Opera, with its complex mixture of musical, verbal, and scenic elements, is especially liable to extensive revision during rehearsals for a first performance. Common opinion assumes the composer initiates such adjustments. While this is usually the case, such a preconception can lead us to ignore the weight carried by the suggestions of performers or other colleagues in important musical decisions, and may also encourage overreliance on autograph documents alone as evidence of a composer's final intent. Puccini's La fanciulla del West, for example, reveals numerous differences of detail between the autograph and the final engraved score (the version he sanctioned); yet few of these changes can be traced directly to the composer. A key source in charting these alterations is the score bound from proof pages of the engraved plates, used by Arturo Toscanini during rehearsals for the opera's 1910 premiere. This score carries a large number of Toscanini's handwritten changes, nearly all of which appear in the final version of La fanciulla. The evidence indicates that many of these changes originated with Toscanini. This essay examines the nature of these changes, their probable motivation, and Puccini's working relationship with Toscanini. In conclusion, it touches on some of the broader implications such research may have for the process of textual criticism in opera.
- Copyright 1989 The American Musicological Society, Inc.