How to Receive a Postcard from Puccini


On 1st June, the Cartoline Pucciniane (‘Puccini Postcards’) summer events of Puccini arias, duets, and ensembles, with piano accompaniment, begin. These are promoted and produced by the Teatro del Giglio and the Giacomo Puccini Foundation. The concerts are enjoyed so much by both tourists and those living in Lucca that in recent years the audience number has increased from 440 in 2015 to 780 in 2016. There’s an average of five shows per year. The Puccini recitals take place in Piazza Cittadella, right in front of the house where Puccini was born in 1858 and which now houses the Puccini Museum.

The planned concerts for 2017 all begin at 6 pm and will start on Thursday June 1st with La Bohème.

Tickets for the Cartoline Pucciniane cost 10 euros.

For bookings and sales please contact the Giglio Theatre’s Box Office (tel 0583.465320 – email


Second ‘cartolina’ on 6th July with a selection from Madama Butterfly.


Third ‘cartolina’ on 3rd August with a selection from La Rondine.


Fourth ‘cartolina’ on 24th August with a selection from Tosca.


Fifth and final ‘cartolina’ on 7th September with a selection from La Fanciulla Del West. This is a novelty which will introduce audiences to the American characters of Minnie, Jack Rance e Dick Johnson  as a taster for the opera’s performance at Lucca’s Giglio Theatre – a co-production with Teatro Lirico di Cagliari, Opera Carolina di Charlotte and New York City Opera which will open the 2017-18 opera season and ‘Puccini Days’.





Idomeneo in Mud and Blood

When the elector of Munich requested a festival opera in 1781 Mozart put everything he had learnt into his first mature opera seria, Idomeneo, which tells the archetypal story of a king who, surviving a sea storm, has to sacrifice the first person he meets on land, which turns out to be his own son! The convolutions of the plot, with the appearance of the impetuous love rival Electra, leads Mozart to write some of his sublimest music to-date with choruses that look as far ahead as Die Zauberflote, a voice from the deep that harkens to Don Giovanni’s Commendatore, a quartet of conflicting emotions (a piece Mozart rightly considered the best item in the opera) which is a blueprint for so much of the interaction of ‘Figaro’ and a march which equally points ahead . For me the most melting items are Ilia’s arias which evoke a poignant humanity which reaches its peak in Mozart’s miraculous music.

The cast at Pistoia’s charming and accoustically superb nineteenth century Teatro Manzoni was well up to this magnificent work and provided an excellent and unusual start to this year’s Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival’s seventieth anniversary

Why Pistoia and not Florence? Because Pistoia is this year’s Italian city of culture, a town worth every effort to visit its outstanding sights, especially its mediaeval pulpits so full of wonderful carvings and its fine cathedral square.

I wish I could have as good a word to say for the setting which reminded me a bit of the Thames estuary at low tide and remained much the same for all three acts. Idomeneo concludes with a treble tour de force: an electrifying revenge aria by the spurned Electra, a triumphal chorus and Mozart’s longest instrumental movement: the fabulous ballet which in the eighteenth century would have involved elaborate costumes and effects. Here, instead, there was a sober processional gathering of candles round the departed Idomeneo who has relinquished his Cretan kingdom to his son Idamante who now celebrates his wedding with Ilia.

The audience gave loud applause for the singers, especially Idamante and Ilia, and equally vociferous boos to the stage designer who, nonplussed,  joined the cast in the final curtain call.

Let us bless small mercies; Idomeneo is too rarely staged and the cherry on its cake has to be the singing and orchestra which were quite superb at the Teatro Manzoni.

Was the Flute Really Magic?

It’s certainly not your average Italian opera house which has the classic horseshoe shape for the auditorium and a majority of seating in boxes. Outside, this venue is elegantly minimalist and entering its foyer one isn’t sure whether it’s an opera house, a museum, a railway station or perhaps an airport foyer. This is ‘Opera Firenze’, Florence’s opera house which, since 2011, has been providing the city of the lily with a state-of-the-art building for opera and concerts as part of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino festival.

I’d been to Opera Firenze before, in 2015, to see a performance of Bellini’s ‘I Puritani’. (See my post at and was impressed by the three most important things an opera house should offer: excellent acoustics, good sight-lines and comfortable seats. When I tuned into a performance of Mozart’s  ‘Die Zauberflöte a couple of nights ago I knew I had to be in Florence to attend a performance of this immortal work, usually termed a Singspiel or German operetta with spoken dialogue.

