The Operas of Puccini

Audiences love the operas of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. In this course we’ll immerse ourselves in La Boheme, Tosca, and Madam Butterfly - the ever-popular operas Puccini wrote around the turn of the 20th century with librettists Illica and Giacosa - as also his early success Manon Lescaut and later productions, The Girl of the Golden West, Il trittico, and Turandot. Puccini once described himself as 'a mighty hunter of wild fowl, opera librettos, and attractive women'. We’ll consider the effect of his personal life on his work and subject matter, particularly the great female roles he created, as well as his place in the forefront of ‘verismo’ (a movement of Italian realism). We’ll discover his continuing presence in popular culture, and yes, we’ll savour and ask what makes the beauty of great hits like ‘Nessun dorma’ and ‘Vissi d’arte’. The course will deepen our love of Puccini.


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  • Week 1: Manon Lescaut and Puccini’s early life and career, and an introduction to names and terms such as ‘verismo’ (plus a brief nod to another verismo opera set in 18th century France, Giordano’s Andrea Chenier)
  • Week 2: La bohemes - Puccini’s version of 1896 (why is it still so touching?) and a brief comparison with Leoncavallo’s 1897 version. Puccini’s insistence on melody down to the bass line.
  • Week 3: Tosca (1900) and Madam Butterfly (1904) and Puccini’s Women. Puccini’s brilliant adaptations from theatre, and some great interpreters.
  • Week 4: The Girl of the Golden West and La rondine, Puccini’s answer to a Viennese operetta, with a side glance at John Adams’ 2017 “Girls of the Golden West”, like “The Girl of the Golden West” set in California. We’ll talk about the way Puccini tested the theatricality of his subjects.
  • Week 5: Il trittico (comprising Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi) and Turandot. Is ‘Schicchi’ opera’s most successful comedy? And Turandot is fascinating as a final statement, left incomplete at Puccini’s 1924 death. ‘Verismo’ meets fable? What is our overriding impression of Puccini at course’s end?
$166 Limited / $149

<p>Audiences love the operas of Italian composer Giacomo Puccini. In this course we’ll immerse ourselves in <em>La Boheme</em>, <em>Tosca</em>, and <em>Madam Butterfly</em> - the ever-popular operas

11 Oct

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