The Metropolitan Opera in Your Homes—Week 28: Puccini Passion

“Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore” (I lived for art, I lived for love), sings Puccini’s fiery heroine, the opera diva, Floria Tosca. Week 28 sizzles with the theatrical yet realistic drama and raw passion of beloved verismo composer Giacomo Puccini, who, for his last opera, uncharacteristically strayed from verismo (realism) principles to compose the somewhat gruesome yet happy-ending fairy-tale Turandot, which, sadly, he never lived to finish. The nightly stream starts at 7:30 p.m. on the Met’s homepage and can be accessed for 22 hours. Please click on the title of each opera below for more information and the link to the full synopsis. To discover even more about the operas featured this week, check out the weekly guide along with articles, interviews, videos, podcasts, and educational resources.

Monday, September 21
Puccini’s La Rondine – Conducted by Marco Armiliato; starring Angela Gheorghiu, Lisette Oropesa, Roberto Alagna, Marius Brenciu, and Samuel Ramey. Transmitted live on January 10, 2009.

A less tragic Puccini—even though there is no happy end, at least neither of the protagonists dies. Set in Paris and on the French Riviera, this opera was commissioned as a Viennese-style operetta by the directors of Carltheater in Vienna. Unforgettable melodies paint the story of luxury-loving Magda and her ultimate choice: between true love and wealth.  

Tuesday, September 22
Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West – Starring Deborah Voigt, Marcello Giordani, and Lucio Gallo, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. From January 8, 2011.

Opera’s own Western is set in a mining camp during the Gold Rush era. Based on an American author’s play—David Belasco’s The Girl of the Golden West—this opera was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. Native American music—Pueblo music of the Zuni people—is featured in the traveling minstrel’s aria early in the opera. The 1938 movie, The Girl of the Golden West, is based on the play with songs by Sigmund Romberg. 

Wednesday, September 23
Puccini’s Manon Lescaut – Starring Kristine Opolais, Roberto Alagna, Massimo Cavalletti, and Brindley Sherratt, conducted by Fabio Luisi;. From March 5, 2016.

The story of the conflicted, luxury-loving, sensual heroine of Abbé Prévost’s novel Manon Lescaut was adapted, ten years before Puccini’s treatment, by French composer Jules Massenet in a lyrical, refined operatic version. But it is this rendition by the master composer of verismo that sizzles with scorching passion and drama. Tonight’s production by Richard Eyre sets the action in occupied France in the 1940s.

Thursday, September 24
Puccini’s Madama Butterfly – Starring Patricia Racette, Maria Zifchak, Marcello Giordani, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Patrick Summers. From on March 7, 2009.

Based on the short story Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long and on David Belasco’s play Madame Butterfly: A Tragedy of Japan, this opera tells the tale of a teenage geisha who marries an American Navy lieutenant with tragic consequences. There have been many cinematic adaptations of the story—a poignant one is the 1995 film of the opera directed by Frédéric Mitterrand. This Metropolitan Opera production was directed by renowned filmmaker Anthony Minghella.

Friday, September 25
Puccini’s Tosca – Starring Sonya Yoncheva, Vittorio Grigolo, and Željko Lu?i?, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume. From January 27, 2018.

One of the most electrifying and intense melodramas in the operatic repertoire. The love-lust-politics triangle of an opera diva, her artist lover, and Rome’s secret police chief, Baron Scarpia, leads to torture, murder, and suicide. This opera is based on the play La Tosca by Victorien Sardou. Discover more in the opera study guide

Saturday, September 26
Puccini’s Turandot – Starring Christine Goerke, Eleonora Buratto, Yusif Eyvazov, and James Morris, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. From October 12, 2019.

An opera that gives new meaning to losing one’s head for love. The beautiful Chinese princess Turandot asks three riddle questions of her princely suitors, and when they cannot answer all of them, she orders their heads chopped off. Will the mysterious Prince (Calaf) solve the three riddles and marry her? The story is based on the play Turandot by Count Carlo Gozzi. Its origin stems from on one of the seven stories in the epic Haft Paykar by 12th-century Persian poet Nizami, and at the start of the 19th century Friedrich Schiller wrote the play Turandot: the Chinese Sphinx. Puccini set the story in China and used traditional Chinese music for several themes, most notably Turandot’s theme. The opera is best known for its rousing, triumphant tenor aria, “Nessun dorma” (None shall sleep). Puccini died before completing the opera, and his student, Franco Alfano, finished it based on the composer’s sketches. At the premiere, conductor Arturo Toscanini ended the performance on the last note Puccini ever wrote (in the middle of Act III, two measures after Calaf’s father, Timur, sings “Liù, poesia”), turned to the audience, and said “Here the Maestro laid down his pen.” 

Sunday, September 27
Puccini’s La Bohème – Starring Angela Gheorghiu, Ainhoa Arteta, Ramón Vargas, Ludovic Tézier, Quinn Kelsey, Oren Gradus, and Paul Plishka, conducted by Nicola Luisotti. From April 5, 2008.

We return to one of the most frequently performed operas around the world. This timeless love story is based on Henri Murger’s collection of stories Scènes de la vie de bohème (Scenes of Bohemian Life) and is set in Paris’ artistic Latin Quarter. For some cross-cultural fun, watch the beloved comedy Moonstruck in which the protagonists played by Cher and Nicolas Cage fall even deeper in love at the Metropolitan Opera to the romantic musical and theatrical magic of La bohème, whose melodies infuse the soundtrack of the entire film.  

Top Bigstock photo: Detail of a bronze statue of Giacomo Puccini, famous Italian opera composer, in downtown of Lucca his hometown. Tuscany, Italy, Europe.

About Maria-Cristina Necula (58 Articles)
Maria-Cristina Necula’s published work includes the newly-released "The Don Carlos Enigma: Variations of Historical Fictions," "Life in Opera: Truth, Tempo and Soul," two translations: "Europe à la carte" and Molière’s "The School for Wives," and three poetry collections. Her articles and interviews have appeared in "Classical Singer" Magazine, "Das Opernglas," "Studies in European Cinema," and "Opera News." As a classically-trained singer she has performed in the New York City area at Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Merkin Hall, Florence Gould Hall, and the Westchester Broadway Theatre, and has presented on opera at The Graduate Center, Baruch, The City College of New York, and UCLA Southland. She speaks six languages, two of which she honed at the Sorbonne University in Paris and the University of Vienna, and she holds a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from The Graduate Center. Discover more about her work at www.mariacristinanecula.com.