This was the production and singing cast at the performance on 28th March (shown with the original German role names):

Conductor Roland Böer

Director Damiano Michieletto
Scenes Paolo Fantin
Costumes Carla Teti
Light design Alessandro Carletti
Video design Carmen Zimmermann/Roland Horvath
Choir director Lorenzo Fratini
Orchestra and Choir of the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Sarastro Goran Jurić
Tamino Juan Francisco Gatell

Pamina Ekaterina Sadovnikova
Königin der Nacht Olga Pudova
Papageno Alessio Arduini

Der Sprecher Philip Smith
Monostatos Marcello Nardis

Papagena Giulia Bolcato

Erste Dame Heera Bae
Zweite Dame Cecilia Bernini
Dritte Dame Veta Pilipenko
Erster Geharnischte/Zweiter Priester Cristiano Olivieri
Zweiter Geharnischte/Erster Priester Oliver Puerckhauer
Alte Dame Daniela Foà
Alte Dame Daniela Foà
Die Drei Knaben Soloists del Muenchner Knabenchor

What is Die Zauberflote about? For me it’s principally about the most heavenly music Mozart ever wrote. In it he displayed every type of musical form he’d learnt in his all too short life: from the semi-fugal overture, to the lied, to the revenge aria, to the chorale prelude, to the solemn choir. It’s all there in an unparalleled quintessence of beauty. Indeed, I would regard Die Zauberflote as a way of distinguishing true friends from false. Together with the love of cats and the belief in a European community, appreciation of the opera is a prime way of helping one to choose genuine companions.

Plot-wise the Magic Flute can be taken on two levels. First, there’s the interaction of wildly differing characters, for example, the rebellion of a daughter against her mother, the comical naivety of some country folk and the trials of life itself without which there’s no gain without pain. On another level one enters the world of freemasonry and the new age of enlightenment which the opera underwrites. In this sense Pamina’s mother, the Queen of the Night, represents decaying religious dogma and inflexible, intolerant rules while Sarastro displays the new world of ideas of brotherhood and the dignity of humankind. Indeed, for the high priest, man has the possibility to transform himself into a god and the earth can indeed become a paradise. How wonderful and, at the same time, how fatuously hopeful when viewed from the present times!

The production certainly made an effort to highlight these dichotomies. The scene was largely set in a 1950’s classroom with Tamino and Pamina as adolescent schoolchildren. The three ladies were dressed as nuns with severe rules to match. In the second act the schoolroom was ‘lifted’ to reveal a primeval forest where the trials Pamina and Tamino would have to go through to prove their love were played out.

Ok the idea is novel but it’s only half-effective: the libretto has so many references to doors opening and gates closing that did not find their actualization in the stage set. What did compensate to a certain extent was the intelligent class blackboard which ‘drew’ the snake that pursued Tamino at the opera’s opening and which was used to illustrate other aspects of the libretto throughout the evening.

What was lacking, however, was any convincing idea of pomp and mysticism which permeates the original conception of Die Zauberflöte. I remember many years ago seeing this twice-magical opera in the setting of London’s Freemason’s hall. There, under the vaulted stars and the symbols derived from ancient Egypt, the work really did come to life and enact its arcane metaphors.

I could not fault the singers in any way. Queen of Night Olga Pudova’s two virtuoso arias were passionately delivered and the duet between Papageno (Alessio Arduini) and Pamina (Ekaterina Sadovnikova) was near-sublime. Sarastro hit those deep notes confidently and the choir was very effective. It seems sad, however, that the ‘three boys’ had to be imported from Munich rather than have three boys trained up for the parts in Florence. If anything too, the orchestra could have chosen a slightly slower tempo for the overture which fizzed along almost out of breath

All in all I was glad to have made the journey to Florence to see Die Zauberflote (and visit other things as well!).

On my return I was startled to note that earlier in the year there had been another Magic Flute at Pisa with costumes and choreography by Lindsay Kemp. Although I understand the singing there didn’t match the Florence performance I felt I could have empathised more fully with the production, especially in its emphasis on the opera’s magic aspect.

The most tragic what-if in the history of western music is ‘what if Mozart had survived the rheumatic fever he caught in 1791?’ In my wildest dreams I hear the music that this gift from god might have composed. Perhaps we shall hear that music in heaven – if there is such a place, of course.


