Friday, February 9, 2007

Puccini's Turandot

Today and yesterday, we have been listening to Puccini's Turandot. There is nothing, not even a great film, that compares to grand opera. I read once in a biography of Giacomo Puccini that as a boy he felt moved to become a composer after watching a performance of Verdi's Aida, almost like a call from God. I think that God can inspire people through great works of art, even those that deal with secular subject matters.

Puccini did not receive much critical acclaim during his lifetime, although his operas met with popular success. Turandot was his last opera; he died before its completion, and the final scene had to be written by someone else. When I was in graduate school researching the fate of the last Romanovs, Turandot's grandeur and tragedy was one of the few pieces of music capable of capturing the full scope of the misery of the downfall and death of the Tsar and his family. I listened to it constantly in my grandmother's flat where I was staying, so that Grandma was concerned that the neighbors might be annoyed.

Many years later, when writing Madame Royale, Turandot played over and over again in the background, for the cold, deeply wounded, Chinese princess of the opera was not unlike Marie-Therese-Charlotte, haunted by the past and unable to move beyond it. Opera is a bit like the Latin Mass; you do not have to understand every single word in order to be swept up into it.


Anonymous said...

So, elena, what did you listen to while you were writing Trianon?

elena maria vidal said...

Puccini's Manon Lescaut, of course. And a lot of Mozart, as well as Leonard Bernstein's "Overture to Candide."

Anonymous said...

Ordinary music is heard through one's ears, but Opera speaks to one's soul.

elena maria vidal said...

Yes, one enters into it on a deeper level.