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The Voice of an Emergent Nation

Monday, August 18, 2008 - 02:13 PM

So Giacomo Puccini is the biggest opera composer in the States. That’s no surprise. Fred Plotkin reports from Italy, though, that in Puccini’s home country it is Giuseppe Verdi who is considered to be the superior composer, and apparently by quite a large margin. In a sense, that’s not too surprising either – Verdi, after all, was considered a key player in the formation of the modern republic of Italy at a time when much of northern Italy was under Austro-Hungarian control. Like Sibelius in Finland, or much later and in a very different musical style, Thomas Mapfumo in Zimbabwe, Verdi was seen as the voice of an emergent nation. Still, Puccini wrote an incredible number of “hit tunes.” (Hearing the late Luciano Pavarotti ‘s great mid-70s recording of Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma,” from Turandot, was a formative experience for me.) You’d think the competition between the two (or between their respective fans) would be a little stiffer.

Are you an opera fan? If so, where does Puccini rank on your list of favorite composers? And if not, are you a Puccini fan anyway? (You’re probably still familiar with famous songs from Madame Butterfly and Tosca, from movies and TV commercials if nothing else.)

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