For information of further productions at Opera di Firenze see



Madama Butterfly and Tōrō Nagashi

I was reminded during my peregrinations in South-East Asia that ‘Madama Butterfly’ situations are still common there. (Indeed, ‘Miss Saigon’ is a more recent take on an all-too-familiar event). Mock marriages between western sex-fiends and local girls are continuing and, if not with quite the drama of Madama Butterfly’s self-immolation, certainly accompanied by family banishment and a probable life of sex-slavery on the streets of insatiable Asian metropolises.

Despite a sensible warning from a friend that we might catch some dreaded disease from the insects marauding over Lake Massaciuccoli we always try to make it to the Puccini festival at Torre Del Lago every year. Our life would seem quite incomplete without being there.

08112016 052

David Belasco’s play, which Puccini first saw in London in 1900, inspired him to write his most Puccinian (if that can be declared a non- tautology) opera.  There was an immature time when I almost abhorred Puccini and actually thought ‘Madama Butterfly’ worthless. Certainly, my introduction to it – during a teenage visit to Antwerp’s opera house where, conducted by a family friend, it was sung in guttural Flemish – did nothing to endear this tragic masterpiece to me. Yet Maestro Martelli declared that he would give his right arm to be able to write just one page of this remarkable score where French impressionism and Wagnerian intensity meet and are transformed by Italian cantabile into something which owes nothing to anyone except the heavenly genius of our greatest Luccan (and perhaps the world’s) operatic composer.

The 1904 premiere Milan premiere was a fiasco and Puccini thought, at first, it was his own fault. He’d scored great success with his three previous operas, been put on a pedestal by the Italian public and now was promptly demolished by what he described as ‘cannibals’. Animal noises, guffaws, roars of ridicule, howls of disdain from the audience drowned most of the incomparable music. True, the second act was perhaps over-long (it was later divided into two separated now by the famous wordless chorus), true the public was not used to such psychological penetration (this opera is justly the one where Puccini analyses his characters to their innermost being). True, too, there may have been a need for further rehearsals. The real reason, however, was the all-too-familiar one of claques and jealousy. The first night fiasco was a typically Italian mafioso fix-up.

Fortunately Puccini got his own back with the opera’s revised version which took place just three months later that year at Brescia’s Grand Theatre and became the resounding success it deserves to be: it has ever been in the hearts of all those who have a genuine feeling for opera and life itself and was, indeed, the maestro’s favourite opera, although he could never forget the indignity he suffered on the first night’s performance.

The stage setting for this year’s Madama Butterfly was, to say the least, minimal. Taking its cue from the Japanese garden it incorporated two trilithon type stones which (regrettably) from certain angles, looked like giant teeth. A strange gateway motive dominated the second and third acts (here, played without a break and very effectively so).

Perhaps the austere setting emphasised the fact that the performance was dedicated to the victims of the horrors of war: the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (where the opera is set) and the Nazi atrocity of Santa Anna di Stazzema’s massacre, all of which took place around the middle of this month of August.

The Japanese ambassador was present at the performance (which reminded me that the wife of the then Japanese ambassador to Italy together with a famous Japanese actress Sada Yaco, assisted Puccini with all the minutiae of Japanese costume and custom). During the interval we witnessed the ceremony of the launching of candle-lit lanterns onto the dark waters of Lago Massaciuccoli. No, we didn’t catch malaria but we caught some intimations that these lanterns might be the ghosts of those departed souls who come back to haunt us – as indeed the lanterns did when they kept on returning to the reedy shores of Puccini’s favourite sheet of water.

I realised that I was witnessing Tōrō nagashi (灯籠流し?), a Japanese ceremony where paper lanterns (chōchin) float down a piece of water and which is traditionally performed in the credence that it will assist in guiding the souls of the departed to the spirit world. It is poignantly commemorated not just for the Bon ancestor spirit festival but also in memory of such tragic events as the commemoration of those lost in the bombing of Hiroshima and those who died on Japan Airlines flight 123.

Something about the production. The scenery was by the great Japanese sculptor Kan Yasuda. Direction was by Vivien Hewitt and the production also formed part of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Italy and Japan.

Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly) was sung with great passion by Donata D’annunzio Lombardi, and that ultimately remorseful bastard Pinkerton convincingly by Hector Lopez Mendoza. Costumes were by Regina Schrecker.

The excellent conductor was Eddi De Nadai.

I loved the evening and was particularly struck by the way music I thought I knew backwards was so freshly interpreted. That perennial aria, ‘Un bel Di’, for example, was not belted out prima-donna style but was so enchantingly and sensitively sung that I felt I understood it for the first time.

