Music & Libretto by Michael Pratt
A full length opera (two hours of music) in three acts for six singers and an orchestra of thirteen players using three sets. Based on a true incident in the life of composer Giacomo Puccini and his wife Elvira, the "Doria Manfredi affair".
Puccini and his wife Elvira.
The time is 1908 in Torre del Lago, Italy, the home of Puccini. Puccini is fifty years old and Madame Puccini is forty-eight. They have been living together for twenty-four years after Elvira left her husband to live with Puccini. They have been married for four years after the death of Elvira's husband. Puccini is world famous after having written Le Villi, Edgar, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. He is currently in the midst of composing his seventh opera, La Fanciulla del West (the Girl of the Golden West).
Act 1: the interior of Villa Puccini. Doria Manfredi, young housekeeper of the Puccinis is busy cleaning the composer's study when Tello, her older brother, rushes in with the news that Puccini has returned from a trip to London where has had another affair, enraging his wife, Elvira. Tello tries to persuade Doria that she should not stay any longer in the Puccini household because sooner or later Madame Puccini will accuse her of something with her husband. Doria refuses to leave saying her position is very important to her. Elvira accuses Doria of working late at night in order to be alone with Puccini who also works late at night. When Puccini returns she confronts him with his constant affairs. After Elvira retires, Puccini is working at the piano when Doria asks for help with Madame Puccini. In telling Puccini how Elvira so bitterly accused her of tempting Puccini, she becomes distraught and is comforted by Puccini when Elvira, who has heard the piano stop, comes downstairs and sees them together. She orders Doria from the villa at gun point becoming so enraged she fires a shot into the ceiling which Tello hears waiting outside in hopes that Doria will pack and leave. Puccini persuades Tello to leave with Doria and swears there was nothing between them. Tello is insulted saying the Manfredi family cannot be treated this way.
Act 2: a street in Torre del Lago. Doria confides to Father Michelucci that Madame Puccini's lies to everyone in the village about her and Puccini have become a nightmare for her and she cannot go on much longer. Elvira tries to convince the Father to ostracize Doria from the village. Puccini tells Doria that he has not been able to write a note in months and that the two of them must somehow weather out the storm. Tello attacks Puccini for dishonoring his sister but is restrained by his mother who tells Puccini that it does not matter whether it is true or not, if the lie is told often enough it will become the truth. Mama Manfredi tells Doria that she must remain out of sight until people forget all about it. Elvira tells Doria that she is responsible for Puccini never writing another note of music as long as he lives and threatens to drown her in the lake. Puccini tells Elvira she has gone too far and starts flee to Paris when Father Michelucci rushes in with the news that Doria has committed suicide.
Act 3, Scene 1: the interior of a courtroom. An autopsy has revealed that Doria died a virgin. In a letter to Sybil Seligman Puccini says that recently he himself has been contemplating suicide. Puccini offers Tello four thousand lire for his family to drop their lawsuit against Elvira which he refuses. As the trial progresses Elvira swears to all her charges against Doria and claims that Doria was an hysteric who had previously attempted suicide because Elvira had found fault with her. The ghostly apparition of Doria appears to testify to her and Puccini's innocence. Elvira is found guilty of defamation of character, libel and menace to life and limb and is sentenced to a fine of seven hundred lire and five months and five days in prison.
Act 3, Scene 2: the interior of Villa Puccini. Tello comes to pick up Puccini's baggage and scores as he leaves Villa Puccini forever. Puccini begs Tello to accept a settlement of twelve thousand lire, now that justice has prevailed, so that Elvira does not have to go to prison. Tello agrees. Elvira accuses Puccini of deserting her. He responds that he does not want all his feelings for her to evaporate which is why he must leave. Elvira becomes extremely despondent as she ponders the rest of her life completely alone. Sitting at Puccini's work table with a pistol in front of her she wonders if she will have the courage this time or fire at the ceiling again. With the final curtain almost to the floor a shot is fired.
Cast (6 singers):
Orchestra (13 players):
Act 1 & Act 3, Scene 2: the interior of Villa Puccini. Upstage and two-thirds to stage left is an entry hallway and door to the outside. Stage left is a stairway leading up and offstage. Downstage from the stairway is a doorway leading to another part of the villa and offstage. Stage right is Puccini's study. Upstage we see an upright piano where he composes. At a ninety degree angle, stage left of the piano, is a very large writing desk. Upstage is a large window looking out on a wooded lake setting. Stage right is an old beat-up couch. Stage right in the upstage corner is a full gun cabinet. The walls are lined with filled bookshelves. The study is very cluttered and unkempt.
Act 2: a street in Torre del Lago. The street runs from stage left to stage right. Upstage are three stores side by side facing downstage. Stage left is a butcher shop, stage right is a general store and in the middle is a bakery. Each has a door which exits offstage. A raised sidewalk runs from stage left to stage right between the stores and the street. On the sidewalk between the bakery and the general store is a bench.
Act 3, Scene 1: the interior of a courtroom. Upstage center is a railing behind which the accused sits throughout the trial. The railing is not solid, the floor can be seen through the railing. Upstage, stage right is the Judge's bench facing somewhat on a bias across the stage to downstage, stage left. Downstage of the Judge's bench is a witness box facing across the stage to stage left. Stage left is a prosecution table facing across to the Judge's bench and witness box. Behind the prosecution table is a railing and spectator benches. Stage left is the back of the courtroom with a door (exit offstage).