Torre del Lago – Viareggio Villa Puccini, Torre del Lago Villa Puccini, Torre del Lago In 1891, Giacomo Puccini, after a Summer stay with a certain Andreozzi, rented two rooms from Venanzio Barsuglia, “a guard of Don Carlos” di Borbone, as reported by Puccini himself. It was a humble tower-house on Lake Massaciuccoli: three simple rooms upstairs with shared kitchen and a stable on the ground floor. Torre del Lago since then represents an emblematic place in the life of Puccini, a site and refuge inspiring the majority of his most famous operas. After the success of Manon Lescaut, Puccini moved to the nearby residence of Count Grottanelli, where he remained until the construction of the Villa Puccini, completed in the Spring of 1900. When work had already begun on the villa of Chiatri, Puccini had the opportunity to buy the old tower-house: the project to demolish the old building retaining only the foundations of the tower was a collaborative effort of the Maestro (“various architects including me”), with Luigi De Servi, Plinio Nomellini and ingegner Giuseppe Puccinelli. The villa has a traditional cubical, symmetrical composition and a clear division of functions: an ornamental bay window in glass and iron is the connecting element between the entrance of the villa and the garden that borders the building. Emblematic of the taste of the time, the garden, which originally was lapped by the lake, followed an irregular shape, outlined by flower beds adorned with bizarre stones with palm trees and hedges that shielded and created prospects with great visual effects. The rigour of the architectural structure contrasted with the eclectic interior, fruit of the collaboration between Puccini, De Servi, Nomellini and Galileo Chini. On 28 December, 1924 this stone was placed on the wall to the north, the one facing the street: THE PEOPLE OF TORRE DEL LAGO PLACED THIS STONE OUT OF DEVOTION IN THE HOUSE WHERE WERE BORN THE INNUMERABLE CREATURES OF DREAM THAT GIACOMO PUCCINI DREW FOR HIS IMMORTAL SPIRIT Gran teatro all’aperto Giacomo Puccini Gran teatro all’aperto Giacomo Puccini The Nuovo Grande Teatro Giacomo Puccini, an open-air theatre, saw its debut in 2008, which coincided with the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth. The Puccini Festival is now held here every summer. The Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago was born in 1930 from an idea of the Maestro. “… I always come out here and take a boat to go and shoot snipes … But once I would like to come here and listen to my work outdoors …” (Puccini to Giovacchino Forzano in November 1924, before leaving for the clinic of Brussels where he died shortly after). Those words were so engraved in the heart of Forzano (playwright and librettist of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, director among other works of the first performance of Turandot in Milan, Teatro alla Scala, 25 April, 1926) that after the Maestro’s death he decided to make this dream possible. On 24 August, 1930, the “Carro di Tespi Lirico”, created at the behest of the National Opera recreational club on the model of prose versions, represented La bohème directed by Forzano with Rosetta Pampanini, Margherita Carosio, Angelo Minghetti and Luigi Montesano, conducted by Pietro Mascagni, a fellow student and roommate of the young Puccini in the years at the Conservatory in Milan. In 1931 the “Carro di Tespi Lirico” returned to Torre del Lago with two works, La bohème recited by Beniamino Gigli and Adelaide Saraceni, and Madama Butterfly with Rosetta Pampanini and Angelo Michetti, conducted by the maestro Edoardo Vitale, thus marking the beginning of one of the most famous opera festivals, much loved by the public. The opera seasons continued to be organised in the square in front of the Villa Puccini until 1966, when the theatre, a temporary structure specially assembled and afterwards dismantled every summer, was moved to reclaimed land adjacent to the little port of Torre del Lago. The Puccini Festival is organised by the Puccini Festival Foundation, founded in 1990 by the town of Viareggio. www.puccinifestival.it Villa Puccini, Viareggio Villa Puccini, Viareggio In 1915 Puccini had bought land in Viareggio, overlooking the pine wood, and a few years later he entrusted the task of designing the villa and the annex to