So, after the notes comes for me a beat synopsis.
Centre stage – a large unmade bed obscured by white sheets that have been hung to dry. Stage right of the bed is a piano with a white sheet on it. Cushions and sheets lie upon the floor. Puccini comes on stage and pulls sheet from the Piano. There is dust in the air and he has a small coughing fit. He sits. Along the stage, white sheets are hung, and on to them are projections of life at Torre De’l Lago.
Puccini begins to play.
Elvira Bonturi comes on stage with Doria holding a basket. Elvira is well dressed in the height of Edwardian Fashion and Jewellery. Doria Manfredi is in maid’s clothing. They both have their hair up. Elvira plucks the down the washing and Doria piles it high in the basket. The projections disappear. They reveal a large unmade bed. To the right is a picture of the Virgin Mary.
It is Doria’s first day as a maid. Elvira is showing her what needs doing. It is also a her first day away from home. Elvira is imperious and formidable, yet quite motherly. She asks about her education, but Doria. has had little. Doria is desparate to get things right. They go through a list of chores. They make the bed together. Whilst Doria works on the bed, Elvira arranges some flowers. As they work they talk. Get to know each other better. Elvira asks for Doria to help her with her hair and to put it down. Elvira explains that Doria is going to be one of Puccini’s women, and that there are certain responsibilities. She tells Doria that she seems like Mimi. She admires her youth and beauty. Doria doesn’t really understand. Elvira gets ready for bed and sends Doria away. When she is done. She kneels at the foot of the bed, and sings Musetta’s prayer for the dying Mimi.
Oh Gracious Virgin
Bless her I beg you
With your boundless mercy
She won’t have to die.
Elvira gets into bed and calls to Puccini, but he continues playing and ignores her. Elvira describes her life with Puccini. How they met. How Puccini taught her piano.. The romance. The passion. The love. The elopement. How they had to leave with Fosca, and left her other son. How Puccini spends his time. How she loves her house. It gives her space. How they are also trapped there by the scandle of their elopement. How they are like a composition that can never be played in public. How she is still married and cannot divorce. She tells of how Puccini’s love cooled after they had their son. She can neither leave, nor can she be given the word, that would free her from her anguish. The word is marriage. She calls Puccini to bed again, and then turn out the light, but she knows he won’t come. The light turns on Puccini, smoking at the Piano. He speaks to the audience.
“She imagined love affairs, when it is only really a sport that most men secretly play without ever sacrificing what is serious and sacred. I mean the family. All artists cultivate these little secret gardens. Who doesn’t have to maintain the illusion that they are neither old, nor finished, nor completely broken by life.”
Doria, comes back on stage, in her night dress. Puccini invites her to sit. He plays a small moment from La Boheme. Doria sings an aria from Boheme. Doria flirts outrageously with Puccini as he plays.
Elvira wakes with a start. She sits up in bed. Elivira talks to the audience. That at night she wakes in fright. She is woken by imagined music. Sometimes it is beautiful and sometimes it is frightful. She tells the audience that he is working on a new Opera. Fancuilla De’l West. Puccini plays elements of the music.. She tells the audience. About the first time had an affair. It was during the writing of Madama Butterfly. He had fallen for a young woman called Corinna. How Puccini had proposed to the woman. It had ended in scandal. Corinna had been selling her favours. She tells the audience that she thinks he is having another affair. When he does come to bed, he seems different. He tries new things. She tells the audience what she will allow, and what she won’t allow. She is in control. She is having him followed.
It is nearly dawn and she ponders her day ahead, and wonders whether Doria might not be more like like Musetta. Plenty of coquettishness, ambition but hardly any education. She will have to keep an eye on her, in case she becomes what pretty girls do, when they have a neat figure.
Doria comes back on stage, with a basket and hair exactly like Elvira’s. They go through the list of chores. Elivira admires Doria’s beauty, and asks her about her life. Doria explains how in her free time she likes to be free to walk along the beach to Viareggio. Elivira is jealous of her freedom. Together they make up the bed. But Elvira does it slightly aggressively and the sheet comes free from Doria’s hands. Elvira gets annoyed. Tells her to change her hairstyle. To put in a more lady-like way. They place the sheets back up, and as they do, the projections of life in Torre De’l Lago appear again. Doria leaves. We get the sense of time passing.
We see Elvira at the foot of her bed praying again. Puccini scores the scene with the music of Tosca. Whilst she prays, Doria, gets lightly into to bed and lifts up her side of the bed and beckons Puccini join her. She smiles and goes under the covers.
Heavenly father...hear my prayer. I have done everything you ask of me. I have looked the other way. I have turned the other cheek. But Lord. Not in my house. You test a woman too much. And I pray, that this slut, this husband stealer will end face up in the lake. Amen. Sorry. I know I cannot pray like this. BUT NOT IN MY HOUSE. NOT IN MY BED. THE BED WHERE I GAVE BIRTH TO HIS CHILDREN.
Elvira explains that her daughter Fosca had come to say that she had seen Puccini with Doria in the Pine forest near the beach. There was no doubt as to their relationship. Elvira tells of deciding to follow Doria, confronting her at the market Accuse her in public of being a wanton slut and husband stealer. The girl had protested her innocence, and indeed her mother had to be called to take her home. As she tells the story, the emotion becomes too much. It is too much to be a woman, to be married to Puccini. She is no longer in control. She can take no more. She sing’s Visi D’arte. She collapses on the bed and cries. She gathers herself, and tells the story of how one night, awoken by terrible music, she had gone downstairs, to find a boy sat at the Piano. At first she thought it was her son, but it was a boy from the village, a boy who couldn’t play a note and as soon as he saw Elvira, he had run out the window. She tells the audience of how Puccini is just a little boy, whose father has died, who does everything in his power, to make music and lust to keep death away. If music surrounds death and carries on after, then music has won. If there is silence, then death wins. The stage becomes silent.
