Ópera y Teatro musical

An unknown page by Puccini: Dios y Patria

Gustavo Gabriel Otero y Daniel Varacalli

viernes, 19 de mayo de 2006

The travel of Giacomo Puccini to Argentina, which took place between June 23rd and August 8th 1905, invited by the newspaper La Prensa (at that time owned by the Paz family) was not motivated, in principle, by musical purposes.

His visit to Buenos Aires span for forty seven days and was eminently planned as a kind of holiday. La Prensa´s edition of 25th June 1905 states that Puccini would not conduct any of his works at the Opera (…) his visit is based on pleasure and on his desire to know this land where his music has made such a long way; he has no intention of conducting any concert or working until he leaves Buennos Aires. His only musical mission was to prepare, introduce and attend the performances of his definitive version of the opera Edgar in the Teatro de la Ópera, which had programmed simultaneously Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, with the best casts of that time and under the baton of maestro Leopoldo Mugnone.

Puccini en los balcones del diario La Prensa
Archivo General de la Nación (Argentina)

In spite of the non musical purpose of the travel, we were able to discover a work composed by Puccini in Argentina, which may be classified among the very few scores not dedicated to the operatic genre in his catalogue.1

The non operatic works by Puccini

Giacomo Puccini owes his worldwide fame to his operas. His other compositions, either instrumental or vocal, are essays of youth or pages of circumstance which slightly surpass the forty works. The endeavour of researchers and recording companies has been useful to bring forth these non operatic scores of the maestro of Lucca.

There are doubts about the authenticity of two works for piano dated in New York in 1907 or 1910, denominated Piccolo Tango and Foglio d’album; it is deemed to be missing the waltz Prime fantasie (1879), together with the romance for tenor and piano Ah se potesse (1882) and the composition for baritone and piano Melanconia, upon text of Antonio Ghislanzoni (1883). On the other hand, the hymn I figli dell’Italia bella (1877), also considered to be missing, was reconstructed by the bishop Emilio Maggini, based on documents of Simonetta Puccini, the maestro´s granddaughter. She commissioned the work of reconstruction, which raised widespread polemics. The score was premiered in Lucca, under the title of 'Cessato il suom dell'armi' on June 6th 2003.

Reproducción del autógrafo de Puccini al inicio de la composición.
Diario La Prensa del 15/8/1905, página 13.
Fotografía © 2006 by  Alejandro Baccarat

Dios y Patria: a score composed in Argentina

The research about Giacomo Puccini´s visit to Argentina made surprisingly possible to run across a composition written by the maestro in Buenos Aires.

The page named Dios y Patria [God and homeland] is a school hymn which lyrics belong to Matías Calandrelli (1845-1919), at that time a journalist of the newspaper La Prensa, which commissioned this composition to Puccini during his stay in Buenos Aires.

Professor Calandrelli was nothing of a minor personality in Argentina at that historic moment. Country fellow of Puccini, he was born in Salerno en 1845 and came to Buenos Aires in 1871 to enlarge the educational plans of Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, then President of the Argentine Nation. He had headed one of his books –Quiroga, Aldao, El Chacho. 1845-1863- with a letter that had sent to him concerning his pedagogic labour and his intense public activity. Author of numerous works about Grammar, Philology, Literature and History, Calandrelli worked as a journalist for El Diario and La Prensa, besides many periodic publications of the Italian community in Argentina, and also as a teacher and a writer.

Reproducción del autógrafo de Puccini al inicio de la composición.
Diario La Prensa del 15/8/1905, página 13.
Fotografía © 2006 by  Alejandro Baccarat

The publication of Dios y Patria

The lyrics and music of  Dios y Patria were published by the newspaper La Prensa in its edition of August 15th1905 (second section, page 13), with the facsimile reproduction of the beginning and the end of Puccini´s autograph, the maestro´s signature in both parts and the date and place at the end –Buenos Aires, August 3rd1905-, also with the composer´s handwriting.

The procedure of inserting scores in papers and magazines was very popular at that time and inside the production of the Tuscan composer it is possible to find many scores published in that way, such as Storiella d’amore (La musica popolare, II/40, 1883), Sole e amore (Il Paganini, II/23, 1888), Inno a Diana (Sant’Uberto, 1898), Terra e Mare (Novissima 1902), Sogno d’or (Noi e il Mondo, 1913), Ecce Sacerdos magnus (L’Esare, Lucca, March 25th1905) and Picolo Valzer (Armi e arte, Genova, September 1894), among others.

