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Puccini flirted briefly with faintly Wagnerian subjects in his early operas Le villi (1884) and Edgar (1889), though in these operas, the music owes much more to Verdi than to his Teutonic contemporary. Gianni Schicchi is a comparatively late work, comprising the third part of Puccini's Il trittico (The Triptych), which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1918. The libretto takes an episode from Dante's Divine Comedy, the damnation of the will-forger Gianni Schicchi, as its starting point. His fraudulent will enriches his clan so that Lauretta, his daughter, can marry Rinuccio. In "O mio babbino caro," one of Italian opera's greatest tunes and a number that has become an archetype of late Romanticism's final flowering in Puccini's hands, Lauretta begs her father to go with her to buy a ring so she can marry, setting the whole forgery in motion. The tone of the aria is over-the-top in its voluptuousness, almost parodistic, which perfectly fits Lauretta's melodramatic emotional state.

- John Mangum holds a Ph.D. in history from UCLA. He is Vice President of Artistic Planning for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

09/07