act is treated with a wonderful lightness of
touch. In the grand duet between Manon and Des Grieux in the second
act, the composer has fully risen to the height of the situation. His
music is full of melody and passion. It ends in a decidedly Wagnerian
fashion which evokes recollections of _Tristan und Isolde_. We have
only singled out a few salient features in a work that is remarkable
from many points of view, not the least of which is its sincerity of
purpose, and we cordially congratulate the composer upon having made so
successful a _debut_ amongst us."

In contrast to the _Times_ critic, the writer says: "The inevitable
intermezzo separates the second from the third act. It reproduces
some of the motives heard in the above-named duet, and is extremely

In the _Academy_ of May 19, 1894, Mr. J. S. Shedlock writes: "The
composer has really something to say, and has said it to very great,
though not the best, advantage. At present he is too strongly
influenced by Wagner and by others to display his full individuality.
The influence of Wagner is specially marked not so much in the use of
representative themes as in phrases and melodies which recall _Die
Meistersinger_, _Tristan_, and _Siegfried_. As, for example, the music
in the first act, when Manon descends from the coach, or the opening
of the intermezzo.... Of the four acts, the second and fourth appear
to us the strongest ... the love duet between Manon and Des Grieux is
a masterpiece of concentration and gradation, the fine broad phrase
at the close, afterwards heard with imposing effect at the end of the
third act and with tender expression in the fourth, ought alone to
ensure the success of the work.... Of course, in a modern opera an
intermezzo is indispensable. Puccini, however, gives to his distinct
dramatic meaning: the coda with its orchestration is original and

The _Times_ said of _Manon_, on May 15, 1894, that in melodic structure
and general cast of its phraseology the new work has many points
of affinity with the most popular productions of the young Italian
school; but it is far above these in workmanship, in the reality of its
sentiment, and, above all, in the atmosphere. It supposes that Puccini
is the author of his own book, and on the whole prefers Massenet's
libretto, and points out that the climax of the piece, musically, if
not dramatically, is the penultimate scene, outside the prison at
Havre. The finale to this scene in which occur the comments of the
crowd on the prisoners, some of whom are covered with confusion, while
others are jauntily defiant, is hailed as the finest number in the
work. The weakest thing in the opera is, according to this critic, the
intermezzo, but an atonement is made by the opening of the third act.
The work, he concludes, amply deserved the very enthusiastic reception
it obtained.

Even at this short distance of time it is something of a curiosity
to read that the National Anthem was sung, under Signor Mancinelli's
direction, at the beginning of the evening by the choristers grouped
round a bust of the Queen.



The mere fact that _La Bohème_, Puccini's fourth work, to which he
gave the plain title of opera, is his most popular composition for the
stage, makes one all the more inclined to search more minutely for
weaknesses. But with repeated performances (for it has passed into the
regular repertory of all opera houses wherever it has been played) its
unity, both as an idea and an expression, comes out more and more with
remarkable distinctness.


It captured the Italian ear and taste immediately, and babies were
christened Mimi and Rodolfo just as ten years before, Santuzza and
Turiddu, culled from Mascagni's _Cavalleria Rusticana_, were favourite
baptismal appellations. It did not take long for England--represented,
in this instance, by the comparatively limited number of
opera-lovers--to take it to its heart. It delighted fastidious France
and even satisfied hypercritical and essentially conservative Germany.
Of all Puccini's work, it exhibits perhaps the most spontaneity, and
as a piece of modern music--if the melodies themselves, apart from
their very definite piquancy and freshness, do not rise to any vast
heights of emotional expression--its absolute continuity is certainly
a very high artistic achievement and stands unquestionably as its most
striking feature.

Illica and Giocosa provided the book, and their idea in providing the
framework is clearly indicated by the prefatory note to the vocal
score. They begin with a quotation from the preface to Murger's _Vie
de Bohème_, of which the thoroughly impressionistic opera is a most
spirited musical expression. _The Bohemians_, under which title the
opera was first presented in England, does not express by any means the
exact nature of the work. It is the spirit of Bohemianism--that curious
almost undefinable quality, which in reality simply means the absolute
living for, and in, the mood of the moment, and is not by any means
the entire monopoly of the artistic temperament--that is portrayed by
the dramatic scheme. In the matter of following Murger's story, which
as a novel is the most free in the whole range of modern literature,
the librettists have been careful to give the spirit rather than the
letter. They even roll two characters, Francine and Mimi, into one;
for they find that although in Murger's book characters of each person
are clearly defined, one and the same temperament bears different
names and is incarnated, so to speak, in two different persons. "Who
cannot detect," they say, "in the delicate profile of one woman the
personality both of Mimi and Francine? Who as he reads of Mimi's little
hands, whiter than those of the Goddess of Ease, is not reminded of
Francine's little muff?"

The librettists were content to string together four more or less
detached scenes from the story. Save for the death of Mimi at the
close, there is no real climax to any of the four acts. In the first
act, the two chief characters go off and sing their final high note
in the passage; in the third, where they part more in sorrow than in
anger, the situation is varied between a similar device of finishing
the duet "off" or by quietly sitting up at the back of the scene. These
two, out of many points of subtlety, are mentioned merely as showing
Puccini's mastery in catching the essential spirit of the dramatic
scheme, which is atmospheric, or purely impressionistic. The supremacy
of his art is shown in a very marked way by the preservation of the
continuity of the idea by the musical expression. In this _La Bohème_
stands as a very notable modern work solely because of its absolute
keeping to the idea which dominates it. Leoncavallo set the same story
to music, writing the book himself. As a mere adaptation of a novel
for stage purposes, the dramatic portion of this opera, which keeps
the stage in France and Germany, may be pointed to as offering certain
points of superiority. But the music is certainly not atmospheric nor
impressionistic, and the two works never really come into rivalry.
Puccini's _La Bohème_ is absolutely on its own plane, and in its own
particular way supreme.

_La Bohème_ was composed partly at Torre del Lago and partly in a villa
which Puccini took for a time at Castellaccio, near Pescia. It was
given for the first time at the Teatro Regio, Turin, on February 1,
1896, Toscanini being the conductor, and cast as follows:

  _Rodolfo_                 GORGA.
  _Marcello_                WILMANT.
  _Schaunard_               PINI-CORSI.
  _Colline_                 MAZZARA.
  _Benoit_    }
  _Alcindoro_ }             POLONINI.
  _Mimi_                    FERRANI.
  _Musetta_                 PASINI.

Its first appearance in England was interesting from the rare fact that
a new opera should not only be produced within a year of its production
in its native land, but that an English company should be the first to
present it in our native tongue. With the title _The Bohemians_ it was
given at Manchester on April 22, 1897, at the Theatre Royal, by the
Carl Rosa Company, conducted by Claude Jacquinet, and cast as follows:

  _Rodolfo_                 ROBER CUNINGHAM.
  _Marcello_                WILLIAM PAUL.
  _Schaunard_               CHAS. TILBURY.
  _Colline_                 ARTHUR WINCKWORTH.
  _Mimi_                    ALICE ESTY.
  _Musetta_                 BESSIE MACDONALD.

It was given at Covent Garden in English, in the October of the same
year, with practically the same cast. Madame Alice Esty, from whom I
learnt several interesting particulars, not only of the production of
the opera, but of the work in general, and some of the past history of
the wonderful organisation which is still doing such excellent work
in keeping alive the love for opera in English, was the first English
Mimi, although she was born in Boston. There were many difficulties in
the production, and, strange to say, the part of Mimi was first offered
to Mdlle. Zelie de Lussan, the well-known exponent of the part of
Carmen, not only in English, but in French as well. The photograph of
Mdme. Alice Esty shows her in the last Act of _La Bohème_; and it will
be noticed that she wears, not the customary black gown of the little
seamstress, but one of some pretensions to magnificence. She followed,
she told me, the idea of the composer, who particularly wished to
bring out the fact that Mimi, after parting with Rodolfo, had formed
an alliance with a rich viscount. This little incident, it will be
remembered, is duly referred to by Musetta in the text.


