La forza del destino was written for performance in Russia in 1862. It isbased on the Spanish play Don Alvaro o la fuerza delsino by AngelSaavedra, Duke of Rivas, which recounts a complex tale of the working of fate inthe love of Leonora and Don Alvaro, unwitting cause of her father's death andtherefore the object of vengeance from her brother. The overture sets the scenefor the sombre tragedy that follows.
The leading composer in Italian opera after Verdi was Giacomo Puccini, anexponent of dramatic realism. He won success in 1896 with his opera LaBoh?¿me, based on a French novel by Henri Murger that deals with life in theLatin Quarter of Paris in the 1830s. A group of young artists share anattic apartment. The poet of the group, Rodolfo, is alone when a timid knock atthe door introduces a neighbour, the poor little seamstress Mimi, who seeks alight for her candle. She and Rodolfo fall in love as their hands meet,searching for the key she has dropped, and timidly she reveals the name by whichshe is known, Mi chiamono Mimi (They call me Mimi). Their love cannotlast, and after various vicissitudes is renewed only on her death-bed.
Puccici's La Tosca followed in 1900, based on a French play byVictorien Sardou. The heroine of the title loves the painter Cavaradossi, who isimplicated in revolutionary activity, assisting a fugitive to escape, and isimprisoned and condemned to death by the wicked Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia.
Tosca, a singer, seeks to secure his release, which she can only do at the priceof her honour. She secures what she thinks is a pardon and laissez-passer fromScarpia, whom she then murders. Scarpia, however, has deceived her, since he hasplanned not a mock-execution of Cavaradossi, as he had assured her, but theman's real death by firing-squad. Tosca, Scarpia's murder undiscovered, believesuntil the end that Cavaradossi will escape with her. When she realises that heis dead and that Scarpia's murder is now known, she leaps from the prisonbattlements to her own death. Cavaradossi, in prison in Castel San Angelo,reflects in E lucevan le stelle on happier times.
In Madama Butterfly Puccini turned for his plot to an American play byDavid Belasco on a Japanese subject, the betrayal of the heroine of the title,the young Japanese girl Cio-Cio-San, by a visiting American naval officer,Pinkerton, who goes through a form of marriage with the girl, having no seriousintention of remaining true to her. He leaves and Cio-Cio-San patiently awaitshis return, watching for his ship with her loyal servant Suzuki and the boy thatPinkerton has fathered. When the latter eventually returns he brings with himhis American wife and Cio-Cio-San, Madama Butterfly, kills herself. On herwedding-day Cio-Cio-San has been cursed by her uncle, the Bonze, and as eveningfalls she is comforted by Pinkerton in a love duet, Bimba dagli occhi, whichends the first act.
Gianni Schicchi formed part of an operatic triptych by Puccini, firststaged in New York in 1918. Gianni Schicchi himself helps the family of BuosoDonati, who has just died, to frustrate the intentions expressed in his will toleave his money to a monastery. Schicchi impersonates the dead man and makes anew will, but secures much of the property for himself, to the anger of BuosoDonati's family, who remain powerless. Omio babbino caro is sung bySchicchi's daughter Lauretta, who wants to marry Rinuccio, a relative of BuosoDonati who is instrumental in bringing in Schicchi to solve the family' sdifficulties and his own.
Puccini's last opera, Turandot, was left unfinished at the time of hisdeath in 1924. It is based on the eighteenth century play by Gozzi dealing withthe cold- hearted Chinese princess Turandot, who sets her suitors three riddles.
Those unsuccessful are put to death. Ca