Social Victorians/Timeline/1920s-30s

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29 November 1924 — Puccini died of cancer, age 66, in Brussels, having written 30 minutes of music beyond "Nessun Dorma" of Turandot (Johnson 39).


25 April 1926 — Premiere of Turandot at La Scala, Milan, with Toscanini conducting. Puccini's pupil Alfano had finished the opera, but the premiere "ended on the last note which Puccini committed to the score. The conductor, Toscanini, then turned and addressed the audience. Accounts differ as to his exact words. According to one report they were: 'Here, at this point, Giacomo Puccini broke off his work. Death on this occasion was stronger than art.' Another report has him saying: 'At this point, the maestro laid down his pen.'" (Johnson 39).

"The first performance of Turandot on 25 April 1926 ended with Liù's cortège. Eugenio Gara, who was present, gives a firsthand report of Toscanini turning round to face the audience and saying 'in a voice hoarser than usual: Qui finisce l'opera, perché a questo punto il Maestro è morto' (The opera is ending here because at this point the Maestro died …). The appropriateness of Toscanini's gesture was generally appreciated because the evening was dedicated to Puccini, seventeen months after his death. Toscanini's words have been variously reported, but were frequently interpreted to suggest that Puccini had died shortly after composing the episode of Liù's death, which allowed the sentimental to regard the passage as Puccini's own requiem. The facts are quite otherwise, as we know: "Puccini had finished orchestrating the passage in late February 1924, nine months before he died, and in it he probably utilized material — the 'musichetta di sapore chinesa' — that dated from 1921, the first year of intense work upon the score.

Nor should it be overlooked that Toscanini's remarks could have served him as a diplomatic excuse for not conducting Alfano's ending to Turandot. Though Alfano's completion of Puccini's score was not performed on the evening of the prima assoluta, it had been played and sung at the prova generale, the dress rehearsal two days earlier, to which the critics many of them from abroad, had been admitted. It was no secret that Toscanini's dissatisfaction with Alfano's first attempt was because the conductor did not regard it as conforming sufficiently closely to his memory of Puccini's playing and discussion of the final duet in September 1924, and that a revision had been ordered." (Ashbrook and Powers 152)


<quote>Meanwhile, unbeknown to Dolmetsch, Robert Donington (then secretary to the Foundation) had written to a number of well-known public figures asking them to support an application for a Civil List pension for their paterfamilias. His letter outlines the appalling state of affairs that had persisted, despite the partial recognition Dolmetsch had achieved at this time:

'I am sorry to say that Mr. Arnold Dolmetsch is in great need of help. His health has become very precarious of late and it is imperative that he should be relieved now of the need to support himself by strenuous concert-giving. His life has been a very disinterested one, and his financial position has recently been terribly difficult and obscure.'

Shaw had drafted the letter of support to be sent to the Prime Minister, and Donington carefully points this out to the potential signatories.

Separate letters were sent to the Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin, from Ramsay MacDonald, Donald Tovey and R.C. Trevelyan; the list of supporters contained 31 names, amongst whom were G. Bernard Shaw, John Masefield, W. B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Laurence Housman, Walter de la Mare, Siegfried Sassoon, Bertrand Russsell, The Earl of Lytton, Lord Berners, David Lloyd George, Sybil Thorndike, Walford Davies, Vaughan Williams, Henry J. Wood, Thomas Beecham, Adrian Boult, Henry Hadow, Arthur Somervell, Percy Scholes, Granville Barker and Granville Bantock. But if the musical world in general remained unconvinced of Dolmetsch's unique contribution to the researches of his time, the artistic following in particular responded to Donington's request with extraordinary enthusiasm. The appeal was successful and in March 1937, Dolmetsch was awarded a pension of £110 per annum</quote> (Campbell 276).

Works CitedEdit

  • Ashbrook, William, and Harold Powers. Puccini's Turandot: The End of the Great Tradition. Princeton Studies in Opera. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ P, 1991.
  • Campbell
  • Johnson, Frank. "Puccini Scores," National Review 23 July 1990: 39.