I have also talked with Puccini about this first English performance of
_La Bohème_. "I always feel about past performances," he said, "in the
same way as dead people. Let us say nothing about them but good. But I
shall never forget the shock it was to me on arriving at the theatre to
find the disposition of the orchestra in a fashion which I have never
seen except at a circus. Out of two boxes at each end the bass brass on
the one side and the drum on the other gave forth detached blares and
pops which really frightened the life out of me. They did not seem to
have anything to do with the general musical scheme. I heard this band
rehearsal start, and then I saw that the right idea, simply because of
the square-cut idea as to the tempi on the part of the conductor was
absolutely away from the spirit of the work. I asked the band to take
a rest and then took two rehearsals with the piano myself. It was
not long before the artists, all of them sincerely concerned with the
proper interpretation of my ideas, and myself got into complete accord.
I was very pleased on the whole with the way it eventually went, and
although I did not see the subsequent London production, Ricordi told
me that the Manchester performance was far more spontaneous."

How wonderfully Puccini is able, by playing a score of his on the piano
and by his eloquent directions as to interpretation, to convey his
subtlest meaning to an artist, I can speak from actual knowledge. I
have heard him take a singer through a good deal of this very opera.
Under his almost magical hands, a well learned interpretation is
transformed into a genuinely spontaneous interpretation. Puccini in the
present year of grace, when I told him that I had seen an important
opera revived in the provinces with the same strange disposal of the
orchestra which had caused him such distress, threw back his head and
roared with laughter, not in the least unkindly. "You are a delightful
people and seriously artistic, but you will keep on doing such funny

For a long time, however, Mdme. Melba, who in this country has
invariably, since her first performance of the part in Italian here,
been seen in the character, has appeared in the final scene in much
the same plain dress as in the opening Act, the reason, doubtless,
being that Mimi's loneliness and poverty should be emphasised. Lately,
however, Mdme. Melba has reverted to the original method of dressing
the part, and appears in the last scene in an even more elaborate
evening gown of pale blue satin, with a cloak, and dispenses with a hat.

_La Bohème_ was brought to London after its first production, as we
have seen, and was played about twenty times that season. The Covent
Garden production in Italian was two years later, on June 30, 1899,
when Mancinelli conducted, the cast being as follows:

  _Rodolfo_                 DE LUCIA.
  _Marcello_                ANCONA.
  _Schaunard_               GILIBERT.
  _Collins_                 JOURNET.
  _Benoit_    }             DUFRICHE.
  _Alcindoro_ }
  _Mimi_                    MELBA.
  _Musetta_                 ZELIE DE LUSSAN.

It will be noticed that the gifted lady who was in the mind of the
Carl Rosa authorities, for their initial production, as Mimi, was then
seen in the particular part for which her temperament fitted her. By
substituting Caruso as the Rodolfo--it is one of the very finest parts
of this tenor--and Scotti as the Marcello, we have practically the same
cast as that with which this opera at the present time fills Covent
Garden; invariably one of its most brilliant audiences.

In June 1898 Paris saw _La Bohème_ at the Opera Comique, for which
performance the composer visited the French Capital, for the first
time, to superintend some of the first rehearsals. It went to America
in the December of the same year, when it was mounted at the Academy of
Music, Philadelphia, and sung in Italian. Melba was the Mimi, De Lussan
the Musetta, and Pandolfini the Rodolfo.

New York had seen it, in English, at the American Theatre, in the
previous month. This production, in which the Rodolfo was J. F.
Sheehan; the Mimi, Yvonne de Treville; and the Musetta, Villa Knox,
was by Henry W. Savage's Castle Square Opera Company. It was given in
French at New Orleans in the winter of 1900 by Barrich's Company. It
was first given in Germany at the Ander Wren Theatre, Vienna, Frances
Saville being the Mimi and Franz Naval the Rodolfo.

Coming to the story, which with the music is by this time so familiar
to opera-goers, the composer, in characteristic fashion, plunges us
at once, without scarcely as much as a few bars of prelude, into the
midst of things. At the outset the atmosphere is established by the
restless, vivacious, detached and spirited phrase which, if it hardly
ever assumes the proportions, musically considered, of a leading
theme, at least flavours very strongly the whole musical fabric. It
may well be taken to represent the free unrestrained spirit of the VIE
DE BOHÈME. The curtain rises quickly, and we see an attic, inhabited
by the quartet of gay spirits, those bold adventurers, as Murger calls
them, who are stopped by nothing--rain or dust, cold or heat. Every
day's existence is a work of genius, a daily problem. Now abstemious as
anchorites, now riding forth on the most ruinous fancies, not finding
enough windows whence to throw their money. Truly, as Murger puts it, a
gay life yet a terrible one!

Rodolfo, the poet, gazes pensively out of the window, Marcello, the
artist, is painting the passage of the Red Sea. It is Christmas Eve,
and the cold is bitter: and to keep the stove alight, they burn up a
MS.--a drama--of Rodolfo's.

All through this scene of colloquial and snappy dialogue, the music
runs with remarkable movement. Soon Schaunard the musician comes in. He
has been lucky enough not only to find a job but to get paid for it;
and he tells us it was an Englishman who employed him. He has bought
provisions with the spoil, and they spread the feast, in true Bohemian
fashion, with a newspaper for table cloth. They begin the meal with
light-hearted merriment, when the landlord comes in to collect his much
overdue rent. That worthy is amazed to find his tenants can pay it, and
after taking a glass with them, and chatting about his _amours_, the
four irresponsibles get rid of him. They then decide on a visit to the
café Momus in the Latin quarter, and leave Rodolfo behind for a space,
as he has to finish an article for the _Beaver_. "Be quick, then," says
Marcello, "and cut the _Beaver's_ tale short."

As Rodolfo sits at the table to work, a timid knock is heard at the
door, and Mimi, the pretty little seamstress who occupies a room
near the roof, and who is already in the grip of the fell disease,
consumption, comes in to ask for a light, her candle having been
extinguished by the draught in the passage. She is evidently worn out
by cough, cold and fatigue, and Rodolfo, after reviving her with a
little wine, makes a remark as to her delicate beauty. Mimi, however,
has not come to chatter or to be flattered, and with thanks, prettily
expressed, she departs for her chamber. Fate, in the shape of a lost
key, sends her back again, and the draught in the passage puts out
not only Mimi's candle, but Rodolfo's as well. While they both search
for the key, Mimi's cold little hand touches that of Rodolfo, and
the latter clasps it; and he then tells her of his life and aims and
prospects in the beautifully melodious number, _Che gelida manina_,
which, like so many of Puccini's themes, seems to grow out of the
reiteration of a single note, swelling out in a delightful emotional
fulness. Mimi tells Rodolfo of her work, and how she embroiders flowers
on rich stuffs, which make her think of the green fields and the sweet
scents of the country side; how lonely she is all by herself in her
little top attic; how she takes her frugal supper all alone. The two
natures are quickly brought together, and Mimi is soon in Rodolfo's
arms and has received his first passionate kiss. The three friends
outside now call up to him, and he says he has three lines to finish,
but that he will join them anon, and that he wants two places kept
at the supper table. With a full confession of her love, Mimi takes
Rodolfo's arm, and their last notes, "My love, my love," are heard as
they descend the staircase.

At the café Momus--the exterior of which we see as the curtain rises on
the second Act, preceded by a clever and vivacious phrase given to the
trumpets in the orchestra--our four brave Bohemians were known as the
Four Musketeers, since they were inseparable. "Indeed," says Murger,
"they always went about together, played together, dined together,
often without paying the bill, yet always with a beautiful harmony
worthy of the conservatoire orchestra."

