Composers Datebook®

Puccini's triple premiere in New York

Composers Datebook - 20231214
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Synopsis

On today’s date in 1918, the Metropolitan Opera in New York offered the world premiere performance of not one, not two, but three new operas by Giacomo Puccini.

The three one-act operas are collectively billed as Il Trittico, or The Triptych. In order of their presentation at the Met, the triptych consisted of Il Tabarro (The Cloak), a rather sordid tale of passion and murder, followed by a sentimental tear-jerker titled Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica, after its Romantic heroine), and, for a comic finale, Gianni Schicchi, titled after the resourceful hero of its comic plot.

Musical America reported a warm welcome for the three new Puccini operas, but did find Il Tabarro “in the main, black and brutal.” In that journal’s opinion, the hit of the evening was the comic opera, Gianni Schicci. In particular, one brief soprano aria from that opera so pleased the first-night audience that it had to be encored.

Over time, this little aria, “O Mio Babbino Caro,” has become one of Puccini’s greatest hits and has even cropped up in the soundtracks of movies such as A Room With a View and G.I. Jane.

Music Played in Today's Program

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) Gianni Schicchi; Angela Gheorghiu, soprano; London Symphony; Antonio Pappano, cond. EMI 56587

On This Day

Births

  • 1873 - Belgian composer and organist Joseph Jongen, in Liège;

  • 1929 - American composer Ron Nelson, in Joliet, Illinois;

Deaths

  • 1788 - German composer Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, age 74, in Hamburg;

  • 1861 - German opera composer Heinrich Marschner, age 66, in Hanover;

Premieres

  • 1918 - Puccini: one-act opera trilogy "Il Trittico" ("Il Tabarro," "Suor Angelico," and "Gianni Schicchi") at the Metropolitan Opera in New York;

  • 1924 - Respighi: tone poem, "The Pines of Rome," in Rome, at the Augusteo, Bernardo Molinari conducting;

  • 1925 - Berg: opera, "Wozzeck," in Berlin, at the Staatsoper, with Erich Kleiber conducting;

  • 1936 - Barber: String Quartet, Op. 11, at the Villa Aurelia in Rome (Italy), by the Pro Arte Quartet;

  • 1969 - Ligeti: String Quartet No. 2, in Baden-Baden, Germany, by the LaSalle Quartet;

  • 1975 - Ruth Crawford Seeger: Suite for Piano and Woodwind Quintet, in Cambridge, Mass.;

  • 1983 - George Perle: Serenade No. 3 for Piano and Chamber Orchestra,in New York City, by Richard Goode and the Music Today Ensemble conducted by Gerard Schwarz;

  • 1997 - Morten Lauridsen: “Ave Maria” for a cappella chorus, by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Paul Salamunovich conducting;

  • 1997 - Joan Tower: "Rain Waves," at the Frick Museum in New York, by the Verdehr Trio;

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

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