La Fanciulla del West, Puccini’s best, least-known opera, recently turned 100. The rollicking spaghetti Western — which takes place during the California Gold Rush — premiered December 10, 1910, at New York City’s Metropolitan Opera. But despite its initial success, it didn’t prove to be as popular as La Bohème, Tosca, or Madama Butterfly.
In celebration of the opera’s centennial, Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, in conjunction with the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, hosted “Fanciulla 100: Celebrating Puccini,” a symposium that featured numerous musical experts and historians, including David Rosen, a professor emeritus of music at Cornell University who specializes in Italian opera of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the video above, Rosen describes the importance of revisiting original stage manuals when producing Fanciulla. “Depending on their pedigree and closeness to the composer,” he says, “stage manuals may be crucial documents in reconstructing the authorial-approved visual element.”
While Rosen maintains that not every production should be the same — the result would be boring — he also believes that opera producers should know the text of the work in order to know the baseline from which they are deviating. “We want, or should want, to reconstruct the authorial-sanctioned visual element,” he says.
Hosted by the College of Fine Arts and the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center on December 6, 2010.
From Boston University’s YouTube channel