‘Madama Butterfly’ is not for the emotionally fraught. The love duet at the end of act one is Puccini at his intensest. I just wonder what was going on in the composer’s mind in his little villa on the lake just a stone’s throw away from where we sat. (I think, too, he must have still been suffering from the terrible car.-accident he’d had the previous year where he was almost left crushed under his De Dion Bouton 5 HP travelling from Lucca to his place at Torre del Lago). I don’t think anyone has quite caught so well the powerfully paradoxical emotions of love – possession and freedom, hellish separation and paradisiacal union.

As for eighteen-year old Madama Butterfly’s Hara Kiri at the end when she speaks her last words to her son ‘gioca, gioca, (go and play) and says to herself “Who cannot live with honour must die with honour”  – it is surely one of the most harrowing moments in all opera.

Truly there are few composers who can deliver an emotional mind-punch as effectively as Puccini. As we found our way back out of the theatre to the car I felt that a normally vociferous public was unusually quiet as it the death of Cio-cio-san had become an event that meant even more: the death of so many through human suffering and indifference. Remorse is no pardon for evil deeds once they have permanently injured a person’s innermost feelings of dignity and honour.

Those floating lanterns on the midnight lake with strange menacing heat flashes over the dragon-teethed Apuan mountains brought again to my mind it was this very afternoon that I heard news that my favourite uncle, who’d devoted his life to poetry, French literature and translation had passed away, just like those candle-lit lanterns, to a spirit world where his works and words will never die.

08112016 061


PS Giacomo Puccini, despite his awful car accident never lost his love for fine cars.  Veteran cars appassionati regularly meet up at Torre del Lago with the same type of vehicles that Puccini used. These included the following:

1899 De Dion Bouton
1908 Fiat Ansaldi Brevetti – Tipo due
1909 Ford T
1910 Cadillac Thirty T torpedo
1910 Aquila Italiana
1911 Lancia Thema
1913 Fiat Zero Torpedo
1916 Fiat tipo Due
1923 Itala 56 A Torpedo
1923 Rolls Royce 20 HP
1924 Lancia Lambda 4 serie

Puccini was particularly fond of his last car, the Lambda:


Puccini Postcards

Encouraged by the great success of past years, the ‘Cartolina Pucciniana’ (Puccini Postcard) season is returning. There are opera recitals around the corner from the composer’s birth house created in collaboration with the Teatro Del Giglio, Fondazione Giacomo Puccini and Puccini Birth house Museum. In the picturesque setting of Piazza Cittadella, a Puccini location par excellence in the heart of Lucca, next to Puccini’s statue, you can listen to selections of arias and duets from the Maestro’s most famous and beloved works, with piano accompaniment. These are magical concerts, through which the public can approach the great Puccini opera repertoire easily and informally, surrounded by the unique atmosphere of the streets and monuments of the composer’s birth house.

indexInformation: and purchases at the Giglio Theatre Ticket Office (tel. 0583.465320, email:
Single price 10 €; adding 5 € to the ticket price you can have both the concert and a guided tour of the Puccini Birth house Museum. (Info: Puccini Birth house Museum – tel. 0583.584028-,

Cartolina Pucciniana: La Rondine

Thursday, June 2 at 6.00 pm. First event with La Rondine. Federica Grumiro (Magda), Tiziano Barontini (Ruggero), Cinzia Centonza (Lisette) and Gabor Kovacs (Prunier), accompanied on piano by Massimo Morelli, will perform arias, duets from Puccini’s sophisticated opera centered on the figure of Magda. It’s a story of love and subtlety set between Paris and the French Riviera and is full of beautiful melodies that are sure to thrill the audience.

Cartolina Pucciniana: Madama Butterfly

Thursday, July 7, at 6 pm. The second Puccini postcard is Madama Butterfly.

Cartolina Pucciniana: Tosca

Thursday, August 4. Third Puccini postcard with Tosca. Two performances at 6 pm and 9 .30 pm respectively.

Cartolina Pucciniana: La Bohème

Thursday, September 1. Final Puccini postcard: La bohème. Two performances at 6 pm and 9 .30 pm respectively.


Stop! You’re Beautiful

First the words and then the music or is it the other way round? In Arrigo Boito’s case it was both ways round. Born in 1842 in Padua he became a member of that Italian group of bohemians called ‘la scapigliatura’ (the ‘dishevelled ones’). A colourful character who fought with Garibaldi and conducted a clandestine love-affair with the incomparable actress ‘La Duse’, Boito did have ambitions to become a composer but when his Mefistofele, probably the one of several operas based on the Faust legend closest to Goethe’s epic poem, was first staged it was a resounding flop overtaking even Puccini’s Madama Butterfly’s disastrous première in 1904. No matter, in both cases, thorough revision recalled both works back to the stage and regular performances of Boito’s masterpiece have been given ever since its revision in 1875.


