Newswise — When Giacomo Puccini's 1889 opera "Edgar" was first performed, the production was panned. As a result, Puccini extensively revised the work to be more appealing to audiences.
For the past five years, Linda Fairtile, head of the University of Richmond's Parsons Music Library, has been editing and reconstructing the original version for Milan-based opera publisher Ricordi. She spent a month in Milan reviewing acts one and three, assuming that the original manuscripts of acts two and four were missing. She planned to rebuild the entire orchestral score from voice and piano accompaniments, the only original parts thought to be surviving at the time.
To her and the publisher's surprise, Puccini's granddaughter, Simonetta Puccini, came forward with the missing manuscripts after the project was underway.
On June 25, Fairtile will be in the audience at the Torino, Italy, opera house for the first modern performance of "Edgar" in its original form, the result of her extensive work recreating the piece.
Fairtile was a natural choice for the reconstruction job. She holds a Ph.D. in musicology from New York University and wrote her dissertation on Puccini's operatic revisions, comparing all the published versions of each of his operas and examining whether there was consistency to how and why he revised his work.
The "Edgar" project required an intimate knowledge of how Puccini worked, particularly the kinds of changes he would have made while composing compared to those he made later.
"In the manuscripts, there are lots of things crossed out or changed. He would mark some things with brown ink, some with pencil, some with crayon," said Fairtile. "Clearing out the stuff that's accumulated and seeing what he wrote in the first place is sometimes a judgment call, but often, he would mark a passage and note that he had changed it, especially for the copyists who would be using his manuscript to prepare parts for the musicians."
In addition to watching the performance, Fairtile also will participate in a public panel to discuss the process of rebuilding a century-old opera.
"This sort of opportunity happens only once in a lifetime. Celebrated composers, particularly from the recent past, don't typically have unknown music lying around. 'Edgar' was a flop during Puccini's lifetime, and the original version was quickly forgotten," said Fairtile. "But this score doesn't deserve to be forgotten. Hopefully, it will be played again and again."
Note: To hear a Web stream of this opera on Wednesday, June 25 at 2 p.m.[EDT], go to http://www.rai.it and click on "diretta radio" which is about 1/3 of the way down the screen. Then click on "Radio 3 live." (You will need to enable popups from this site.) There will also be a DVD made of the performance.
Linda Fairtile will return to Richmond, Va., on June 30 and will be available for interviews at that time.