Sights and sounds from a critic's magical mystery tour
Torre del Lago, Lucca, and Bologna, Italy
Torre del Lago, Italy A funny, intensely musical production of the maestro's one-act comic opera, ``Gianni Schichi,'' was the highlight of this year's Puccini Festival, the outstanding direction by Pino Quartullo. The excellent cast was headed by Giuseppe Taddei. The celebrated Puccini star of yesteryear, Fedora Barbieri - now singing character parts - was the ``highlight'' of the ``highlight,'' a hilarious Zita. Lucca, Italy
The ancient, walled city of Lucca - birthplace of all but one of the five generations of composers named Puccini - annually sponsors the Sagra Musicale Lucchese (Music Festival of Lucca). A special program at the Basilica of San Frediano entitled ``The Puccini Musicians of Lucca'' featured the Symphonic Orchestra from the opera house and the choir of the cathedral under the direction of Gianfranco Cosmi in a program devoted to the works of Domenico Puccini (1772-1851) and Michele Puccini (1813-1864), the grandfather and father of the best-known Puccini, Giacomo.
Domenico's classically structured Piano Concerto and Michele Puccini's romantically lush Kyrie for tenor, chorus, and orchestra were among the more interesting works. Bologna, Italy
The Teatro Comunale in Bologna has unveiled a new version of Giacomo Puccini's opera, ``La Rondine.'' From materials now in the Puccini archive, Alfredo Mandelli of the Institute for Puccini Studies has recreated the composer's final, never-performed revision of Act III. By placing a piano on stage in the pavillion of Magda's villa on the Riviera, there has been no need to orchestrate the six pages of new material Puccini left only in piano score. The new version works! Much trite, coy material has been eliminated, and, to quote Mandelli, ``the bitter significance of the story in which money is important is recaptured.''