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Puccini's Le Villi: an operatic Giselle

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Why this early Puccini opera is hardly ever performed I don't know as it is very good indeed.  The story is virtually that of Giselle with a village couple, apparently devoted, postponing their wedding when Roberto goes to the city to claim his inheritance.  Anna dies of grief waiting for him.  When Roberto eventually returns after squandering his money the Villis seize him and dance him to death.  Anna, unlike Giselle, isn't forgiving.

Currently being performed in London by Holland Park Opera on a double bill with another curiosity, Margot La Rouge by Delius.  I went with a couple of ballet fans and we all loved it.  Still a couple of performances left for any Londoners who want a chance to see this rarity.

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I realize this was a rhetorical question, but I was curious:  you'd be in good company with Arrigo Boito and some other of Puccini's friends.  The opera was composed as a one-act for a contest for first-time composers that his one-time roommate, Mascagni, later won.  The judges didn't like it, but Boito and friends were suitably impressed, and Boito helped to finance a performance of a very successful expanded, two-act version -- with ballet music! --  which impressed the publisher Ricordi, along with Toscanini, and the rest is history.

According to this lengthy review by Michael Miller of the 2016 Bard Festival in which the opera was performed, Riccordi kept on Puccini to expand it, and, according to a book citied in the Wikipedia article on Puccini, Ricordi didn't publish it until a couple of years after its successful debut "hindering further performance of the work." 

While opera companies are more and more willing to present lesser-known works, the opera still has the challenge of length, which is a short program as a stand-alone or an unbalanced one, if a short work is the "prelude."  It's possible that there's bias against reviving Puccini precisely because at least some people think that if was any good, it would be popular already.  Although he was an active composer for most of 40 years, he wrote 10 works.  (I count Il Trittico as one, because he did.)

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Many thanks for that review, as you said, lengthy, so I'll read it this evening.  I've emailed it to a group of fellow opera goers.

I'm having a good year for opera rarities, Ethel Smyth's The Wreckers (now why is that ignored), Ponchielli's  La Gioconda, Poulenc's La Voix humaine and Les Mamelles de Tiresias (next week, train strike permitting).  And on my travels, Boito's Mephistopheles with Erwin Schrott in the title role in Budapest and Rameau's Platee with Laurence Brownlee in the title role in Paris.  Some of those have really well known arias, but frustratingly they are not performed, or just in concert performances here, though I once saw Mephistophes at ENO sung in English.

Has anyone seem a staged performance Puccini's Edgar?  Or any opera by Paer?

Should add the Villi's dancing was rather good.  What accompanied Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours though was atrocious.


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