In this scene, which is full of life and movement--showing in the
treatment of the chorus, formed of children, people, soldiers,
students, work girls, and gendarmes, that beautifully polished
technique in melodic construction which makes Puccini so strong and
in every way a master musician--the lively Musetta comes on the
scene. Once more may Murger's own words fittingly recall her to mind.
"Mademoiselle Musetta was a pretty girl of twenty, very coquettish,
rather ambitious, but without any pretensions to spelling. Oh, those
delightful suppers ... a perpetual alternative between a blue brougham
and an omnibus: between the Rue Breda and the Latin quarter."

Although the incidents represented appear to follow consecutively, it
is a little strange to find a sort of _al fresco_ entertainment in
progress after the references to the bitter cold in the preceding Act.
At any rate, whether the dramatist's license be allowed or not--and
we may easily imagine a flight of time to have taken place since the
happenings in the opening Act--the café Momus, in this second Act, is
so full that our quartet of Bohemians, with Musetta and her elderly
admirer, take their supper _en plein air_. There is little of incident,
or progress of events, in this lively scene. Musetta is reconciled
after singing her delicious song, in slow waltz form, to her Marcello,
and the fatuous old Alcindoro is left to pay the bill of the whole
party. Yet against this, the sense of movement and gaiety, shown by the
ever-moving crowd, and the incident of the toy-seller Parpignol--just a
plain slice of life put down on the stage in a truly modern method--is
beautifully worked out in the music, and never for an instant does it
flag in vivacity.

Musetta comes into prominence again in the third Act. Again is the
weather intensely cold, and the chill drear atmosphere is indicated in
the music at the opening by the subtle passage of bare fifths, which
is further remarkable as a purely musical effect from its connection
with the trumpet passage which heralded the second Act. The scene is a
place beyond the toll-gate, on the Orleans road, at the end of the Rue
d'Enfer. Over a tavern hangs Marcello's picture as a signboard, with
its title altered to the Port of Marseilles, signifying its adaptation
to its environment.

Two scenes of parting dominate the dramatic plan of this Act, that
of Rodolfo and Mimi, and that of Marcello and Musetta. They are
cleverly contrasted. Very pathetically does Mimi's "addio senza
rancor" come from the depths of her simple little heart, while the
end is foreshadowed by the hacking cough which frequently chokes her
utterances. Musetta is taken to task by Marcel for flirting, and off
she goes after a strongly dramatic duet, which for characterisation and
force is one of the most distinctive numbers in the opera; and after
her exit, in a fury, Mimi and Rodolfo appear to agree, indicated by
the last phrases of their tender duet, to continue together, for yet a
space, in the old relations.

In the fourth Act we are back in the attic; and the quartet of
Bohemians are once more struggling with the problem of keeping body
and soul together. Two of them, Rodolfo and Marcel, at any rate, are
lonely, for Mimi has been taken up by a viscount, and Musetta, dressed
in velvet--through which, as Rudolfo tells Marcel, she cannot hear her
heart beat--is riding in a carriage. But with all their troubles they
keep a stout heart and are able to jest over the herring and rolls
which Schaunard and Colline bring in for dinner. They dance and romp,
and play the fool in the lightest hearted manner until Musetta suddenly
breaks in upon their pretended jollity. The end is reached rapidly.
Mimi has come home to die, and this she does after an intensely sad,
simple and moving scene, stretched, as they placed her, on Rodolfo's
hard little bed. Infinitely touching is Mimi's reference, in her last
words, to the song which Rodolfo sang in the opening Act. She begins
_Che gelida manina_ only to break off in a fit of coughing. Marcello
has gone out to fetch a doctor and Musetta brings a muff to warm the
dying girl's fingers. Mimi's spirit passes away however before aid can
be brought to her, and the pathos of the situation is intensified by
the silence in which it takes place. It is Schaunard who whispers to
Marcello that she is dead. To Rodolfo's last despairing cry of "Mimi!
Mimi!" as he realises that his loved one is no more, does the curtain

There is little to point to in the music save its chief and outstanding
feature, its continuity. In this the whole charm and strength of the
work lies. Orchestrally, the score of _La Bohème_ is a beautifully
polished one, not so symphonically complete as _Manon_ for instance,
but essentially individual. For fulness as a constructional background
one may point to the orchestration of the duet in the first Act; for
daintiness of effect, the use of harmonics on the harp against the
muted strings in Musetta's waltz-song; while many happy touches are
seen all through, such as the xylophone and muted trumpets at the
toy-sellers' entrance in the café scene; or again, the striking passage
in fifths at the opening of the third Act, given to the harp and flutes
over the 'cellos playing _tremolo_. The orchestra employed is the usual
large modern orchestra, with a piccolo, glockenspiel and xylophone.
Considerable use is also made of the division of the 'cellos, in many
places, into three.

The complete success, notwithstanding certain difficulties that have
been referred to, of the first performance of the opera in this
country, was duly chronicled in London, on the day following the event,
in _The Times_. The notice states that the composer was called at the
end and bowed his acknowledgments, from which it would appear that
he was prevailed upon at least to appear on the fall of the curtain,
although, by all accounts I have heard from those who took part in the
performance, Puccini adopted the custom--followed, if we may believe
certain traditions, by certain notable playwrights--of wandering up and
down the streets until the _première_ was over.

The writer of the notice in question places the work on a higher level
than _Manon_, speaks of the highly dramatic intensity reached by simple
means in the scenes between Mimi and Rodolfo, notices in the absence of
set songs the Wagnerian method of continuous melody, and sums it up as
a decided success gained by the beauty of its melody, the refinement of
the music as a whole, the cleverness in the handling of the themes, and
by the absence of clap-trap. The performance is spoken of as a genuine
triumph, in spite of the leading tenor's hoarseness.





With his next opera--for _Tosca_ is the only one of his works so
entitled by the composer--Puccini made a rather curious reversal
of the proceedings as compared with _La Bohème_, taking it from an
Italian story treated from the French point of view. From the old world
story of Murger, Puccini turned to a notable example of modern French
stagecraft, in Sardou's drama of _La Tosca_. His librettists again were
Giocosa and Illica, and they provided the composer with a strikingly
apt presentation of the grim story; not one, perhaps, that lends itself
altogether to musical expression, but one which certainly grips the
attention and carries the hearer along. By _Tosca_, Puccini certainly
sustained his now universal popularity made manifest by the preceding
_La Bohème_. It was given first at the Costanzi Theatre, Rome, on
January 14, 1900, conducted by Mugnone, and cast as follows:

  _Tosca_                   DARCLÉE.
  _Cavaradossi_             DE MARCHI.
  _Scarpia_                 GIRALDOIN.
  _Angelotti_               GALLI.
  _The Sacristan_           BORELLI.

London saw it in the summer of the same year at Covent Garden, where
it was given on July 12 with the following cast, Mancinelli being the

  _Tosca_                   TERNINA.
  _Cavaradossi_             DE LUCIA.
  _Scarpia_                 SCOTTI.
  _Angelotti_               DUFRICHE.
  _The Sacristan_           GILIBERT.

In America, _Tosca_ was first given in Italian on February 4, 1901,
at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, by Maurice Grau's company,
the cast and conductor being the same as that for the first Covent
Garden performance, with the substitution of Cremonini for De Lucia as

Its first American production in English was by Henry W. Savage's
company, at the Teck Theatre, Buffalo, and cast as follows, Emanuel
being the conductor:

  _Tosca_                   ADELAIDE NORWOOD.
  _Cavaradossi_             JOSEPH SHEEHAN.
  _Scarpia_                 W. GOFF.
  _Angelotti_               F. J. BOYLE.
  _The Sacristan_           FRANCIS CARRIER.

