Date of this Version
PERFORMANCE PRACTICES IN FOUR PUCCINI ARIAS TEMPO CHOICES AND CHOOSERS
Joshua O. Neumann, M.M. University of Nebraska, 2008 Advisor: Peter M. Lefferts
Opera is notorious for having a wide spectrum of performance practices. Among the most notable opportunities for performer liberty is that granted by the heightened emotionalism of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Italian operas. Giacomo Puccini is the most prominent Italian composer of the turn of the twentieth century. His operas are among the most popular and most often performed in the genre. Puccini’s best-known operas (La Bohéme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Gianni Schicchi) have been hits with the public if not the critics since their premieres. Members of the public have a wealth of recordings of both excerpts (arias) and full-length renditions for private listening. Hearing Puccini’s operas, it is impossible to miss their multitude of characteristic performance practices. Of particular interest is the interpretation of Puccini’s scores in respect to tempo, since he had a notoriously fastidious sense of dramatic pacing. The most economical way to explore these interpretations is through recordings. However, not all recordings are created equal. Interpretations of pacing invariably differ between concert performances, studio recordings, and excerpted arias. In the following pages, I will examine the different kinds of materials used in recordings and the environments in which recordings have been made. I will then review current literature on how these differences affect recordings. Following a brief discussion of general Puccini performance practices, I will examine recordings of four arias with respect to tempo in light of the technology and circumstances of recording.