Innovation and Basic Instincts: Why We Love Puccini

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Innovation and Basic Instincts: Why We Love Puccini

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was convinced that God had intended for him to write opera. Only opera. Puccini’s keen sense of drama drives him to explore the most extreme human situations, in which

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Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was convinced that God had intended for him to write opera. Only opera. Puccini’s keen sense of drama drives him to explore the most extreme human situations, in which heightened passions are stirred musically, in the characters onstage, and in the sympathetic listeners. His ultra-romantic idiom faithfully carries on Italian operatic tradition, enriched and “modernised” by innovative harmonic devices, non-western “flavours”, a huge orchestra and a unique way of writing for the voice, exploiting its communicability and sensuality. We shall examine the close relationship between music and drama: how dramatic content shapes musical form, and how form in turn intensifies drama. We’ll try and reveal some of the means Puccini employs to extract an emotional reaction from us, relying on some rudimentary cognitive principles whilst listening to some of the best arias and scenes from Tosca, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly, Turandot, and La boheme.