Puccini, Giacomo

The success of Madame Butterfly, his latest opera, has been almost phenomenal, yet when first produced at La Scala, Feb. 17, 1904, it met such disapproval that Puccini withdrew it after the first night, without giving the people a chance to change their minds. Madame Butterfly was retouched and brought out with great success at Brescia, May 28, and since then has had an unabated triumph. In July, 1904, it was presented at Buenos Ayres; then at Montevideo and elsewhere in South America, at Alexandria in Egypt, again at Milan, at Turin, Naples, Palermo and Budapest, and for the first time in America at Washington, D. C, October 15; and at the f close of 1906 at the Opera Comique in Paris. Puccini visited New York in January, 1907, to superintend its initial performance there, as well as to be present at the Puccini cycle, consisting of Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, La Tosca, and Madame Butterfly, given by the Metropolitan Company. The Savage Company has toured the United States with Madame Butterfly exclusively, and everywhere it is enthusiastically received. Puccini calls it a Japanese tragedy, and he has used some actual Japanese melodies obtained through the Japanese ambassadress at Rome to add local color, but it is essentially as Italian as La Boheme. The plot is hardly adaptable to music, but, to quote Baughan's criticism, "The composer has overcome many of the difficulties with much   cleverness. When the stage itself is not musically inspiring, he falls back on his orchestra with the happiest effect. The gradual smirching of this butterfly's brightness until in the end she becomes a wan little figure of tragedy is subtly expressed in the music. It is not deep music indeed, it should not be but it has all the more effect because it is thoroughly in character."

It is said that Illica is at work on the librettos for The Girl of the Golden West, after Belasco's play, and Marie Antoinette. "My next plot," Wakeling Dry reports Puccini to have said, " must be one of sentiment to allow me to work in my own way. I am determined not to go beyond the place in art where I find myself at home." And even this statement was hard to get from the modest and retiring composer. Puccini's rank seems destined to be a high one. The works he has already produced show him to be much superior to Mascagni and Leoncavallo, and, indeed, worthy to be the successor of Verdi, as that master predicted. In his music he combines the old and truly national characteristic of Italian Opera with modern dramatic power and orchestral coloring, and his mastery of the light lyric style makes him very popular in the present day. At New York during the season of 1907 his four later operas were given twenty-one times, while eight of Wagner's had only twenty-four performances.

Puccini married Elvira Bonturi, of Lucca, and their son, Antonio, was born in 1886. The composer spends most of his time at Torre del Lago, where wild ducks and other game is plenty, and delights in a "shoot" and in sailing the lakes in his American motor-boat, Butterfly, in which he conceives many of his ideas. He also has a villa at Chiatri Hill, across the lake from Torre del Lago, and a house in Milan, in which city he teaches composition at the Conservatory. He is a member of the committee which is preparing for the one hundredth anniversary of this Conservatory. For a most interesting account of Puccini and his works see Wakeling Dry's Giacomo Puccini, published in 1906, one of the Living Masters of Music series.