In the music of _Tosca_ Puccini reveals, more powerfully perhaps than
anywhere, that quick instinct of the theatre which may be called
dramatic, or merely a very clever fitting of music to the mood of the
moment. It is, in fact, very purely melodramatic, the word being used
here not in its accepted sense of the traditional "tootle-tootle" in
the orchestra when the wicked villain pursues the innocent and sorely
tried heroine. The story is tragic in all conscience, but it hardly
reaches the level of true tragedy, since it is more horrible than
impressive, and lacks that restraint and poetry which are two necessary
qualities. This much must be said for the operatic version. It is a
shade less revolting, less purely realistic than the drama, and it
undoubtedly provides a splendid acting _rôle_ for the exponent of the
name part; while the lover, and the villain--Scarpia, the chief of the
police--are provided with opportunities, very little behind, in point
of vocal and dramatic effect. One could very well imagine a production,
on prevailing lines set upon elaboration of detail, in which Puccini's
music, or a great deal of it, was used purely as incidental music.
This suggestion, however, must in no way be taken to mean that as a
whole the music of this opera lacks continuity of interest or fails
to exhibit the close and essential union between speech and song.
There are many pages of strong and definite lyrical charm, but somehow
the main interest lies in the action which fascinates the spectator,
rather, one feels, against his better--or more calm--judgment. It is,
in short, a most moving picture of love, hate, jealousy, passion and
intrigue. These, after all, form the great bulk of the material for
operatic treatment; and without entering into the question whether
_Tosca_ is or is not a work for all time, it has certain very "live"
attributes which make it a notable achievement.

The scene in the first act shows the Attavanti Chapel in the Church
of Saint Andrea della Valle in Rome. The strenuous, shuddering chords
which preface the short prelude are representative of the cruel nature
of Scarpia, whose personality dominates the scene--more than this, the
figure seems to give at once the atmosphere of stress, and hints at a
wealth of incident which characterises the whole of that which is to

A man in prison garb, harassed, dishevelled, well-nigh breathless with
fear and haste, comes in and glances hastily this way and that. This is
Angelotti, a victim of Papal tyranny, who has escaped from the Castle
of S. Angelo; and his entrance, it will be noted, is also characterised
by a theme always associated with him throughout the work.

On a pillar is an image of the Virgin, and underneath it a stoup. "My
sister wrote to tell me of this spot," says Angelotti, as he searches
for the key which will open the chapel and allow him to escape. While
he searches in feverish haste the string of chromatic chords carries on
the idea of his agitation. With yet another glance to reassure himself
that he has not been followed, he opens the gate in the grille of the
chapel and disappears.

A light tripping figure ushers in the Sacristan, and it continues for
a space while he walks to the daïs, on which is an easel and a covered
picture. He complains of the bother he has in washing the brushes of
the artist who is painting an altar-piece. He is surprised not to find
Cavaradossi painting. The Angelus rings, and the Sacristan kneels and
continues the prayer.



Cavaradossi now comes in, and a broad melodious phrase is heard as
he ascends the daïs and uncovers the picture. The Sacristan is
amazed to find that it represents the features of a lady who has
been frequently to pray in the church, and is further shocked when
the artist draws forth a miniature and compares it with his figure,
into whose features he has incorporated the dusky glow and peach-like
bloom of his beloved Floria. The phrase indicated at Cavaradossi's
entrance now swells out in a lyrical melody in which he sings that his
Madonna's eyes are blue, while Tosca's are dark as a moonless night,
the Sacristan punctuating the rhapsody with a pious ejaculation to the
effect that the artist scorns the saints and jests with the ungodly.

After the Sacristan's departure to a snatch of his characteristic
phrase, Angelotti, believing the church empty, comes out of the chapel.
Cavaradossi does not at first recognise, in this prison-worn creature,
his friend the Consul of the Republic. Tosca's voice is heard, and
the artist makes a sign to Angelotti to remain yet a little while in
hiding, and on hearing that the fugitive is spent with hunger, he gives
him the basket left, for his refreshment, by the Sacristan.

A quick moving figure, accompanied by triplets, announces Tosca's
entrance, and she thinks that she has heard her lover conversing
with another woman, and even declares she heard the swish of skirts.
Cavaradossi attempts to embrace her, but she reproves him, and first
makes an offering before the Virgin's shrine. This done, she tells
him that although she is singing at the theatre that evening, the
piece is a short one, and proceeds to sing in a delightfully suave
melody, which increases gradually in intensity, of the delights of love
in a quiet secluded cottage far away from all worldly distractions.
Cavaradossi comes in at the close with an impassioned burst on a
characteristic high note, in which he says that he is caught in the
toils of her enchantment. The artist makes as his excuse for her
quick dismissal the need of continuing his work on the picture, but
his frequent glances towards the chapel show that his anxiety for his
friend is the cause of his agitation. But Tosca now comes in sight of
the picture, and is struck by the resemblance of the face to some one
she has seen. She immediately connects the whispering she has heard
before arriving upon the scene and the anxious looks towards the chapel
together as a proof that Cavaradossi has been meeting the original of
the picture. The incident, however, leads up to a further avowal of
devotion on the part of Cavaradossi, and their voices blend together
for a brief space in a delicious bit of melody. Tosca elects to be
comforted, and with a final thrust she goes out, requesting her lover
to change the lady's eyes to black ones.

Angelotti now comes out of the chapel and tells of his plan of escape.
Cavaradossi gives him the key of his villa, and indicates the way
he may reach it. Angelotti takes up the bundle of clothes left by
his sister for his disguise--the sister being the lady who has been
frequenting the church of late, and who has attracted the artist's
attention--and goes off, while his friend tells him, as a final
precaution in case of urgent need, of a passage that leads down to a
cellar. Just as Angelotti is going the cannon sound from the fortress,
giving the signal that the prisoner's escape has been discovered.

On their exit, the Sacristan enters, followed by choir boys,
acolytes and a crowd of people. The Sacristan tells them the news of
Bonaparte's defeat, that there will be rejoicings and a new cantata
for the occasion sung by Tosca, and his snatch of melody is cleverly
derived from the theme heard on his first entrance. The choir boys
burst out into a great riot of joyous merrymaking, beginning with "Te
Deum" and "Gloria," and breaking out into "Long live the King," the
Sacristan trying his best to drive them into the sacristy to vest
for the festival service. Their jollity is cut short by the entrance
of Scarpia--whose sinister theme breaks in characteristically, as
always--followed by Spoletta and others of his staff. After bidding
them curtly prepare for the solemn "Te Deum," he motions the rather
frightened Sacristan to his side, and tells him that a State prisoner
has escaped, and from information received has been tracked here. He
asks which is the Attavanti Chapel, and the facts that the gate is open
and that a new key is in the lock give at once a clue.

A police agent comes out of the chapel and brings with him the basket
given to Angelotti by Cavaradossi; and Scarpia, after a little more
judicious questioning of the Sacristan, is able to guess that the
fugitive has been assisted by the painter.

Tosca now comes back, and after signalling to the Sacristan, Scarpia
retires behind a pillar, watching her as she looks about for
Cavaradossi. To serve his own ends, he decides to rouse the jealousy of
the woman; and after a little flattery, expressed in a suave, flowing
melody, he brings out a fan and mildly inquires whether it forms any
part of the customary outfit of a painter. From the coronet on it Tosca
recognises it as belonging to the Marchioness Attavanti, who is the
sister of Angelotti, and a member of the family to whom the chapel is
dedicated. Forgetful of Scarpia's presence and the place where she is,
Tosca, in a finely emotional passage--broken into now and again by
Scarpia, who rams home his poisonous suggestions--bewails the weakness
of her lover; and the wily Scarpia, after tenderly escorting her to the
church door, despatches an agent to watch her closely. His exultation
at having fired her jealousy is punctuated twice by the sound of
cannon; and into the rather curious triplet accompaniments is worked
the opening phrases of the organ, which signals the approach of the
procession of the Chapter, with the Cardinal, to whom Scarpia makes a
reverence as he passes him.



