Puccini - Ritrovato
Violeta Urmana; Placido Domingo; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Philharmonic; Alberto Veronesi
Deutsche Grammophon 477 7745
Process of artistic creation is commonly regarded as 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. This is also true in musical composition. There are very few composers like Mozart who hit upon perfection almost instantaneously, like Minerva springing out of the head of Jupiter.
Even Beethoven had agonizing struggles to arrive at perfection, as the 3 Leonora overtures show very clearly.
Puccini turned 150 last year and we still know his name, which is a considerable achievement, (I don’t think many of today’s pop celebrities will accomplish this). To celebrate, DG turned out this well researched, commendable and scholarly disc of Puccini’s discarded items, earlier versions and some unknown compositions.
I was immediately taken by the young Puccini’s compositional prowess in the beautiful Preludio a orchestra written as a teenager that contains an elegant, original melody I discovered somewhat similarly appearing in Sibelius’ 7th Symphony(!) and the Adagietto per Orchestra, an even more mature work now almost totally forgotten.
The above notwithstanding, most of the compilation is devoted to earlier, discarded versions of items in Puccini’s operas. One may be grateful that the gripping final scene of Madama Butterfly didn’t end up the way it was first written, it being too loose and unwieldy. “Too many notes” – as it were. Similarly, the earlier version of the 3rd act intermezzo of Manon Lescaut, elegant and well written as it may be, is simply no match for the poignant, heart rending final version we are accustomed to. As the greatest masterpieces, La Boheme, Tosca, Il Tabarro, Gianni Schicchi and Turandot, are notably absent I may guess they did not need revisions. What we are offered is superbly sung by great opera stars and conducted by Puccini specialist Alberto Veronesi.