|Opera by Giacomo Puccini|
|Based on||Alfred de Musset's play La Coupe et les lèvres|
21 April 1889
Teatro alla Scala, Milan
Edgar is an operatic dramma lirico in three acts (originally four acts) by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Ferdinando Fontana, freely based on the play in verse La Coupe et les lèvres by Alfred de Musset.
The first performance was given at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 21 April 1889. The opera was not a success. Puccini repeatedly revised it, before eventually giving up in frustration, declaring the work irredeemable.
Development and revisions
Edgar, Puccini's second opera, was composed on a commission from the publisher Ricordi after the successful reception of his first stage work, Le Villi. The plot indicates the influence of Wagner's Tannhäuser. Both centre on medieval knights struggling between a life of sensual indulgence and ideal love. Edgar is "torn between the sacred love of Fidelia and the profane love of Tigrana"; Wagner's hero indulges himself with Venus while pining for the love of Elizabeth. The gypsy-like figure of Tigrana (supposedly the child of "wandering Moors") also parallels the anti-heroine of Bizet's Carmen.
The original version had four acts and was tepidly received. In January 1890, Ricordi published a revised version, including a different ending for act 2. In the autumn of 1891, Puccini revised the work again, cutting the last act and producing a three-act version which would again be revised in 1905.
In this final form the opera had even less success than in its original four-act structure. Some of the music that was cut in 1891 was reused in Tosca and became the beautiful act 3 duet, "Amaro sol per te m'era il morire!". The funeral march from act 3 was played at Puccini's funeral, conducted by Arturo Toscanini and the aria "Addio, mio dolce amor" (Farewell, my sweet love) from act 4 was sung.
Puccini finally gave up on Edgar and in later years, bitterly repudiated the work. He wrote,
It was an organism defective from the dramatic point of view. Its success was ephemeral. Although I knew that I wrote some pages which do me credit, that is not enough -- as an opera it does not exist. The basis of an opera is the subject and its treatment. In setting the libretto of Edgar I have, with all respect to the memory of my friend Fontana, made a blunder (una cantonata). It was more my fault than his.
On a copy of the score that he sent to a friend, the English woman Sybil Seligman, he wrote scathing remarks against parts of the score and amended the title to read:
The autograph of the acts 1 and 3 of the original version is preserved in the Archivio Ricordi in Milan. The autograph of the acts 2 and 4, which was believed lost till 2008, was owned until her death by Simonetta Puccini, the composer's granddaughter.
The first version was performed at the Teatro Regio in Turin on 25 June 2008, directed by Yoram David. American musicologist Dr. Linda Fairtile is working on producing the critical edition of the first version, but the score performed in Turin is based on Puccini's autograph. Fairtile worked on it together with Gabriele Dotto and Claudio Toscani.
In the opera's 1905 version, it was first given in the US on 12 April 1966 and in the UK on 6 April 1967 (by Hammersmith Municipal Opera under Joseph Vandernoot). However, the original version was given its UK premiere at Lewes Town Hall by New Sussex Opera on 25 October 2012.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast, 21 April 1889|
(Conductor: Franco Faccio)
|Gualtiero, father of Fidelia and Frank||bass||Pio Marini|
|Chorus: Farmers, soldiers, courtiers, monks, children|
Synopsis (three-act version)
- Place: Flanders.
- Time: 1302.
Pure-hearted maiden Fidelia rejoices in the return of Edgar, who has been living a life of debauchery with the wild Tigrana, a woman who was abandoned by "wandering Moors" as a baby and brought up by Fidelia's father. Fidelia gives an awakening Edgar a sprig of almond blossoms, but leaves when she sees Tigrana approaching. Tigrana tries to tempt Edgar to return to their life of debauchery, but fails when Edgar avows he loves Fidelia's purity. Frank, who has always loved Tigrana, enters, but when he cannot win her affections, he berates her, and they argue.
After Tigrana mocks the villagers at prayer, they order her to leave the village. She retreats to Edgar's house, where he defends her from the angry crowd. He announces that he will go with her, and burns down his house before leaving. Frank attempts to stop them, and is wounded in a duel with Edgar. The villagers curse the fleeing lovers.
Edgar has left the wild orgy in Tigrana's house. He is tired of his life of debauchery and longs to return to Fidelia. Tigrana comes to him to entice him back to the party, but, just as she is about to succeed, a platoon of soldiers arrives. Edgar is surprised that Frank is leading them, and asks for forgiveness. Frank grants it happily because the fight actually had broken the hold Tigrana had on him. To escape from Tigrana, Edgar joins the platoon, despite her pleading. Tigrana swears revenge as the men leave her.
A large funeral procession carries the armored body of Edgar, who has fallen in battle. Frank and the crowd praise Edgar as a hero, but the monk who heard Edgar's dying confession denounces him. He reveals Edgar's sins and debauchery, and the crowd, easily swayed, curses Edgar. Only Fidelia stands up for Edgar and vows that she will meet him in heaven.
After the crowd leaves, Tigrana enters, crying. She is upset that no one will see her weeping for Edgar. Frank and the monk ask her to denounce Edgar, but she resists until they offer her jewels. The crowd returns. The monk claims that Edgar betrayed his country for some gold, and Tigrana reluctantly confirms this. The soldiers try to desecrate the body and discover it is only a suit of armor. The monk reveals that he is Edgar and goes to leave with Fidelia, the only one who remained true to him. The vengeful Tigrana stabs and kills Fidelia. Edgar weeps over the lifeless body as the soldiers capture Tigrana, and the crowd prays.
Opera house and orchestra
Opera Orchestra of New York,
Schola Cantorum of New York
(Live recording from Carnegie Hall, April 1977)
|CD: CBS/Sony Classical|
Cat: M2K 79213
Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia
|CD: Deutsche Grammophon|
Cat: 00289 477 6102
Orchestra and chorus of Teatro Regio di Torino
|DVD: Arthaus Musik|
Cat: 101 377
- John Louis Digaetani, Puccini the Thinker: The Composer's Intellectual and Dramatic Development, Peter Lang, New York, 2001, p.17.
- Mosco Carner, Puccini: A Critical Biography, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1959, p.53.
- Fisher 2000, p. 58
- Kendell 2012, p. ??
- Fairtile is the author of Giacomo Puccini: A Guide to Research (Composer Resource Manual no. 48). New York: Garland, 1999
- Hudson and Parker 2001, p. 699
- Recordings of Edgar on operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Fisher, Burton D. (2000), Opera Classics Library Puccini Companion: The Glorious Dozen. Opera Journeys Publishing. ISBN 1-930841-62-0
- Hudson Elizabeth; Robert Parker (2001), in Holden, Amanda (ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam. ISBN 0-14-029312-4
- Kendell, Colin, The Complete Puccini: The Story of the World's Most Popular Operatic Composer, Amberley Publishing 2012 ISBN 978-1-4456-0445-9
- Warrack, John and West, Ewan (eds.) (1992). The Oxford Dictionary of Opera New York: OUP. ISBN 0-19-869164-5
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