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Subject: Turandot and Gianni Schichi arias
From: Charles Mintzer <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Charles Mintzer <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 30 Oct 2017 13:59:57 -0400
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 The ascent “Nessun Dorma” has taken in recent years has intrigued me; It was historically never thus. I remember in my work on the Met database seeing an early W. J. Henderson review where he called it a “well made Puccini tenor aria,” nothing more. In searching for the review, which I realize has not yet been put on the database, I saw Lawrence Gilman’s review of a later performance where he rhapsodized:We recognized the Unknown Prince Calaf, the son of Timur, disguised as Mr. Lauri-Volpi; for if we had not known him by his princely garb of purple velvet and jade green and the comely figure that he made, we should have known him by the pealing of his trumpet-voice as Eve, so she told Adam, recognized the Tiger by his stripes. Mr. Lauri-Volpi has not forgotten how to fling a high B-flat into an enraptured auditorium although last night he had to wait until the Princess Turandot had come and gone before he got his chance at the conclusion of his insensate apostrophe to the ruinous beauty of that imperial sadist.


I found Henderson’s prescient review of Lauretta’s aria in Gianni Schicchi from the premiere performance worth quoting: But the pearl of all the evening is, perhaps, a little half-serious prayer which the young daughter of Schicchi sings to him on bended knee, to plead the cause of her lover and his miserly crew of elders. Here, for once, comes pure melody; melody, indeed, so plaintive and tender as to verge upon the street ballad - yet it is arch and exquisite, and Miss Easton reaped a triumph and replanted an encore with it. Her performance was without quibble or question the supremely happy one of this series of premieres. Her beauty of voice and appearance, her comportment throughout, won her the eyes and ears of the audience at her every entrance.


What I find interesting historically is that if you look at the “La Bohème,” “Tosca,” and “Butterfly” premiere reviews, the establishment critics had not yet embraced Puccini. Some of the reviews are actually humorous in their dismissive tone.

Charles Mintzer
 

 
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