There are essentially two views of Puccini. To his admirers he is one of the most beloved, most lyrical and at times moving composers of the modern period -- and successful beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings.
Detractors, however, have a different view. For all the dramatic (or melodramatic) force of his music and his undeniable lyric gift, finally he is enthralled by the mob. His lucrative populism is almost an embarrassment, and the joke he once told about his talent: "God touched me, but with his little finger," is perhaps, a truer saying than his fans care to admit.
Whether you believe that Mary Stuart was the most amoral, conniving and ruthless female of Elizabethan England or the most tragic victim of overwhelming and relentless circumstances and doomed to tragic grandeur, her life is one of the great historical dramas.
One of opera's most comical and telling facts was that Giuseppe Verdi was poised at the height of his middle period -- between "Rigoletto" and "La Traviata" -- to first tackle nothing less than "King Lear," until finally deciding on "Il Trovatore" (The Troubadour).
With a mixture of trepidation and excitement, Hector Berlioz, the composer, critic and conductor, stood poised to lay aside many of the usual tasks and distractions of his life and give himself up to the dream of a lifetime: The composition of an epic on antique themes inspired by Virgil's "Aeneid," Les Troyens.
It was habit in the nineteenth and early twentieth century to present operas, whatever their original language, in the language of the host country. Playbills of the past are filled with references toWagner's Il Sigfrido, or Mozart’s Il Fluto Magico, or Figaro's Hochzeit. The idea was, of course, to fill the seats. This is especially important in comedy, because what was the point if nobody got the jokes!