The text of Calandrelli follows the rhetorical language of that time through a prism typically nationalist, which anticipates the forthcoming decades (it resembles in some aspects Puccini´s Inno a Roma). The music, in C Major, in tempo ‘Andante dignitoso’, spins through 19 bars (18 and the last, a closing one) in 3/4 alternating with 2/4, with repetition of a ritornello, and shows simple lines, adequate to be sung at schools.

La Prensa in its edition of August 15th 1905 explains the process of gestation of the work in the following way:

More than once LA PRENSA has treated on the subject of the influence of music upon school life (...) During Puccini´s stay in our country we talked with him about our desire of cooperating in the concocting of this improvement for the Argentine school, and invited him to help us with his valuable artistic inspiration; since, even when it is true that our primary schools keep children´s choruses, it was convenient, from our point of view, that the lyrics and music of these songs were commissioned to people capable to communicate all the elevation proper of the simplicity that characterize the taste and feelings of childhood (...) The maestro accepted with polite deference our desire, and composed the music for a hymn entitled “God and Homeland”, written to this purpose by doctor Matías Calandrelli, one of the journalists of LA PRENSA. IN the publication that we effect today of this page, we introduce the hymn´s first stanza, followed by the music, and then the rest of the text to be sung.

The newspaper sent this composition to the Consejo Nacional de Educación (Nacional Board of Education of Argentina) in order that it would approve it to be sung at schools. Consulting the annals of the Board (dissolved in 1978), in the Library of the Ministry of Education of Argentina, it was not possible to find the necessary approval that would have allowed this hymn to be sung at schools. Therefore, the logical conclusion is that the page remained without being premiered and that has not been published until today in no other place than in the before mentioned edition of La Prensa.

Página completa con el himno
Diario La Prensa del 15/8/1905, página 13
Fotografía © 2006 by  Alejandro Baccarat

It is also curious that Dios y Patria had not been printed the last day of Puccini´s stay in Buenos Aires (August 8th) but on the edition of August15th 1905. Apparently, the date initially fixed for the maestro´s departure of Argentina was the 16th August on the Umbria. Nevertheless, the possibility to visit Montevideo (Uruguay) eventually led Puccini to leave Buenos Aires on 8th August and to get on board of the Umbria on the 17th, but on the other side of the River Plate. Surely the date on which the composition was handed (August 3rd) and the timetable for the edition of the score, making allowance for the change of the date of departure, made the publication impossible until August 15th (when it may have been originally programmed, as a homage of farewell). That is the reason why it remained hidden to researchers, who logically concluded their work when the maestro´s visit to Argentina came to an end.

Now we had this gem which with great satisfaction we are able to reveal and reproduce, and which, according to the most up-to-date catalogues, is the only one of Puccini´s compositions based on a text in Spanish, and the only school hymn of his output.

Dios y Patria had its premiere in Buenos Aires on 17th May 2006 in the Salón Dorado de la Casa de la Cultura of the City of Buenos Aires, as a part of the launching ceremony of the book Puccini en la Argentina. Junio - agosto de 1905 [Puccini in Argentina. June – August 1905] by the authors of this article, published by the Instituto Italiano de Cultura de Buenos Aires. The book has been declared of cultural interest by the Legislatura de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. In the same premises, where on 7th August 1905 took place the banquet in honour of Puccini´s last day in Argentina, then property of the newspaper 'La Prensa', now the voice of baritone Omar Carrión and the piano of José Luis Juri gave life to this work by Puccini that had curiously remained totally forgotten.

Notas

This article is a new elaboration and enhancing of the chapter 'God and Homeland: an argentine musical page by Puccini' of the volume 'Puccini en la Argentina. Junio – agosto de 1905' (Puccini in Argentina. June – August 1905) by Gustavo Gabriel Otero and Daniel Varacalli Costas. Declared of cultural interest by the Legislatura de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires (Resolución 19/2006). Published in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in May 2006 by the Instituto Italiano de Cultura de Buenos Aires (ISBN 987-22800-0-02).

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