Puccini: His Life and Works / Edition 1

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Julian Budden, one of the world's foremost scholars of Italian opera and author of a monumental three-volume study of Verdi's works, now offers music lovers a major new biography of one of the giants of Italian opera, Giacomo Puccini.
Blending astute musical analysis with a colorful account of Puccini's life, here is an illuminating look at some of the most popular operas in the repertoire, including Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot. Budden provides an illuminating look at the process of putting an opera together, the cut-and-slash of nineteenth-century Italian opera—the struggle to find the right performers for the debut of La Boheme, Puccini's anxiety about completing Turandot (he in fact died of cancer before he did so), his animosity toward his rival Leoncavallo (whom he called Leonasino or "lion-ass"). Budden provides an informative analysis of the operas themselves, examining the music act by act. He highlights, among other things, the influence of Wagner on Puccini—alone among his Italian contemporaries, Puccini followed Wagner's example in bringing the motif into the forefront of his narrative, sometimes voicing the singer's unexpressed thoughts, sometimes sending out a signal to the audience of which the character is unaware. And Budden also paints an intriguing portrait of Puccini the man—talented but modest, a man who had friends from every walk of life: shopkeepers, priests, wealthy landowners, fellow artists. Affable, well mannered, gifted with a broad sense of fun, he rarely failed to charm all who met him.
A new volume in the esteemed Master Musicians series, Puccini offers a masterful portrait of this beloved Italian composer.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"He makes one hungry to hear the operas once again and reconsider one's own response—what can be higher praise for music criticism?"—Tim Page, Washington Post Book World

"At the least, Budden's book will stand as the bellwether of studies of Puccini's music, the starting point for further scholarly work and for informed amateurs alike. At the most, he has given us the best survey we have of Italian opera around 1900...He has made a minor art form of operatic description in prose, expanding the old format of plot-summary-plus-favoritie-themes to include music analysis, critical response, and secure judgments as to the echoes of other composers heard at any moment. He joins all this is a prose that will engage even those who cannot follow all the musical particulars. There is more: Budden contrives in the introductory sections of his chapters to give us a canny glimpse of Puccini's life at the time of each opera. And—this is one of the most impressive features of his study—he provides in each chapter vignettes that add up to a historical sketch of the musical culture Puccini lived and worked in."—Gary Tomlinson, The New York Times Book Review

"...a seamless and readable narrative. His prose style is appealingly informal while not sacrificing scholarly integrity, and he has an effective way of drawing the reader into each new chapter.... Budden is ever alert to the impact Puccini's environment had upon his art."—Music and Letters

"Julian Budden's book fills a serious gap. Here is a single volume combining excellent biography with an often illuminating discussion of the work...Budden's approach to the individual operas is often fresh and engaging. His investigation of the dramatic and musical problems that Puccini encountered while writing Manon Lescaut is fascinating...Budden's is a book for the library shelf, a reliable reference work that the reader will want to consult when program notes fail or a fresh view of the operas."—Opera News

"Budden is responsible for much of the new Puccini scholarship and his synthesis of this material is often elegant."—New York Review of Books

"If you want in-depth insight into Puccini's operas, replete with many stanzas of music, Budden's bio and discussion should be on your shelf."—The San Diego Union Tribune

"Essential reading, Budden's biography allies in-depth scholarship with narrative pace to offer us a masterly and intensely human portrait of the man and composer. Finely researched, surely the most thoughtful biography to date of Italy's last great opera composer."—Vivien A. Hewitt, Director, Festival Puccini of Torre del Lago

"Bravo Budden!!!!!! His books on Verdi have been an invaluable aid to my study and role preparation over the years, and now the Puccini volume joins them in my library. Budden manages to synthesize the historical, academic, artistic, and human aspects of Puccini's operas in a way that is totally accessible, and most useful to any serious artist or music lover."—Elizabeth Blancke-Biggs, Soprano

"An enormously impressive achievement. Certainly the best book on Puccini in English. As we would expect from the author of The Operas of Verdi, Budden's discussion of Puccini's alarmingly popular music is both sensitive and challenging in its insights."—Roger Parker, Professor of Music and Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge University

"Informed lay readers will gain insight while theoreticians will appreciate Budden's deeper musical analysis. His elegant turns of phrase ("rhythmic scaffolding") and obvious expertise combine in an exceptional whole."—Library Journal

Library Journal
The literature on Puccini continues to grow with these two books. Italian-born Budden (The Operas of Verdi) here synthesizes Puccini's musical endeavors with his life. Using a straightforward, chronological approach, giving exact dates when possible, he treats each opera in a separate chapter, devoting much space to character and plot and citing contemporary reviews and subsequent reception. He also mentions Puccini's other instrumental and vocal compositions. Informed lay readers will gain insight while theoreticians will appreciate Budden's deeper musical analysis. His elegant turns of phrase ("rhythmic scaffolding") and obvious expertise combine in an exceptional whole, though a few Britishisms may confuse American readers. A list of works, useful biographical information on personalities mentioned in the text, and a strong bibliography round out the volume. Michele Girardi's recently translated Puccini: His International Art is similar, with even more specific treatment of musical passages. Highly recommended for academic and music collections, as well as sophisticated clients at public libraries. Phillips-Matz (Verdi: A Biography) discusses Puccini as if she were telling the life story of a valued friend. She remarks on premieres, casts, and critical reception of the works but says little about the music itself. However, she does expand upon the personal issues touched on by Budden (e.g., the Doria Manfredi incident). She also sets a cultural context with historical descriptions of the Tuscan region and extensive information on Puccini's forebears. Her style is stimulating and, for the most part, more entertaining than merely informative. In a rather old-fashioned way, she talks about her own meetings with characters like Puccini's granddaughter, Biki, and singer Gilda Dalla Rizza. Her method of including "footnotes" within the text and abbreviations is helpful; however, one wishes that she had indicated in the introduction the groupings of relevant materials rather than repeating them each time they occurred. She also includes a works list, six major contemporary opera composers and their works, and an up-to-date bibliography. Conrad Wilson's Giacomo Puccini in Phaidon Press's "20th-Century Composers" series makes a good complement, although Phillips-Matz's approach is more genteel and positive. Recommended for all collections. (Indexes and illustrations not seen in either.) Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195179743
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2004
  • Series: Master Musicians Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 552
  • Sales rank: 807,286
  • Product dimensions: 9.10 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Julian Budden, formerly the Chief Producer for Opera at BBC Radio, currently serves as the President of the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini, Lucca, Italy. He is the author of the Master Musicians biography of Verdi as well as the three-volume The Operas of Verdi.

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Table of Contents

Preface vii
Acknowledgments viii
Key to Sigla ix
1 Early Life at Lucca 1
2 The Student at Milan 17
3 Le Villi 37
4 Edgar 58
5 Manon Lescaut 87
6 La boheme 131
7 Tosca 181
8 Madama Butterfly 223
9 La fanciulla del West 274
10 La rondine 332
11 Il trittico 370
12 Turandot 417
13 Puccini as Man and Artist 474
A Calendar 480
B List of Works 494
C Personalia 497
D Select Bibliography 510
Index 519
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