"Our help is in the name of the Lord, who hath made heaven and earth,"
sing the Chapter and monks, while Scarpia continues his musings as to
the business he has on hand. From the mere catching of the escaped
prisoners his thoughts turn to lustful possession of Tosca; and the
whole scene, finely contrasted, is worked up with superb force into
one of those magnificently solid finales which reveal the technic of
Puccini so emphatically. The cannon continue to go off--the sound
is managed, by the way, by striking a huge cone over which is
stretched, drum-fashion, a tight skin--the whole crowd turn towards the
high altar, the stately "Te Deum" swells through the church, and at the
end, Scarpia, after saying that for Tosca he would renounce his hopes
of heaven, joins in the last phrase: "All the earth shall worship Thee,
the Father everlasting." The curtain descends quickly to the harsh
progression of chords forming the Scarpia theme.

The second act shows us Scarpia's room in the Farnese Palace. It is on
an upper floor. To the left a table is laid, and at the back a large
window looks over the courtyard.

Scarpia is at supper, and looks at his watch from time to time
impatiently. "Tosca is a famous decoy," he sings; "to-morrow's
sunrise shall see the two conspirators hanging side by side on my
tallest gallows." Ringing a handbell, which is answered by Sciarrone,
he inquires whether Tosca is in the Palace, and learns that she
has been summoned thither. Scarpia orders the window to be thrown
open, and borne on the evening air comes the sound of a gavotte
from the orchestra which is playing in one of the lower rooms at
an entertainment given by Queen Caroline. Very skilfully is this
graceful little melody, just sufficiently archaic in its mould to be
characteristic of the period, used as a background for the clever
dialogue which follows, from which we learn that Tosca is to be lured
to the Palace in the hope of seeing Cavaradossi. Spoletta comes in
to give an account of his visit to the villa, and enrages Scarpia by
telling him of Angelotti's escape. The minister is somewhat mollified
when Spoletta tells him that he promptly secured the painter. Now,
with striking effect, the dance measure gives place to a cantata,
proving that Tosca is in the Palace in the Queen's apartments.
Scarpia's directions as to securing Cavaradossi are worked into the
musical fabric with consummate effect, and continue as the painter,
now a prisoner, is led in. Cavaradossi breaks off from his curt and
guarded replies to Scarpia's questioning on hearing Tosca's voice. He
denies strenuously that Angelotti received any aid from him, and even
laughs at his examiner. Scarpia shuts the window in anger, and the
repetition of his characteristic similar phrase leads up to a strenuous
passage in which determination is skilfully depicted in contrast to
the almost colloquial movement of the preceding passages. "Once more,"
says Scarpia, "where is Angelotti?" and from a remark by Spoletta the
application of the process torture to wring a confession from the
prisoner is hinted at. Tosca now enters, and runs quickly to her lover,
who tells her quickly in an undertone not to say a word of what she
has seen at the villa. As Scarpia signals to Sciarrone to slide back
the panel which leads to the torture chamber, he says formally, "Mario
Cavaradossi, the judge is wanting to take your depositions." Sciarrone
then gives the directions to Roberto, an underling, to at first apply
the usual pressure, and to increase it as he will direct him.

Then follows a highly dramatic scene, ushered in with a characteristic
theme indicating the torture which Tosca's lover is to undergo, between
Scarpia and Tosca, in which the latter dismisses the fan episode as
a feeble trick to rouse her jealousy. Scarpia, however, comes very
quickly to plain speaking, and tells Tosca that she had better confess
all that she knows as to the escape of Angelotti if she wishes to
spare Cavaradossi an hour of anguish. Tosca learns with horror that
a fillet of steel, gradually tightening round the temples, is being
applied to Cavaradossi's head, and on hearing his groan of pain, she
relents and bursts out that she will speak if he is released. But
Mario from within calls on Tosca to be silent, and that he despises
the pain. Scarpia directs further pressure to be applied. Tosca is
allowed to gaze through the open door, and, distracted by what she
sees, signifies her intention of revealing all she knows. Her mind
is made up when she hears another groan of anguish, and she tells
Scarpia that Angelotti is to be found in the well in the garden of the
villa. Scarpia now orders Cavaradossi to be brought in. From Scarpia's
directions to Spoletta, the fainting victim, nearly at his last gasp
by what he had endured, learns of Tosca's treachery, and curses her.
This painful scene, finely worked up as it is in intensity, comes to a
climax by the news brought in by Sciarrone of the victory at Marengo
by Bonaparte. This enrages Scarpia, but he will at least keep the
victim he has in hand; and Cavaradossi, exulting as he foresees the
downfall of the minister, is borne off. Tosca now turns to Scarpia, and
implores him to save Cavaradossi. Splendidly dramatic is the closing
scene, beginning with Scarpia's light and airy remark that his little
supper was interrupted, and rising to heights of emotional fulness
when Tosca asks him outright to name his price for saving her lover's
life. Tosca's horrified scream, to a rising passage of two high notes,
when she listens to Scarpia's lascivious proposals, thoroughly fits
the situation. The drums are used cleverly to indicate the march of
the prisoners to their doom, and the setting up of the gallows for
Cavaradossi, and in contrast to Scarpia's sinister passages, comes the
broad lyrical and impassioned prayer of Tosca, who rails at God for
having forsaken her in her hour of need. Scarpia presses his infamous
proposals, when Spoletta returns, and speaking outside brings the news
that Angelotti has poisoned himself rather than allow himself to be
taken. A question as to the disposal of Cavaradossi brings the climax,
and Tosca, by taking upon herself to give directions as to this,
indicates her consent to Scarpia's wishes. But this master of deceit
will not allow the release to be managed in any but his own way. He
tells Spoletta that there will be an execution, but it will be a sham
one, as in the case of another prisoner, by name Palmieri, the guns
being loaded with blank cartridge only, and the victim instructed to
fall and feign death. But Tosca wants more than this on her side of
the bargain. Scarpia must give them both a passport out of the place,
and as he goes to the table to write it Tosca's eyes catch sight of
a knife on the table. In an instant her mind is made up, and as he
returns to give her the paper, and to clasp her in a feverish embrace,
she plunges the knife into his heart. The death-scene is perhaps a
little prolonged, but seeing that it has been preceded by the torturing
of Cavaradossi, it is at least logical that Tosca should remind him of
the ghastly torture he inflicted on her loved one. The intensity of
the scene is rounded off by the expressive phrase on a low monotone
of Tosca, "And yesterday all Rome lay at this man's feet." The action
to the finishing notes of this moving scene follows that of the play.
Tosca searches for the passport, and snatches it from the fast locking
palms of the dead man. With a shudder she rinses her finger with a
serviette dipped in the carafe, and then puts the candles from the
supper table at the head of the corpse, and taking a crucifix from
the wall, places it on the breast, as the Scarpia theme in long-drawn
chords is played softly by the orchestra. She goes out quietly as the
curtain falls.

The third act takes place on an open space or platform within the
Castle of S. Angelo. At the back we see the dome of S. Peter's and the
Vatican. The expressive prelude, and the opening song by a shepherd,
are musically of great interest. It begins with a horn passage, and
at the rise of the curtain it is still night, and we see the dawn
break, and hear the many bells from the church towers, one of the most
striking sounds of the Eternal city.

The pastoral melody of the shepherd has a plaintive character, and he

    Day now is breaking,
    The weary world awaking,
    Lending new sorrow
    And sadness to the morrow.

And the sheep-bells come in with their jangle as the shepherd
continues, with a suggestion of a love theme:

    If you could prize me
    To live I might try,
    But if you despise me
    I may as well die.

Then the church bells continue the strain, now near, now afar.

A gaoler enters and looks over the parapet to see if the soldiers to
whom is entrusted the grim task of execution have arrived. Led by a
sergeant, the picket enters, bringing Cavaradossi. The gaoler, after
making him sign a paper, tells him that he has an hour, and that a
priest is at his disposal. Cavaradossi, after giving a ring to the
gaoler as the price of the favour, is allowed to write a letter, and
sings his beautiful air, one of the chief lyrical gems of the opera, "E
luce van stelle." It ends emotionally, and the singer bursts into tears
with the thought that never was life so dear to him as now when he is
within sight of death.

