All Puccini Program
Spring 2000 Concert Notes
Tina Johns Heidrich, Conductor
Joe Jacovino, Accompanist
Connecticut Master Chorale Orchestra
Sunday May 14, 2000 3:00 p.m.
St. Mary Church, Bethel, Connecticut
Messa di Gloria
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) wrote his Messa di Gloria in 1876 at the relatively young age of 18 and it represents the fulfillment of his entire musical background. This imposing composition had its first performance in 1880 and it was a resounding success; widely praised by laymen and reacted to emotionally and enthusiastically by the press. The critics found it full of extremely noble ideas, well harmonized, and well developed. The Mass, although hidden behind a veil of great respect for music itself, constantly shines as he weaves Verdian vocal lyricism, rich in colors, articulation and dramatic tension. Puccini’s purpose is strictly dramatic. He tries to envelop us in the warmth of a loving and elated heart. At the same time, in all movements, he dissects feeling with emotion so as to expose love and pain, tears and happiness, calm, meditation and hope. This blade of human emotion proves to be quite exact in the work.
Puccini has practically equaled Verdi with this Mass as he combines the bel canto with religious music as Verdi did in his Requiem. It is here that Puccini finds his base. "I have to put real emotions into my music – I have to feel them grab me, shake me." What is left is the highly lyrical, dramatic quality. The young composer also knows how to mould and work with such difficult entities as contemplation, seriousness and grandeur that play such a part in religious feeling. The Mass provided that great creative force from which his best-loved and well-known melodies came. Oddly enough, however, Puccini never tried to publish his Messa di Gloria. Not until 1952 was the work given its second performance in Chicago after being rediscovered by an American priest, Dante del Fiornentino while doing research on the life of Puccini at the composer’s birthplace.
Music critics, past and present, have reserved the same words of praise for the Messa di Gloria, dramatically illustrating the timeless and permanently brilliant character of the composition. It is now written in musical history as a lasting monument to the glory of God.
Humming Chorus (Madame Butterfly)
U.S. Navy Lt. Benjamin Franklin Pinkerton enters into an arranged marriage with Cio-Cio-San, known as Madame Butterfly. He acknowledges a 999 year marriage contract for both house and bride, however, his true desire is to marry an American girl. After the marriage, Pinkerton returns to the U.S for 3 years. The "Humming Chorus" is an exquisite chorus in Act II, sung offstage while Butterfly and her little son await Pinkerton’s return.
O Mio Babbino Caro (Gianni Schicchi)
Lauretta, the daughter of Gianni Schicchi, a peasant and immigrant from the countryside, is about to be married to Rinuccio, a nephew of a wealthy aristocrat from Florence who has just died. However, Rinuccio’s aunt Zita, will not allow this marriage without a dowry. In "O Mio Babbino Caro," Lauretta sinks to her knees and begins to wheedle her father. She desperately wants to marry Rinuccio, and if their love is in vain she will throw herself into the Arno. She is tormented, and only wants to die. Weeping, she begs her daddy to have pity on her and to do something so that the marriage can take place.
Sale ascendi and Act I Finale (Tosca)
Tosca has become one of the most popular operas ever since its January 14, 1900 premiere. It is a violent drama based on Sardou’s hit play La Tosca, written specifically for the famous French actress Sarah Bernhardt. The action takes place in Rome between noon of June 17, 1800 and dawn the following day, during which time all of the major characters die violent deaths.
In Act I, an escaped prisoner, Cesare Angelotti is hiding in a church with the help of his sister, the Marchesa Attavanti. The painter Mario Cavaradossi has painted a portrait which looks similar to Attavanti. When his lover, opera star Floria Tosca sees the resemblance, she goes into a rage of jealousy. As a result, Baron Scarpia, Chief of Roman Police, tries to arouse Tosca’s suspicions of an affair between Cavaradossi and the Marchesa. A crowd begins to gather in the church waiting for the cardinal. During the act’s concluding "Te Deum" sung by the congregation, Scarpia expresses his desire to have Cavaradossi executed and to possess the beautiful Tosca.
Act II is set in the apartments of Scarpia at the Farnese Palace. "Sale ascendi," a beautiful cantata performed in honor of the Queen, emanates from the Queen’s reception room.