Puccini: Le Willis/Le Villi, full scores on sale

Puccini: Le Willis/Le Villi, full scores on sale

Le Willis (1883-84) and its two-act reworking Le Villi (1884-85; revised 1889) are Puccini's inaugural works in the operatic genre.

Uniquely among Puccini's operas, neither version was ever published in full score, and both present significant textual problems. The manuscript of Le Willis was dismembered and reworked as the basis of Le Villi; and Ricordi's master hire score of Le Villi was destroyed in 1943 - and with it an entire tradition of revisions and corrections. Successive editions of the printed vocal score of Le Villi are of very uneven quality.

The new two-volume Critical Edition is the fruit of an extensive recension of the surviving sources in the light of a collateral transmission in which authority is often shared between sources. As well as the autograph full scores, drafts and sketch materials (notably the composer's continuity draft) have been brought to bear on the numerous text-critical problems that arise.

Volume I of the Edition makes possible for the first time the performance of the one-act opera Le Willis, reconstructed from the two parts of Puccini's manuscript held at the Morgan Library and Museum, New York, and the Archivio Ricordi, Milan.

Le Willis emerges as a valuable addition to the limited repertory of one-act operas, with a striking vein of symphonism that looks forward to Manon Lescaut. Seen in its true light - as an expression of the Milanese scapigliatura - the opera is revealed as musically and dramaturgically coherent in its own terms and well worthy of modern performance.

Volume II contains the score of Le Villi in its final 1889 revision, based on the composer's autograph full score and the 1889 edition of the printed vocal score. Additional material is included in appendices, notably Roberto's original extended 1885 Scena.

Besides the Critical Apparatus and Source Descriptions, a comprehensive Historical Introduction sheds light on the compositional history and context, hitherto obscured by hearsay and misunderstanding.

Photo: N. Besta, sketch for Giacomo Puccini's Le Villi, published on Gazzetta Musicale di Milano (1884)