Spoletta comes in bringing Tosca, and is amazed to find that she brings
a safe-conduct. Tosca and Cavaradossi join in a finely expressive duet,
in which the latter learns of her devotion, and how for him she killed
Scarpia. Towards the close the voices are unsupported, and the whole
number has a very characteristic force and movement.


The sky has gradually been getting lighter, and the passage of time is
marked by the striking of the hour of four by the church clock. Then
Tosca gives the final instructions to the condemned man. "As soon as
they fire, fall down." Cavaradossi, in his joy at his coming release,
is even able to be humorous, and suggests that he will be acting like

Tosca watches the supposed execution from the parapet. "How well he
acts!" she cries, after she has covered her ears with her hands to
shut out the sound of the shooting, and then sees her lover prostrate
on the ground. Leaning over, she calls to him: "Get up, Mario, now.
Quickly away, Mario, Mario." Then with a heart-piercing cry she learns
that Scarpia has been false to the end, and that the execution has in
very truth taken place. By this time the news of Scarpia's death has
come out, and Spoletta naturally fixes on Tosca as the murderess. The
soldiers' voices are heard joining in the hue and cry, and Sciarrone
comes in to seize Tosca. Tosca after thrusting back Spoletta nearly to
the ground, hurls herself from the parapet. Her last thoughts are of
the tyrant who has so cruelly wronged her, and her last words are: "O
Scarpia, we shall face God together!"

In pure orchestration, Puccini in _Tosca_ shows an advance on _La
Bohème_, in the general symphonic fulness and in the more extended
use of representative themes. The orchestra employed is the usual
large orchestra of the moderns, and Puccini adds a third flute, a
contrabassoon, a celesta, and for the special effects in the opening of
the third act a set of bells. There are several places where more work
than hitherto is obtained from the dividing of the strings, but not in
any way like the Strauss method, for example, of subdividing them into
several distinct groups. As will have been seen during the progress
of the story, the themes stand out as invariably characteristic, and
at the first entrance of Tosca the theme is delightful, given out by
the flute against the plucked strings. There is excellent work by the
wood wind in the impressive finale of the first act, which is mainly
developed out of the bell theme.

In the pastoral music at the opening of the third act Puccini uses with
characteristic force a passage of fifths--one which he is always very
fond of employing, and which, curiously enough, always has the effect
of bringing about the special flavour or atmosphere it is intended to
convey in any one particular place.

In the _Daily Telegraph_ the critic prefaces his column notice, which
appeared the day after the first production, with a protest against
the conjunction of a pure and beautiful art--music--with the workings
of a humanity that has gone to the devil. But apart from these
considerations, the writer has little but praise for the singularly
lucid libretto.

"The first and all important remark to make concerning the music," he
proceeds, "has to do with its Italian character. There is very little
that can be regarded as common to it and to the typical German opera.
The pedestal is not on the stage and the statue in the orchestra.
Tosca does not offer us declamation as a key to symphonic music nor
symphonic music as a key to declamation. The work does not follow
the old operatic lines into matter of detail. All is subordinate to
the changing situations and emotions of the stage. So far Tosca is
modern; for the rest it presents the characteristics which have always
distinguished Italian opera--long reaches of tender or passionate
melody, intense climaxes, and a disposition to proceed everywhere on
broad and direct lines to the desired goal."

The charm of the light music of the first act, the beautiful soul of
Cavaradossi to the picture he has painted, the piling up of the effects
in the finale, the vigour of the music in the second act, particularly
where Scarpia presses his suit, and the duet of the lovers at S.
Angelo, are the points which call forth praise, while, on the other
hand, this critic finds most of the music allotted to Angelotti and
Scarpia dull. The notice ends with a tribute to the art of Ternina, who
"acted with the grace and directness of a true tragedian."

Mr. Arthur Hervey, in the _Morning Post_, sets out, very clearly and
characteristically, a plain and straightforward account of the music
and story. The curious succession of chords at the opening of the
prelude, the suggestion of the amorous nature of Scarpia's character by
the opening notes of the second act, the pleasing effect of the gavotte
heard during Scarpia's monologue, when he awaits the arrival of his
spies, the beautiful song for Tosca, "Vissi d'arte d'amor," the beauty
of the music in the last act, the ingenuity, finish and resource of the
orchestration as a whole, are points which are fully expressed by this
discerning critic. With regard to the interpretation, he does not find
Signor Scotti's Scarpia entirely satisfactory, while he joins in the
fullest praise for Ternina's masterly performance in the name part. It
ends, that the opera was received with every sign of success, and that
the composer, Mancinelli, the conductor, and the exponents were called
many times before the curtain.

The _Times_ critic makes an interesting comparison at the outset of his
notice, referring to the masterly finale of the first act: "The scene
is one in which Meyerbeer would have delighted, but it is treated by
Puccini with far greater sincerity than Meyerbeer could ever command,
and with a knowledge of effect at least equal to his." With regard
to the use of representative themes, the writer finds that the one
associated with the passion of Scarpia--a phrase with an arpeggio
in it, appears to be derived from the woman's charm in the "Ring."
Referring to the gavotte and cantata at the opening of the second act,
the writer says they are "in excellent style and belong to the period
of the action or a little before it, as it may be doubted whether the
Roman composers of 1800 were capable of producing so interesting a
piece of solid workmanship as the cantata, or so graceful and original
a composition as the gavotte."



For his latest opera, _Madama Butterfly_, Puccini turned to the flowery
land of Japan for the environment of a story--the book being by Illica
and Giocosa--which, following his invariable custom, he chose himself.
The suggestion appears to have come originally from Mr. Frank Nielson,
who was then the stage manager at Covent Garden, that Puccini should
go and see the play by Belasco, running at the time at the Duke of
York's Theatre in London. He did so, and was immediately taken with
its possibilities. It may be mentioned as a tribute to the actors who
interpreted this play, that without knowing any English Puccini was
able to follow the story with perfect ease. He was greatly struck by
Miss Evelyn Millard's performance of the name part, and her photograph
as Butterfly is among his collection of celebrities at Torre del Lago.

The story is a slight one, and is no more Japanese than the plot of
_La Bohème_ is French. It is a presentation of the universal theme of
a man's passion, which is an episode, and a woman's love, which is her
life. A little Japanese girl is wooed and won by an American naval
officer. She, in her trust and devotion regards herself, after going
through some sort of marriage ceremony, as his lawful wife. He regards
the whole affair as an incident, the mere satisfying of an animal
instinct, and returns, married to an American wife, to find the girl a
mother. The ending is the usual sad one--the girl takes her life when
her dishonoured state comes upon her in its full significance.

_Madama Butterfly_ was written for the most part during Puccini's
recovery from his accident; but he had planned out a good deal of
it by the end of 1902 or the beginning of the next year. He himself
about this time said of the work: "As an opera, it would be in one act
divided by an intermezzo. The theme has a sentiment, a passion which
veritably haunts me. I have it constantly ringing in my head."

The intermezzo mentioned was Puccini's idea of treating the very
effective and most eloquent silence on which, it will be remembered,
the curtain fell, while the little Japanese girl with her servant and
baby were keeping their long, long vigil through the night, awaiting
the return of the supposed husband who, after all, was only a lover,
and a poor one at that.


Puccini was at Rome for a time soon after his complete recovery from
his accident, and took special pains to get up the local colour for his
new work. For this he invoked the aid of the Japanese ambassadress, and
obtained some actual Japanese melodies from a friend of hers in Paris.
Of music there is no lack in Japan, but by the Japanese themselves it
is never written down. Like the troubadours of old, the musicians, who
are a sort of guild, hand the traditional songs and dances on from
father to son.

