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Thursday at the Opera - Lecture VI



Thursday at the Opera - Lecture VI

Our series Thursday at the Opera is back at the Institute from February 15th until March 29th.

The series will be presented by Deirdre O'Grady, Emeritus Professor of Italian and Comparative Studies of University College Dublin. The illustrated lectures she presents will consider Puccini’s works and their sources, influences, great performers in specific roles in which they triumphed, and famous stage productions. The lectures will begin on February 15th and end on March 29th. Each lecture will last about one hour starting at 6:30pm on Thursdays.
Lectures will be in English.


29th March: La Rondine (Monte Carlo 1817) and Turandot (Milan 1926). Love and Money and Love and Death

It may be argued that La Rondine/The Swallow owes much to Puccini’s American experience. Although in many aspects a highly ‘modern’ opera’ it was intended as a ‘Viennese Operetta’ in the manner of Richard Strausse’s, Der Rosenkavalier. What ultimately emerged has more in common with Johan Strauss, Die Fledermaus. There unfolds a bittersweet love story. Magda, the mistress of a wealthy Banker, enjoys a brief affair with a younger lover from the provinces. Accepting the reality of her situation she resolutely returns to a life of financial wellbeing. Symbols of wealth, gold and financial gain are present throughout the libretto.

The innovative dance rhythms, with the ‘quick step’ alternating with the waltz, the presence of a piano on stage as accompaniment for Magda’s performance of Il bel sogno di Doretta/ ‘ Doretta’s lovely Dream’ carries this ‘Operetta’ towards the world of the American Musical. Were Dublin born Victor Herbert and Sigmund Romberg influenced by Puccini’s sense of modernity with ‘verismo’ undertones? Had Puccini lived beyond the age of sixty- six where might he have travelled musically? We shall never know.

In his final incomplete Opera Turandot Puccini adapted a Persian Fairy Tale dramatized by the Venetian writer Carlo Gozzi creating the magnification of a myth. The plot evolves on a colossal scale. It tells of the Chinese Princess Turandot who subjects all aspiring suitors to a test consisting of three riddles. Those who fail to answer are condemned to lose their heads. The presence of Masks deriving from the commedia dell’arte introduces a drama of servants and masters, playing itself out alongside the Fairy Tale aspect of the text. The work reaches superhuman heights in a search for an Eternal, Immortal, and Infinite perception of a ‘Super Art’. In a battle of D’Annunzian proportions between Love and Death the final triumph belongs to Love, awakened in Turandot by the Kiss of the Unknown Prince.

Although Puccini’s last opera has its sources in myth and eighteenth and nineteenth century Italian drama, it remains the composer’s most modern subject. Turandot’s hatred and fear of all her suitors looks to the theories of repression of Sigmund Freud. It reveals the influence of Nietzsche’s philosophy of the ‘Superman’. It reflects in reverse Gabriele D’Annunzio’s illustration of the Triumph of Death (Il trionfo della morte), in his novel of the same name.

This final section of the opera, based on Puccini’s notes was completed by his pupil Franco Alfano after the composer’s death.


Date: Thursday, March 29, 2018

Time: At 6:30 pm

Entrance : Free