Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut”: Three Powerful Excerpts

Manon Lescaut, Giacomo Puccini’s 1893 opera in four acts, tells a haunting story of ill-fated love. Des Grieux, a student living in poverty, falls in love at first sight with the beautiful Manon, who is being taken by her brother to live in a convent. Des Grieux convinces Manon to run away with him. Yet, soon she becomes restless and torn between a life of passion with Des Grieux and material wealth with Geronte, a …

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Puccini’s “La Bohème”: The Love Duet, “O Soave Fanciulla”

The duet, O soave fanciulla (“O gentle maiden”) is heard in the closing moments of the first Act of Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera, La Bohème. It is in this moment that the struggling poet, Rodolfo, and the seamstress, Mimì, realize that they have fallen in love with one another. The opera’s love leitmotif emerges as they sing in unison, A! tu sol comandi, amor! The leitmotif is heard earlier in Act I in Rodolfo’s aria, Che gelida …

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Remembering Giuseppe Giacomini

Giuseppe Giacomini, the celebrated Italian dramatic tenor, passed away on Wednesday. He was 80. Giacomini, known as Bepi” among his fans, made his professional debut in 1966 in Vercelli, performing the role of Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly. He went on to appear on the stages of the world’s leading opera houses. Additionally, Giacomini performed for numerous world leaders and for the opening of the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. He continued to …

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Leontyne Price: Canzone di Doretta from Puccini’s “La Rondine”

Giacomo Puccini’s 1917 opera, La Rondine (“The Swallow”), tells the story of Magda, a Parisian courtesan who falls in love with the handsome young Ruggero. Ultimately, Magda is haunted by her past and leaves Ruggero, returning to her old life like a swallow returning to the nest. The opera’s most famous aria, Chi il bel sogno di Doretta, comes in the first act. At a party, the poet Prunier affirms the power of romantic love. …

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The Artistry of Eileen Farrell: Five Essential Recordings

Thursday marks the centennial of the birth of the legendary American soprano, Eileen Farrell (1920-2002). Hailed as possessing “one of the largest and most radiant operatic voices of the 20th century,” Farrell was a remarkably versatile artist. In a career spanning nearly 60 years, she was equally at home in the world of opera, jazz, and popular music. She hated categories, and in an interview during the final years of her life, …

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Remembering Mirella Freni: “Sì, mi chiamano Mimì” from Puccini’s “La Bohème”

Mirella Freni, the acclaimed Italian operatic soprano, passed away on Sunday. She was 84. In a career spanning 50 years, Freni appeared on the world’s major opera stages and in numerous film versions of operas. She was closely associated with Verdi and Puccini roles, but she will also be remembered for her performances of Mozart operas and Carmen. Later in her career, her repertoire included Russian opera with Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, The Queen of Spades, and …

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Puccini’s Turandot: Five Key Moments

In Wednesday’s post, we heard a few examples of Puccini’s flirtations with impressionism. Puccini’s final opera, Turandot is filled with colorful orchestration and adventurous harmony which evokes the exotic atmosphere of the mythic story: Princess Turandot, determined to never marry, takes revenge on her suitors through a series of riddles. Failure to answer correctly results in the suitor’s execution. Here are five key moments from the opera: Signore, ascolta!  Calaf, the young Prince of Tartary, catches sight of …

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