THREE IN A ROW --PUCCINI'S WOMEN
(Not on this year are Mimi/La Boheme and Tosca.)
What they all share—exotic (erotic?) appeal and emotional vulnerability.
And they also made me wonder, what were the real women in Puccini’s life like.
Puccini began an affair and had a son with a married woman, Elvira, in 1884. After
her husband was killed by the jealous husband of his lover in 1904, Elvira married Puccini.
In 1909, Elvira accused Doria, a maid, of being Puccini’s mistress. Doria then committed suicide. An autopsy showed she was a virgin.
As a side note, Elvira was sentenced to 5 months in prison, which she did not have to
serve because Puccini took care of things.
While all of Puccini’s opera women end up dead, Liu, the slave girl in Turnadot, is the only one who is not actively engaged in a physical love affair, like Mimi, Tosca, Butterfly and Manon. She takes the only way out early, by killing herself after singing of her love which can never be fulfilled in life.
Verdi’s women don’t end up any better but they seem to have choices which Puccini does not give his characters. Aida chooses to go back and suffocate in a tomb with her love, while Violetta gives up any hope of a healthy life in the country with her lover, to go back to Paris and die of consumption.
Facts: Puccini died in 1924. Several composers have offered endings to the unfinished Turnadot. Documents found in 2007 reveal that it was really Doria’s cousin Guilia who was Puccini’s mistress.
Fancy: While there is no question that Liu is not going to get the prince for her husband, there is still lingering questions as to what exactly Turnadot herself is really about. Did any of these real women figure into the mix of stories and librettos that Puccini worked with? Is the Ice Princess cold and calculating or covering up emotional neediness and therefore inspiring men that she is so worth dying for in order for them to give her love.
Take your pick — the force of facts or the flights of fancy —but Puccini certainly loved women and he gave the world some of the best loved in opera for the world to love.
WANT TO CHECK IT OUT: SEE MADAME BUTTERFLY AT THE MET MOVIES ON APRIL 2