Unlike Puccini, however, Boito is now principally remembered as a librettist and particularly as the one without whose words Verdi would certainly have never composed his last two (and perhaps greatest) operas, Otello and Falstaff. They are truly the greatest achievement of any opera composer in so-called retirement and Boito’s librettos are literary masterpieces as libretti rarely are.  Even Ponchielli (La Gioconda) and Lucca’s own Catalani (La Falce) based their successes on Boito’s masterly pen.

After the success of Mefistofele, whose main arias became famous not only through the incomparable  Caruso but also through the great Russian Chaliapin’s rendering of them, Boito toyed with the idea of another opera, Nerone. Unfinished like Turandot and, like Turandot, premièred in the twenties by Toscanini it never even faintly achieved success and is largely regarded as a curiosity today.

So for Boito ‘le parole’ have definitely come before’ la musica,’ except in the case of his Mefistofele written as a riposte to the superficial frivolities he considered endemic in Gounod’s version of the primeval legend.

That why I’m looking forwards to attending Lucca’s Teatro Del Giglio’s performance of Mefistofele this April 9th (Saturday at 8.30 pm) or 10th (Sunday at 4.00 pm). It’s a new production with the collaboration of Pisa’s Teatro Verdi and the Teatro Sociale di Rovigo.

04102016b 010


I’ve just returned from the Sunday matinee of Mefistofele which began at 4 pm on a very sunny Lucca afternoon and I’m so glad I sacrificed a little of the sun to immerse myself into an opera I should have known better and would have loved much earlier in life. In short, Mefistofele was a revelation! From the prologue through the four acts to the epilogue there wasn’t a dull movement and every emotion was wrung from the astonishing music, so different from the standard melodrama of those times.

This was the main cast list:


Happily the scenery and production was every bit as fine as the music. With the incredibly clever use of screens and light choreography Boito’s opera moved dynamically from the opening Chorus Mysticus to its redemptive end. The use of stellar images, folding curtains of colours – a light show which in former days would have been described as psychedelic and fully worthy of the Pink Floyd itself – conjured up the origin of the universe and, indeed, of good and the evil personified in Mefistofele himself, the real hero (or anti-hero?) of the evening, brilliantly sung with profound bass resonance by Rubèn Amoretti.

04102016b 023

Faust’s pact with the quasi-Miltonic figure was sealed in act one (with a highly evocative screen projection of a characteristic Palatinate village – thankfully no egotistic production liberties were taken – unlike London’s recently booed ‘Lucia di Lammermoor – and the scene was firmly set around the sixteenth century). Tenor Gabriele Mangione as Faust was rather good (although he missed a cue in one instance). The pact had the proviso that if Faust uttered ‘arrestati, sei bello!’ (‘Stop you’re beautiful’) at the oncoming moment of his death he would be saved from Mefistofele’s bargain of absolute power in exchange for his soul and escape eternal damnation.

04102016b 021

The second act, in a screen-projected idyllic rural Arcadia, is where Faust falls in love with Margherita. It seems to me that with the sophisticated technology of 3-D screen projection and the realisation of virtual scenery the costs of settings could be drastically cut in future productions (although clearly scenery management would have to be fully conversant with the latest technology in this regard!).

04102016b 020

Act three provided some of the finest and most cantabile music that Boito ever composed. I could hardly believe that publisher Ricordi had told Boito than he should continue to produce libretti but give up trying to write operas, for this music was exquisite. The moment when Margherita realises that, as a result of an evil potion (a hard drug we would call it today) she had actually killed her mother and drowned her baby was almost too much to bear with her aria (‘l’altra notte in fondo al mar’) where she describes how she would like her murdered mother’s grave to be dug near to her and her murdered baby buried with her on her breast.

Here’s the inimitable Maria Callas singing that wrenching aria:

Elisabetta Farris was absolutely top-class as a soprano in this role singing with heartfelt expression and a very clear high register. The scene where Margherita realises she has murdered her two most loved beings during a raptus caused by the universe’s most evil agent for the devil himself, Mefistofele, must surely be one of the most harrowing moments in all opera!

04102016b 019

The two ‘Notti di sabba’ (Witches’ Sabbath nights), one set in a Celtic bare-mountain-like scenario (Prato Fiorito?), the other in a sublime Hellenistic environment where Faust spends a night of delirious love with Helen of Troy were quite gripping and showed Boito’s mastery of orchestration and chorus writing to perfection.

