Le Villi in Turin

In the centenary year of Puccini’s death, being celebrated at opera houses worldwide, I share the pride of this choice by the Teatro Regio, Turin, to be one of the few theatres (and the only one in Italy) to stage his first opera, Le Villi which highlighted, from its first performance at the Teatro Dal Verme in Milan in 1884, the young composer’s ability to create captivating melodies and amazingly modern pages of symphonic music. The opera, although previously turned down at the Sonzogno competition (the story is well-known, made up of publishing house manoeuvres which took the young Puccini to Ricordi) was a success with the Milanese audience at the Teatro Dal Verme, yet the composer decided to revise it immediately after its debut. This second two-act version of the opera also triumphed at its first performance in December of the same year at the Teatro Regio, Turin. And it is this version that we are about to perform, one hundred and forty years later, in a new production by Pier Francesco Maestrini. I’m happy to be back again after just a few months conducting the Regio’s excellent Orchestra and Chorus, the latter prepared by Ulisse Trabacchin.

The theme is that of a tragic Nordic tale, the same used by Adolphe Adam for Giselle, which Ferdinando Fontana, librettist of the “Scapigliatura” movement, rewrote, inspired above all by Alphonse Karr’s Les Willis. In a small village in the Black Forest live the betrothed, Anna and Roberto. When the young man betrays his future wife, she dies and turns into a villi, a malign spirit who forces the unfaithful lover to take part in a frenzied dance that kills him. It is an unusual opera-ballet, still intriguing today with its gothic features and fantasy atmosphere.

For the occasion, and as an interesting critical contribution to Puccini 100 and to the first modern performance of the opera Le villiin Turin, on Friday 19th April at the Piccolo Regio Puccini, there will be a conference entitled “Un genio al debutto. Gli anni giovanili di Giacomo Puccini”, organised by the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini and the Teatro Regio.

Cover photo © Teatro Regio, Turin