the architect Vincenzo Pilotti, a professor at the University of Pisa, and ingegnere Federigo Severini. The work went on for about two years, and Puccini was able to move in at the end of December 1921. The villa has a well-organised plan and consists of a main floor and a basement occupied by service rooms and the study of the Maestro. The main facade, facing Via Buonarroti, is characterized by a projection consisting of an open porch forming a veranda with stone pillars and wooden screens which is accessed by a monumental double ramp flight of steps. The prospects are qualified with “visible” stone and brick cladding framing a series of doors and windows with architraves and archivolted segmental arches. The north and east elevations are adorned, in the fascia crowning the attic, with bright ceramified gres tiles depicting masks and decorative elements in relief. Inside the layout of the rooms, originally accompanied by a modern heating system with radiators, appeared neat and functional for the requirements of the Maestro: an internal wooden staircase connected the bedroom with the studio, in the basement, furnished with two armchairs on either side of the fireplace and – relying on the description of Guido Marotti, who attended the house on a daily basis – with “a table with green baize, the Steinway grand piano [which is now preserved in the Birth Home Museum of Lucca], covered in damask and a lot of things, all the trinkets that were in Torre; from the study, through a small door in opaque glass, you enter the living room, which is dominated by red: a corner sofa with red cushions and walls covered in red, dark-coloured furniture, antique tone”. The garden is equipped with a sophisticated system for artificial rain and was to be in its conformation characterized by tall trees, pines and holm-oaks, an ideal continuation of the pine trees opposite. On the north side there is still a tablet dated 7 December, 1924: The community of Viareggio promises to preserve consecrated to GIACOMO PUCCINI both house and wood which were palace and garden for the splendid queen Turandot. Clubs, Caffés and Theatres Clubs, Caffés and Theatres If in Torre del Lago the Maestro had founded the “Club della Bohème,” in Viareggio he was president of the “Club Gianni Schicchi”, founded in 1919 and composed of eminent citizens who gathered in the bar of the same name, on the promenade: Giovacchino Forzano, Enrico Pea and Icilio Sadun. There are reports of the production of a single work by Puccini in Viareggio, before 1924: La fanciulla del West, staged at the Teatro Politeama on 9 September, 1923. From the early years of the 20th century, the local news reported in Viareggio the presence of numerous artists and celebrities who enriched the intellectual and social life with their presence. Privileged place of meeting was the Gran Caffè Margherita. A plaque placed in 1949, on the 25th anniversary of the death of Puccini, commemorates that particular environment: During the first quarter of the century illustrious men including Marconi Giordano Toscanini and dear friends of the Maestro Italians and foreigners gathered at this table chosen by Giacomo Puccini as a meeting place to relax in simple civil conversation after the daily toil around his immortal art. Various residences Various residences Designated in 1900 “honorary citizen” by the then Mayor Caesar Riccioni, Giacomo Puccini stayed in Viareggio on several occasions in hotels or rented homes, among which can be recalled Villa Alessandri in via Mentone (1910), Hotel Regina e villa Giovannini (1912), Grand Hotel Royal (1913), Villa Motta in Via Buonarroti on the corner of Via Colombo (1914), an apartment in Piazza Mazzini (1917) and a villa in Via Giotto (1917 and 1918). From Villa Motta he wrote to his niece Alba Franceschini: “Here the usual life. Now it’s the August heat, but here among the pines it’s good. I don’t care much for the sea … I skim over it in my little red tub, I get criticized but I don’t care,” and from Via Giotto to his friend Luigi Pieri: “I’m here in Via Giotto, living under the arches and under the pines. The sea is for me a background for a postcard”. However he did not forget the “shelter” of Torre del Lago, as he wrote to Sybil Seligman in 1918: “Every day, I go with the motorcycle and sidecar to Torre for hunting”.