_Madama Butterfly_ was produced at the Scala, Milan, on February 17,
1904. Canpanini was the conductor, and it was cast as follows:

  _Butterfly_               STORCHIO.
  _Suzuki_                  GIACONIA.
  _Pinkerton_               ZENATELLO.
  _Sharpless_               DE LUCA.
  _Goro_                    PINI-CORSI.
  _Zio Bonzo_               VENTURINI.
  _Yakusidé_                WULMANN.

Although Puccini was at the very zenith of his popularity a strange
thing happened with the first production of this new opera, and the
composer went through a similar experience to that which Wagner had
to suffer when _Tannhäuser_ was first given in Paris. The audience
simply howled with derision. For the reason of this it is difficult
to account. The storm of disapproval began after the first few bars
of the opening act. Puccini, very quietly, took matters into his own
hands, and at the end of the performance thanked the conductor for his
trouble and marched off with the score. The second or any subsequent
performance was therefore an impossibility.

He tells an amusing story of a little incident occasioned by the
fiasco, which, he says, brought him at least some little consolation,
and atoned for much disillusion. A bookkeeper at Genoa, an ardent
admirer of Puccini, indignant at what he considered the outrageous
treatment--for it was nothing else--meted out to his favourite
composer, went to the City Hall to register the birth of a daughter.
When the clerk asked the name of the child, he replied, "Butterfly."
"What!" said the official, "do you want to brand your child for life
with the memory of a failure?" But the father persisted, and so as
Butterfly the child was entered. A little time after this Puccini heard
of the incident, and rather touched with the simple devotion, asked
the father to bring the child to see him. On the appointed day Puccini
looked out of the window and saw a long stream of people approaching
his front door. Not only did the father bring little "Butterfly," but,
as in the first act of the opera from which her name was derived, her
mother, sisters, cousins, aunts, uncles, as well--in fact the whole
surviving members of the genealogical tree. Puccini laughingly said at
the end of a trying afternoon that it was the most gigantic reception
he had ever held.

The despised opera was given in what is known as the present revised
version at Brescia, on 28 May of the same year, the Butterfly being
Krusceniski, and Bellati the Sharpless, Zenatello being again the
Pinkerton. Strange to say, it proved entirely to the taste of those who
saw it. The revision, as a matter of fact, amounted to very little. It
was played in two acts instead of one, with the intermezzo dividing two
scenes in the second act, making it, in reality, in three acts, and the
tenor air was added in the last scene.

No more striking proof of Puccini's popularity could be found than the
fact that the new opera quickly came to London. It was seen at Covent
Garden on July 10, 1905, Campanini being the conductor, and was cast
as follows:

  _Butterfly_               DESTINN.
  _Suzuki_                  LEJEUNE.
  _Pinkerton_               CARUSO.
  _Sharpless_               SCOTTI.
  _Goro_                    DUFRICHE.
  _Zio Bonzo_               COTREUIL.
  _Yakusidé_                ROSSI.

Its splendid performance was helped in no small degree by the superb
interpretation of the name part by Mdme. Destinn, and the news of its
favourable reception was one of the greatest pleasures ever afforded to
its composer. It was given again early in the autumn season of the same
year, by the company, conducted by Mugnone (who, by the way, was not
the person of the same name whose death was chronicled very soon after
the conclusion of the season), and for which the composer came over,
having been away at Buenos Ayres when the work was given in the summer.
Zenatello, who was the original Pinkerton at the Milan production, was
seen in this part on this occasion, making his first appearance in
London during that season. Giachetti was the Butterfly and Sammarco the

The original source of the story, I believe, was a story by John Luther
Long, and emanated from America. It was turned into a play by David
Belasco, and, as in the case of _The Darling of the Gods_, the author's
name appeared jointly with the dramatist, or adaptor, on the play
bills. The simple touching little story depends rather upon its pathos
and atmosphere, which is decidedly poetical, than on any great dramatic
situation. A lieutenant, F. B. Pinkerton, of the United States Navy,
goes through a ceremony of marriage with a little Japanese girl, with
no intention of regarding the contract as in the least degree binding.
Little Butterfly (or Cio Cio San, as her Japanese name is) thinks
differently, and after her child is born watches and waits anxiously
for the return of her husband. Sharpless is a friend of Pinkerton's,
and is the consul at Nagasaki, and he tries to break the news gently to
the sorrowful girl who has been so cruelly misled, and in the "letter"
song in the last act is provided with one of the most subtle and
dramatic numbers in the whole work. Butterfly believes in Pinkerton's
fidelity and honour up to the end, when her ideal is shattered by the
arrival of Pinkerton's wife, an American woman, who wants to befriend
the child, and who has apparently condoned Pinkerton's lapse from the
strict path of virtue. Butterfly, however, prefers to die by her own
hand, and this she does, after caressing the child and giving way to
a torrent of grief, and pathetically placing an American flag in the
baby's hand. Pinkerton comes in time to see her pass away, and in
calling her name in an outburst of sorrow and remorse, the story ends.

In _La Bohème_ it has been seen how singularly happy Puccini was in
stringing together, by the flow of his music, a dramatic scheme that is
concerned with detached scenes and incidents; and in _Madama Butterfly_
he is equally successful and characteristic. The music is essentially
vocal, but the chief melodies are often to be found in the orchestral
fabric, a feature which comes out more prominently in this work than in
any of this composer's since _Manon_, and which goes to prove that it
stands as his chief orchestral achievement.

The present work begins in somewhat curious fashion with a tonal fugue,
as if to show that the composer with all his modernity has still a
regard for the old forms. A similar figure is used for the opening
of the second act. The first indication of the Japanese character in
the music--and this flavour is very sparingly introduced--comes when
Goro (a sort of marriage broker) parades his wares, in the shape of
girls, before the lieutenant. There is here a very distinctive melody
in octaves underneath the vocal part, which is most effective. Several
of the little melodies make an entrance after their first quotation
much after the fashion of the old _ritornello_, which is an interesting
point, among several, to note in Puccini's working out, on quite
modern lines, of his scheme. The themes are often altered, in place
of development, by a change in the time; and at the opening of the
first act several examples are to be found, while here and there an
Eastern character is given to the music by the frequent use of the flat
seventh. Another noteworthy feature is the constant modulation by means
of chords of the seventh.

Sharpless, the friend (a baritone), makes an entry with a fine burst
of melody--the theme, easily recognised on hearing the work, which
is associated with this character, being one particular rhythmic
distinction--and when Pinkerton (the tenor) explains that he has
bought the house, and probably the little lady with it, on an
elastic contract, there is a clever counterpoint in the music to the
introductory fugue. Pinkerton's first chief solo--the music, of course,
runs on continuously from start to finish--is a broad and vocal aria,
quite allied to the old form. The general trend of the music gets
brisker at the entry of Butterfly and her girl friends. Butterfly's
first song, a beautiful "largo," in which she tells of her approaching
happy state, is skilfully blended with the sopranos of the chorus, and
ends with a high D flat for the soloist. The procession and arrival
of Butterfly's relations give an opportunity for some humour in the
music, which is quaint and characteristic, and brings in a clever theme
for the bassoons. Just before the signing of the contract, Butterfly
has a pathetic air, in which she states that, fully believing in
Pinkerton, she has embraced the Christian religion and discards her
native gods. Soon after, a noisy and cantankerous old uncle of the
bride comes in to protest against the union. Here is another of the
few examples of Japanese music, and his entry is shown by a quaint
march of the conventional pattern chiefly in unison. After the guests
leave, Butterfly and Pinkerton have a very tender scene, and begin a
duet of great charm. Butterfly's share continues rather more vigorously
when she is preparing for the marriage chamber, while Pinkerton has a
contemplative air as he admires her pretty movements. The act ends with
a strenuous outburst of love and longing, both voices going up to a
high C sharp by way of a finish.

