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Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini Composer

Edgar (opera)

Performances: 20
Tracks: 76
  • Edgar (opera)
    Year: 1889
    Genre: Opera
    Pr. Instrument: Voice
    • Act 1
      • 1.Qual voce lontana
      • 2.O for del giorno 1
      • 3.O for del giorno 2
      • 4.Ah! Ah! Ah! Tu qui?
      • 5.Ove fosti stanotte?
      • 6.Questo amor, vergogna mia
      • 7.Dio non benedice che gli umili quaggiù
      • 8.Tu il cuor mi strazi
      • 9.D'ogni sozzura simbolo
      • 10.T'arresta!
      • 11.Or dunque, addio!
    • Act 2
      • 1.Splendida notte, notte gioconda
      • 2.Orgia, chimera dall'occhio vitreo
      • 3.Edgar, sulla tua fronte erran tetri pensieri
      • 4.Dal labbro mio
      • 5.Urrà! Uno squillo marzial!
      • 6.Edgar!...Tigrana!
    • Act 3
      • 1.Preludio orchestrale
      • 2.Requiem aeternam!
      • 3.Del Signor la pupilla
      • 4.Addio, mio dolce amor!
      • 5.Del prode Edgar
      • 6.Or dunque rispondete
      • 7.D'ogni dolor questo è il più gran dolor
      • 8.Voglio passar
      • 9.Bella signora, il pianto sciupa gli occhi
      • 10.All'armi! All'armi!
      • 11.È ver! Maledizion!
Le Villi and Edgar are not only Puccini's first two operas, but also his two weakest. Le Villi is a strangely constructed work, called an "opera-ballet," so a case can be made that Edgar, completed in September 1887, is Puccini's first true work in the genre. Starting slowly is not always a bad thing. Pietro Mascagni wrote Cavalleria Rusticana early in his career and never came close to matching it in quality or popularity. Fortunately, for singers, lovers of singing, pop songwriters, record companies, opera companies, and even makers of movies and TV commercials, Puccini went on to write nine more operas, at least half of which must be counted among the most popular in the world.

Edgar is more than just a piece of juvenilia, however. Even when dramatic and musical hints of Verdi, Ponchielli, and Donizetti peek through, Puccini's distinct voice can be clearly discerned. Puccini had already collaborated with the librettist Ferdinando Fontana on Le Villi, and the publisher Ricordi believed in that work enough to commission another, more ambitious opera for presentation at La Scala. Fontana rewrote a play, "La Coupe et les Levres," which was conceived by its author, Alfred de Mussart, to be read aloud rather than staged; the tale is a romantic melodrama set in medieval Flanders.

The four-act version of the opera premiered at La Scala on April 21, 1889. Puccini reworked the score, and in 1891 he replaced the finale of Act Three with that for Act Four. Puccini continued to tinker with the piece until 1905, when he finally bowed to the inevitable and turned his full attention to the operas for which he is so well loved. After struggling to make Edgar a success, Puccini would never again allow himself to be saddled with such a weak drama. His tastes might run toward melodrama rather than great literature, but at least his characters were never again as ridiculous as those that populate the stage of Edgar.

For all their emotional button pushing, the one essential component of the success of Puccini's operas is the great aria. Unfortunately, Edgar does not have even one aria that has established a foothold in the concert or recording repertoire. There are many arresting musical moments scattered throughout the work, but most of the best ideas that Puccini had in Edgar are heard to better advantage in later works. The knowledgeable listener hearing this opera might easily find himself identifying similar passages from Madama Butterfly, Turandot, La bohème, and most especially Tosca.

Neither the concert performance and recording by Eve Queler and the Opera Orchestra of New York, nor the mounting of the work by the New York City Opera and other adventurous companies, has led to its entry into the standard canon of Puccini's works. Edgar may be a culmination of all that Puccini had learned from the past. He would soon break new ground with Manon Lescaut, Tosca, and others, but Edgar will remain a work primarily of interest to the curious—who should find it quite rewarding.

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