04102016b 018

The epilogue, presenting the death of Faust, returned to the cosmicity of the prologue and rounded off an opera which had me thinking not only about its wonderful music but also regarding the philosophical questions it raised, enshrined in Goethe’s great poem, such as the relationship between heaven and earth, the duality inherent in human existence, the ideal and the real, light and shade, angelic creation or damnable worm.

04102016b 017

I struggled a little to find a meaning to Faust’s words which saved him: ‘Stop. You’re beautiful’ and felt it could have a different but equivalent meaning for anyone present. For me it meant a pantheistic love of the world. Today was such a beautiful day and the afternoon scootering down the Serchio valley to the Giglio opera house had me stop to look at the beauty of the flowering trees and the burgeoning energy of spring’s rebirth among the Apuan Alps. Yes, planet earth you’re really beautiful and (so far) unique! Let’s just stop and look and admire at and wallow in your beauty.

04102016 017If one loves the Earth then one truly loves Creation itself and one will nurture that Creation. In turn, in appreciating and caring for it, Creation will forgive and, above all,  forgive one’s own existence with all the life faults one has made in the world in terms of relationships with other people, ideas, and ultimately with oneself. This, surely, is the path towards understanding the true nature of Redemption which is what practising atheist Boito’s Mefistofele is all about.

04102016b 013

It is a great pity that only the libretto remains of Arrigo Boito’s first version. He did tone down a few things in his second version to bring it to a more acceptable level with even Italy’s nineteenth century avant-garde ‘la scapigliatura’. Yet this second, the only version we know, is so brim-full of gorgeous music from vast cosmic choruses to intimate ariosi to extraordinary scene changes that for once I would disagree with Ricordi’s discouragement of Boito as a composer.

04102016b 008

True, without creating Mefistofele Boito may not come up with the idea of inserting that astonishing creed of Iago’s – ‘Credo in un Dio Crudel’ – in Verdi’s Otello but he might have gone on to become a truly Italian equivalent of Wagner. Boito’s libretti are certainly written in a finer literary style than Wagner (excepting the Teuton’s Flying Dutchman) and his music shows a wide knowledge of what was happening north of the Alps, especially with regard to Wagnerian influence through the French school (Massenet in particular, who was to be later also an influence on Puccini).

04102016b 011

The production of Mefistofele was certainly one of the finest I have ever seen at the Giglio and, for once the limited orchestral space was an advantage as the trumpets and drums were allowed to sound triumphantly from their positions in the boxes nearest the stage instead of merely looking odd there. All stops were pulled out in this production and a special mention must be made of the chorus and, particularly, the children’s section which sang their cherubic parts angelically.

04102016b 015

I do hope that Boito’s gripping music and the equally memorable production by Enrico Stinchelli will have a DVD available for those mortals unfortunate enough to have missed this very special Italian opera…


The Giglio Theatre’s Press office has been kind enough to send me this morning these photographs of Sunday’s Mefistofele as clearly, no photography is allowed during the actual performance. Thankyou!

(all these photographs courtesy of Massimo d’Amato. Grazie!)

To summarize: the main members of the cast were as follows:

MEFISTOFELE Ruben Amoretti

FAUST Gabriele Mangione

MARGHERITA Elisabetta Farris

ELENA Alice Molinari
MARTA Sandra Buongrazio
NEREO Sergio Dos Santos
PANTALIS Moonjin Kim
WAGNER Sergio Dos Santos

The Conductor was Francesco Pasqualetti with the Orchestra della Toscana and production was by Enrico Stinchelli..

I was so glad to be there for from Monteverdi, through to Gluck, Mozart, Berlioz, Gounod and Boito the intricacies of doing deals with the underworld have never ceased to fascinate me and Boito’s music remains absolutely gripping and passionate, especially as far as Margherita is concerned!

Information and booking of further events are available at Teatro Del Giglio Tel. 0583 465320 or Email at:

Puccini e la sua Lucca Festival Starts Soon!

The “Puccini e la sua Lucca Festival” concerts re-start from April 1st and continue until October 31st. They are held daily at 7 pm in Lucca’s beautiful San Giovanni church (near the cathedral,) the historic headquarters of the only festival dedicated to Puccini and his music in his birth-place.

The festival includes concerts and recitals with different performers each evening. There will be over seventy singers and two pianists alternating in the daily performances which are divided up as follows

Mondays: Puccini and Mozart. Arias and duets from the two composers’ masterpieces.

