Giacomo Puccini is one of the first names that comes to mind when we think of Italian opera, and for good reason, as he has composed some of the most memorable opera scores of all time. He is known as “the greatest composer of Italian opera since Verdi,” with famous works like La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (1924).
Puccini began his compositions rooted in the Romantic style of the late 19th-centry, following the likes of Verdi and Wagner. However, throughout his career his work evolved with the verismo literary movement in Italy that sought to portray the world with greater realism. Puccini’s verismo style is what made his operas revolutionary. His libbrettos were relatable to the masses, telling unglamourous stories of people in poverty paired with sweeping and bittersweet scores that reflected human emotions in real, visceral ways.
Outside of his most famous works is the comic opera in one act, Gianni Schicchi (1918), which includes perhaps his most famous aria, “O mio babbino caro” (“Oh my dear papa”) written for soprano voice. It is sung by the character, Lauretta, who is pleading with her father to not separate her from Rinuccio, the boy she loves. The aria dramatically contrasts the storyline of the opera, as it provides a sweet and romantic lyricism in an atmosphere of a jealous family fued in medival Florence. Lauretta starts the aria by telling her father how much she loves Rinuccio, but when she sees that he is still not budging on his decision, she goes to the ultra dramatic, crying that she is going to throw herself into the Arno river, which definitely gets his attention and he cannot deny his precious daughter’s wish.
As a soprano “O mio babbino caro” is a must-have in my repertoire, as it is one of the most requested and well known arias. Some of my favorite sopranos who have sung this piece are Maria Callas, Anna Netrebko, and Kathleen Battle. I hope you will enjoy my live performance of this beautiful aria!