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Opera Daily 🎶 — Puccini's first opera
This week's Opera Daily features “Se come voi piccina io fossi,” an aria from Puccini's first opera Le Villi
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Today we’re listening to…
“Se come voi piccina io fossi,” an aria from the opera Le Villi by Giacomo Puccini, sung by soprano Renata Scotto.
The Story of Le Villi: Puccini's Le Villi, follows the story of the young and innocent Anna and her fiancé, Roberto. When Roberto leaves their village to claim his inheritance, he is seduced by another in the city and leaves Anna, who dies of a broken heart. According to “legend”, women who die from such sorrow become "Villi," ghostly creatures doomed to force faithless men to dance to their deaths.
In this aria from Act 1, we find Anna alone, her thoughts filled with longing for Roberto’s return. She sings to the flowers, envying their simple lives. The aria is a lyrical outpouring of innocence and hope as Anna dreams of her future with Roberto, unaware of the tragic fate that awaits her. The music, reflective and tender, allows the soprano to explore a range of emotions—from serene contemplation to the sweet anticipation of love.
The setting is idyllic, a landscape where the purity of Anna’s heart is echoed by the beauty of nature around her. Puccini's music paints a delicate portrait of her character, using the interaction with the flowers as a metaphor for her own life, filled with natural, unaffected love and simplicity.
🎧 Treat Your Ears (5 minute listen): Renata Scotto’s rendition of "Se come voi piccina io fossi" from Puccini’s Le Villi.
A Glimpse into Le Villi:
Premiere: Teatro Dal Verme, Milan, May 31, 1884.
Puccini's Debut: Le Villi marks Puccini’s first foray into opera, and although it’s far less well known, it is a piece that shows the early signs of his genius. Nowadays, Puccini is an uncontested opera legend, but when he began composing Le Villi in 1883, the young Giacomo still had everything to prove. This first step into the world of opera was not an immediate success, falling short at a competition organized by the publisher Sonzogno. The reasons for this early disappointment are still debated today, with possible explanations ranging from a late submission to a conspiracy spearheaded by a rival publisher.
The Enchanted and the Betrayed: The opera follows the tragic love story of Anna and her fiancé Roberto. While Anna waits faithfully, Roberto falls prey to temptation, leading to heartbreak and the wrath of the “Villi”, “spirits of women who died from unrequited love”.
Before the Aria Unfolds: Anna, the heart of Le Villi, is alone, musing on the beauty of the world around her and her love for Roberto. In "Se come voi piccina io fossi," she compares herself to the tiny flowers of the field, which, despite their size, are filled with life. She dreams of Roberto's return and their future happiness, unaware of the tragic events that will soon unfold.
Grateful for your time and ears,
PS. Missed our last edition? We featured “Dopo notte, atra e funesta,” an aria from the opera Ariodante by George Frideric Handel, performed by Anne Sofie von Otter.
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