Tuesdays: Puccini’s women. Arias and duets inspired by women in Puccini’s operas.

Wednesdays: Italian Opera Gala. Arias, duets and intermezzi from Italy’s operatic masterpieces.

Thursdays: Puccini and Verdi. Arias and duets composed by two of the world’s finest opera composers.

Fridays: Puccini Opera Gala. Arias and duets from Puccini’s masterpieces.

Saturdays: A Night at the Opera. Arias, duets and intermezzi from operatic masterpieces of all times including Puccini.

Sundays: Puccini and traditional Neapolitan songs. Puccini opera arias and traditional Neapolitan songs.

All concerts start at 7.15 pm and end at 8.25 pm (excepting encores).
There’s no special dress code.

The booking office opens at 6 pm for last minute tickets.

Tickets can be pre-booked at with a 10% discount. They can then be collected on the day of the performance from 6 pm to 7 pm at the festival booking office. Otherwise, they may be purchased beforehand every day when the booking office is open.

More information is available at our site at

So get on your motorbike (or in your side car) or even your car and head for Lucca in time for the Festival managed by the indomitable Andrea Colombini!


How to Musically Celebrate your New Year in Lucca



download (2)

Teatro Del Giglio Lucca is hosting a spectacular double bill to celebrate 2016: Thursday, 31st December (from 9.30 pm, the third consecutive year) and Friday 1st January (from 4 pm), the ‘Puccini and his Lucca Festival’ will present two memorable concerts with dinner buffet and a corollary of events.

The artistic director for the two days, sponsored by Teatro Del Giglio, the city of Lucca, ‘Puccini and his Lucca Festival Orchestra’ and the Lucca Philharmonic orchestra, is the president and director of ‘Puccini and his Lucca’, Andrea Colombini.

On December 31st the theatre opens at 9 pm for ticket sales and the evening will begin with a screening of the video of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lucca concert at the Musikverein in Vienna, on 19th December.

At 10.15 pm there’s a Grand Gala of voices with melodies from opera, theatre and musicals. For the occasion, music by Puccini, Catalani, Verdi, Bizet, Mozart, Morricone, Bernstein and Lloyd Webber will be performed. Singers of this first part of the evening will be the internationally renowned soprano Silvia Pacini, Silvana Froli, Paola Grandicelli and Clara Polito, together with mezzo soprano Isabella Messina and tenor Michael Alfonsi, with Diego Fiorini piano.

From 11.30 pm, the most anticipated event: the concert “The Three Tenors”, a repeat of the performance that ‘Puccini and his Lucca Festival’ gave on December 19, 2015 (for the third year running) at the Musikverein in Vienna, the famous Golden Hall of the New Year’s concert. The tenors are Nicola Mugnaini, Simone Frediani and Mattia Nebbiai, accompanied by the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lucca conducted by Andrea Colombini. The program includes music by Puccini, Verdi, Leoncavallo and Di Capua, as well as waltzes and marches of the Strauss family. During the concert there will also be surprise events.

The dinner, prepared by Ristorante Puccini in Lucca, will begin at 9.30 pm, to coincide with the first concert.

The entrance will be reduced for all residents in Lucca and Province (in addition to Giglio subscribers, over 65’s and under 30’s).

Prices and reservations. Purchase tickets / reservations at the Teatro Del Giglio in Lucca, tel. 0583 4653200583 465320. Infoline 340 8106042 – Central stalls and central box seats 65 euro (dinner and toast included), reduced 60 euro (dinner and toast included);Side stalls, balcony 50 € (dinner and toast included), reduced 45 € (dinner and toast included); Gallery 30 € (dinner and toast included). For entries after 11:30 pm single ticket 30 Euros (inclusive only of toast at midnight). Buffet dinner consisting of meat and fish with desserts and drinks included. Reductions for under 30’s, over 65’s, and Teatro Del Giglio subscribers.

download (1)


On Friday, January 1st, the Puccini and his Lucca Festival will present “Felice Nuovo anno con Puccini”, (Happy New Year with Puccini), an operatic recital with music by Giacomo Puccini. At 4 pm, in the Teatro del Giglio, the soloists are sopranos Silvia Pacini, Sonia Bellugi, Silvana Froli, Paola and Chiara Grandicelli Polito, mezzo-soprano Laura Brioli, tenors Michele Alfonsi, Simone Frediani, Simone Mugnaini and Mattia Nebbiai, and baritone Gabriele Spina and Romano Martinuzzi accompanied on piano by Diego Fiorini. The program includes arias, interludes and duets from Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, Gianni Schicchi and Turandot. Following is an extensive buffet by the Puccini Restaurant with a menu of appetizers and dishes from land and sea, as well as desserts and traditional drinks (there will be many surprises). Culture, food and wine are brought together, while keeping the admission price as one of the most accessible in Tuscany.

