23 February 2008


I'll be travelling to NYC later today, to see a performance of Manon Lescaut in the evening.

Manon was the third opera composed by Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (now THERE's a name) -- and the first of his to make a big splash at the time, or become a regular in the canon since.

So indulge me while I reflect on Puccini. What about those first two operas, the ones that preceded his fame? The first was Le Villi (1884), about forest spirits or faeries. The second Edgar (1889), about a young man of that name struggling to choose between his chaste home town girlfriend and an exotic gypsy. The two female participants in the triangle are named Fidelia and Tigrana respectively. Now there's an unsubtle bit of naming.

Manon came along in 1893. One fascinating fact about this opera to a wordsmith like myself: it had five librettists. The publisher (Giulio Ricordi) also contributed to the libretto, as did Puccini himself. None of their seven names appear on the title page of the original score.

Puccini wrote nine operas thereafter: including such repertoire pillars as Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot. Turandot was his final work, left incomplete at his death in November 1924.

There was, one might say, an operatic quality to Puccini's life. In 1909, his wife accused their maid of having an affair with him. The maid subsequently committed suicide, and her family sued the Puccinis. In an opera, of course, there would have been a duel, not a lawsuit. Still, it seems an appropriate scandal.

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Knowledge is warranted belief -- it is the body of belief that we build up because, while living in this world, we've developed good reasons for believing it. What we know, then, is what works -- and it is, necessarily, what has worked for us, each of us individually, as a first approximation. For my other blog, on the struggles for control in the corporate suites, see www.proxypartisans.blogspot.com.