The second act is in Butterfly's little house, and is divided into two
sections without a change of scene, the curtain being lowered merely
to mark the passage of time. Butterfly and her faithful maid Suzuki
begin to feel the pinch of poverty, and the desertion of Pinkerton is
soon realised, although Butterfly will not believe it. Butterfly has a
characteristic air, vocal but possibly commonplace, and quite typical
of "Young Italy," in which she explains that Pinkerton will come back,
how she will see the smoke of his vessel, and watch him climbing the
hill from the harbour. Sharpless then comes in to try and break the
news, and brings in a former native lover, a Prince, Yamadori, who is
evidently quite willing to accept Butterfly as his spouse and make
her happy. But she simply bids Sharpless to write and tell his friend
Pinkerton that Butterfly and Pinkerton's son await the coming of their
lord and master. The first scene ends with Butterfly, the maid, and the
child sitting up all the night to watch for the arrival of Pinkerton's
vessel. She dresses herself in her wedding garments, and decorates the
little house with flowers. The maid and the child soon fall asleep,
but as the moonlight floods the scene Butterfly remains rigid and
motionless. A delicate instrumental passage in the music gives the
idea of the vigil, in the nature of an intermezzo, and a fresh and
pleasing effect is obtained by the use of a humming with closed lips,
by the chorus outside, of the melody, supported by the somewhat unusual
instrument, a viol d'amore. It is a curious instance, and probably the
first, of the use of this "bouche fermée" effect as an integral part
of the orchestration. For a special effect, Puccini also adds to his
score in another place the Hungarian instrument, a czimbalom, added to
the dulcimer.

The second scene has a rich, picturesque, and gay opening, the voices
of the sailors and the bustle of the vessel's arrival being well shown
in the bright music. The end of the tragedy is near, and is very
pathetic. Pinkerton is full of remorse, and his wife Kate tries to
console Butterfly, but the little Japanese girl, with her heart broken
when she learns that Pinkerton has passed out of her life, decides to
kill herself. She bandages the child's eyes, commits the deed behind a
screen, and then staggers forward to die with her arms about the child.
With Butterfly's farewell to the child the work ends, as Pinkerton
and Sharpless come in to see her die. The music ends with a curious
outburst of Japanese character almost in the nature of an epilogue, and
oddly enough it ends on a chord of the sixth in place of the accustomed

All through the music is fresh and interesting, and, provided that
by the setting and general interpretation the necessary picturesque
atmosphere is established, the opera proves singularly attractive. From
the nature of the story, the text reads extremely well in English; in
fact, contrary to usual custom, much of the dialogue is strange in
Italian, in which mellifluous tongue there is no equivalent apparently
for "whisky punch" or "America for ever!"

With this last opera of Puccini we come to the end of the chapter, and
with it, he may fittingly be left to the verdict of those who shall
come after. At the time of writing no one can say with what the gifted
melodist will follow it--whether one of the few themes which have
been mentioned as being in his mind will materialise, or whether the
"Notre Dame" of Victor Hugo, or a certain play of Maxim Gorky's will
eventually come to an achievement. Certain it is, that the present
success of _Madama Butterfly_, with all its progress on the purely
orchestral side, cannot fail to call attention to the earlier works,
particularly _Le Villi_, _Edgar_ and _Manon_, as being compositions of
singular sincerity.

One of Mr. E. A. Baughan's most interesting pieces of criticism, I
think, was that written in the _Outlook_ of July 15, 1905, after
the first production of _Madama Butterfly_ in England. After making
comparison between Puccini and other modern Italians on the subject of
musical expression of a theme, in general, he deals, in characteristic
fashion, with the dramatic structure of the opera in question.

"The story itself, as arranged by the Italian librettists, has also
grave defects as the subject of an opera. The character of Madame
Butterfly herself, with her _naïve_ love for the American naval
officer, her belief that she is a real American bride and that he
will return to lift her once more into the paradise from which she
was so cruelly cast out by his departure, and, when the truth of her
"marriage" is at last revealed, her tragic recourse to the honourable
dagger is a fit subject for music. The emotions to be expressed are
mainly lyrical. The other characters are outside musical treatment.
F. B. Pinkerton, the American naval officer, is never possessed of
any lyrical emotion, except when he expresses his remorse for the
consequences of his misdeeds; Sharpless, the American consul, who
acts as a go-between, feels nothing but a vague disquietude, which is
easily drowned in a whisky-and-soda, and later a rather tender pity
for Butterfly; Goro, the marriage-broker, is antipathetic to music;
Mrs. Pinkerton is the merest of shadows; and of all the cast the only
characters that have thoughts or feelings which can be interpreted
by music are Butterfly's faithful maid, Suzuki, and her uncle Bonzo,
who objects on religious grounds to Butterfly's marriage. Puccini
has written a love-duet for the American naval officer and Madame
Butterfly, but as he can make no pretence to any more passionate
feeling than a passing sensualism there is a want of emotional grip in
the scene. Then the Japanese environment of the story does not help
the composer. Madame Butterfly is only Japanese by fits and starts.
When she is emotional she is a native of modern Italy, the Italy of
Mascagni, Leoncavallo and Puccini himself. It could not be otherwise,
for there is no musical local colour to be imitated which would serve
in passionate scenes.


"The composer has overcome many of these difficulties with much
cleverness. When the stage itself is not musically inspiring, he falls
back on his orchestra with the happiest effect. The prosaicness of the
European lover and his friend the Consul and the sordid ideas of the
Japanese crowd are covered up by a clever musical _ensemble_, and the
whole drama is drawn together by Puccini's sense of atmosphere....
Madame Butterfly herself is a musical creation. The composer could
not, of course, make her Japanese, but very poetically he has made
her musically _naïve_ and sincere. She is a fascinating figure from
the moment when she appears singing of her happiness in having been
honoured by the American's choice. Her share in the love duet is also
well conceived. It is not exactly passionate music; rather ecstatic and
sensitive. And the gradual smirching of this butterfly's brightness
until in the end she becomes a wan little figure of tragedy is subtly
expressed in the music. It is not deep music--indeed it should not
be--but it has all the more effect because it is thoroughly in
character. Even when Madame Butterfly sets her child on the ground
and addresses to him her last worship before dying with honour she is
not made to rant by the composer. A German would not have forgotten
Isolde's Liebestod; a Mascagni would have remembered his own Santuzza;
a Verdi would have metamorphosed the Geisha into an Aïda; but Puccini
has kept to his conception of the character and she is never once
allowed to express herself on the heroic scale."

_Madama Butterfly_ is published (like all the operatic works of
Puccini) by Ricordi, who, with the vocal score (the English translation
being by R. H. Elkin), departed from the usual style of binding and
issued it in a very decorative "Japanesy" cover of white linen, with
all sorts of tasteful little designs--butterflies and flowers--jotted
about on the cover and on the margins.

My final paragraph may well be an expression of thanks to those who
have been kind enough to assist me with the preparation of my little
book. First of all I would thank Signor Puccini, who has cheerfully
submitted to two things which he cordially detests--sitting for his
photograph on two special occasions and answering letters. Again would
I thank him for the time he was good enough to spare me when I had the
pleasure of meeting him in London during his last two visits. Then to
Messrs. Ricordi, who not only have been at considerable pains to verify
casts, first performances and biographical details, but have generously
enriched my library of opera scores by those Puccini works which I
did not possess. Yet again, to Mr. C. Pavone, their representative in
London, for considerable assistance most cheerfully rendered; and to my
friends Mrs. John Chartres--for helping out my very limited knowledge
of Italian, and Mr. Percy Pitt--for allowing me to see his orchestral
scores of the Puccini operas.


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Transcriber's Notes:

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

(facing page 46) is not in the List of Illustrations.

Page 15: "On! how I" may be misprint for "Oh!".

Page 19: "music schools, agencies," was missing the first comma; added

Page 88: "the toils of her enchantment" was printed that way.

Page 96: "E luce van stelle" was printed that way.

Page 100: Missing closing quotation mark added after 'at least equal to

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