Prices and reservationsPurchase tickets / reservations at the Teatro Del Giglio in Lucca, tel. 0583 4653200583 465320. Infoline 340 8106042 – info@puccinielasualucca.comCentral Stalls and box seats 30 euro (including buffet), reduced 25 euro (including buffet);Side stalls, gallery 25 € (including buffet), reduced 20 euro (including buffet);Gallery € 15 (buffet included). Reductions for under 30’s, over 65’s, Teatro Del Giglio subscribers.Dessert buffet and beverages included.


On Sunday, December 27 at 4.30 pm in the parish church of Camigliano there’s a concert of Christmas Carols entitled “Around the Crib” organized by the “Giacomo Puccini” choir of Camigliano conducted by Luigi Della Maggiora. The even is held under the auspices of the municipality of Capannori, the FMIR Carrara choral group directed by Giulio Meccheri and San Michele Arcangelo chorale of Corsanico directed by Carlo Palagi. Organist Eduardo Barsotti. Free admission.










A ‘Manon’ to Die For

I came to Giacomo Puccini rather late in my music appreciation development. The first recording (it was then LPs) I took out from my local library was Beethoven’s Ninth (Ansermet conducting) and Berlioz overtures. I stood firmly in the instrumental rather than the operatic front. The only Puccini I could hack was an ancient shellac 78 rpm of that ubiquitous aria from Turandot, ‘Nessun Dorma’. My near-allergy to Puccini was reinforced when I visited a family friend who was conductor of the Flemish National Opera in Antwerp. To witness a performance of Madama Butterfly belted out in guttural Flemish was a particularly excruciating experience. After the performance the conductor, Martelli, in answer to my doubts about Puccini’s genius, replied ‘I’d give my right arm to have written just one page of his music!’ I didn’t think so.

There the matter rested until, through my wife’s interpreting contacts we were invited, in 1983, to the Terrazza Martini, then at the top of London’s New Zealand House for a reception to launch Manon Lescaut with Giuseppe Sinopoli conducting at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and Kiri and Placido singing! Sinopoli has to be one of the most extraordinary Italians of recent times and one of those rare conductors who wore at least two other hats: a most apposite one of psychologist (quite apart from being a composer in his own write) and an archaeologist.  It’s so sad that Giuseppe died prematurely aged 55 in 2001 from a heart attack while conducting Aida in Berlin


Sinopoli’s rendering of Puccini’s earliest unqualified hit (and perhaps the only one of his operas which was free from any obverse criticism from the start) was devastatingly and fierily passionate.  Puccini knew that after the failure of Edgar he’d have to either make or break it with this one. His room-mate, Mascagni, had just scored world success with Cavalleria Rusticana and Puccini felt rather left out. He need not have worried. With the money Manon Lescaut brought in the young operatic composer built himself a brand-new villa at Chiatri (which Elvira, his mistress and future wife, found an immediate objection to because, since the road the council had promised to it never happened, she was forced to reach the house on a mule – the road finally materialised only after WWI).

Manon Lescaut also signalled a change in my previous aversion to Puccini (indeed to all verismo and post-verismo operas). I was hooked and have been getting ever more hooked since moving into the vicinities of the composer’s home town, Lucca.

It was, therefore, with unbridled enthusiasm that I attended a performance of Manon Lescaut in that city’s delightful Teatro Del Giglio during the first winter (in November 2005) I spent at Longoio.


I was in seventh heaven when, entering the theatre’s foyer, I saw this plaque placed to the memory of the city’s greatest musical son.

I can’t remember too much about the production but certainly was swept along by the music of this incredibly fervent work.  Those stunning arias grab me now and shall for ever do so. (Incidentally, if anyone objects to the melting final scene set in ‘a desert in Louisiana’ on grounds of geographical impossibility then I would reply that we are here talking about Louisiana as defined by the much larger area of the ‘Louisiana purchase’ so it could have included Death Valley too!)

Here are some photographs from that memorable performance ten years ago:

There is something worse than disliking Mozart if one is a resident of Salzburg and that is being allergic to Puccini if one lives anywhere near Lucca!