Yesterday I listened to bits of Puccin’s operas at our local Senior Symposium put on by Greenfield Community College. This is an engaging and enlightening series of programs featuring wonderful scholars and speakers like William Fregosi, who was for many years the technical coordinator for Theater Arts at M.I.T. He talked about Giacomo Puccini’s life and times. Work! Scandal! Fame! Passion! Incredible success! His estate is still collecting royalty payments for three of his operas including Turandot.
Two fascinating facts – Today about 25% of all opera performances are one of Puccini’s works. In his day he was the wealthiest classical composers ever. At the time of his death in 1924 his estate was worth (adjusted for modern times) 175 million dollars – possibly even 250 million dollars. That is success. Rightfully due to the composer of La Boheme, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, Turandot, and more.
Le Villi was a very early work and Fregosi included in his handout the words to Anna’s Aria in Act I. I will only give the English translation.
If I were tiny like you/ Pretty flowers, then I could/ always stay close to my love. /Then I should say to him: / I think ever of you! /Then I could say to him: /Forget Me Not! / Now you, luckier than I /You will follow him, my flowers, /Over hill and dale /You will follow my love. /Ah, if onlly the name you bear /be not false, /Then say to my love: /Forget Me Not?
Alas, we were told the lover did forget Anna, but we have this beautiful song we will not forget. And I have Forget Me Nots in my garden to remind me of all my happy memories. This was a wonderful afternoon. And part II, a discussion of Puccini’s later works is scheduled for next Thursday.