Il Trittico (1915-1918)
Background: Giacomo Puccini's early ideas for three one act operas to be performed together had been rejected by Ricordi since 1904 as being a bad idea. But after Ricordi died in 1912, Puccini took up the idea again, and worked on three pieces during the war, about the time he was also writing La Rondine. He had first been fascinated by a one-act drama called The Cloak by Didier Gold, in Paris , where it was successful enough to have enjoyed a run of several years.
Full of the ambience of the lives of the bargees on the River Seine at the beginning of the 1900's, Puccini originally engaged his friend, Ferdinando Martini to write the libretto for the first of the trio of operas based on Gold's play, to be called Il Tabarro. However, Martini proved to be a very slow producer, and eventually, Puccini changed his mind and engaged Giuseppe Adami, with whom he had written La Rondine, who had probably been waiting in the wings for this opportunity: he delivered a completed libretto to the composer in just two weeks.
Puccini completed the orchestration in 1916. For the other two libretti, he turned to Giovacchino Forzano, a colorful character who had already been successful in a variety of careers before he turned playwright. In Forzano, Puccini found a quick and intelligent librettist, who was not hampered by having to adapt libretti from previously written works, as Puccini's other librettists had been. In fact, Suor Angelica was written after an idea of Forzano's own; Puccini himself developed the idea for Gianni Schicchi from a plot he derived from Dante's Inferno, as at this time in his life, he particularly wanted to write a comic opera. Work on both pieces progressed at a rapid pace, and Puccini composed the music with remarkable speed, in part because of the high quality of Forzano's libretti. Il Trittico was unable to have its premiere in Italy because of the fact that so many opera artists were involved in the war effort, so Puccini arranged for the work to premiere in New York , although he was unable to be there himself because of the war raging in Europe . The first performance took place at the Metropolitan Opera, New York , December 14, 1918.
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