Puccini slams down the lid of the Piano. He asks her what she did? The doctor has been called to the Doria Manfredi house. Doria has taken poison and is dying in agony. A desparate argument ensues. We only hear Elvira’s replies to questions we can’t hear. This scene, is like a telephone call we an only hear half of. We fill in the gaps. She accuses Puccini of infidelity with Doria, Puccini protests his innocence. The argument ends with Elvira asking what time Doria died. Elivira remains defiant at the news. She tells Puccini that prison will not be as bad as the prison that her relationship with him has put her in. A prison of shame, where she is stuck for ever. She reminds Puccini of his affairs with Corinna. How he nearly went to prison. Elvira returns to praying on her knees. She is furious at God, and the injustice. She rails against him. Why did he answer her prayers so soon, so quickly? Elvira climbs into the bed. Her hair a mess. Now we see that Doria is dying. Elvira stands watching. Doria begins to sing Manon’s aria as she dies, perhaps mixed with Mimi death also. Doria dies. The music stops. Doria calmly gets out of bed, straightens herself up. Makes her hair nice, and then turns to the audience and says that at her autopsy, they had found that she was a virgin. She had told them that all along, but who would believe her. They didn’t need to use a knife. They could have just believed her. Elvira falls to her knees (like Tilda Swinton in this scene. https://youtu.be/6E2z-1Mi6Zo) Elvira crawls into the bed on her hands and knees.
Elvira gets up, even more dishevelled. Shuffling now, she tells the audience, that she has been sentenced to five days in prison. In fact the prison was full of hundreds of Puccini woman. She tells of the full extent of Puccini’s infidelities. Almost ranting now and confused she wonders, whether Puccini had slept with all woman in the prison. Whether he would write them each an individual aria, or simply a chorus. She asks the same question to the Madonna on the wall. Elvira doesn’t pray to a male god now. She prays to a goddess. She tells of her remorse, for what she has done. Doria returns dressed beautifully as the Virgin Mary. She stays mute, and is heavenly white like a vision. Elivira explains that she is also going to take her own life. That she had decided this when Puccini had paid for her release from Prison and taken her back to Torre D’el Lago. She sings Senza Mama to Doria.
She wonders what way she will do it. Then she realises that Puccini has already written her death. She is the neurotic and jealouswho leaps from the balcony. She climbs into the bed. She goes under the covers. The audience waits. We see the shape of two knees under the covers. Doria smiles. After some motioning under the covers, there is yell of frustration. She can’t even satisfy herself. The knees go down.
The covers of the bed are thrown off. Elivira is INNOCENT. She is not Tosca. She is Elvira she is Elivira. She is the one who has been wronged. She wonders why Fosca her daughter would lie to her? She wonders why Doria committed suicide when she knew she was innocent. She realises that Puccini knew the truth the whole time. She is very sad that, Doria became another of Puccini’s woman. Doria sings Signore, ascolta! From Turandot. Elvira realises that they are both innocent. They both are equal.
Doria explains that she took her life, despite her innocence, to protect her cousin, Julia. Elivira is confused. Doria tells Elvira to listen to the music. Puccini plays a recogniseable part of Fancuilla De’l West on the Piano. She realises that Julia is Minnie. Things begin to make sense. She had noticed him being different in bed, whilst he was composing. She knew he had been seeing someone. She had never known her nameElivira begins a to question the very notion of fidelity and infidelity. Why for some people infidelity will blight a woman’s life for others, they decide to move on. She doesn’t know if she has the strength to move on. Doria helps Elvira comb her hair to make her look nice again. Elvira tells Doria that she doesn’t know what to do next. They look at each other crying. They take the sheets from the bed, as they do so, together they sing the aria Nessun D’Orma reclaiming it for femininity. They leave the stage together.
Dear Team Il Letto.
If you want to see what a rough cut of a play looks like then here it.
Il Letto notes
I can see her falling to her knees under the weight of knowledge of what she has done.
I can see her praying to God for revenge at the foot of the bed. This would be based on Winnie the Pooh.
She is a force of nature, impregnable in her look, fierce and noble. Passionate. Formidable. A force of Nature. She has to be this, or she would become one of Puccini’s women. This is what she has to be, to be married. She does not want to come to a horrible end.
She is solid, organised. Boring.
She must also talk of her desire.
What does she do to get Puccini’s attention?
I knew that he having an affair, I could feel it in the sheets.
After she had the baby, he cooled on her. She knew he was involved in some way with another woman. He was always having an affair.
Doria is really Mimi. Mimi and Manon.
Doria contains all the vitality of youth. A healthiness and attractiveness. Sex appeal. She can’t help but flirt. But she is also obedient to Elvira as her employer and mother. They bond over the making of the bed.
They Eloped in 1884 – 1907 – They married – 23 years!
FOSCA would have blamed Puccini for breaking up her family. She would’nt have cared. FOSCA would also have been jealous of Elvira and Doria.
I will teach you to be a Puccini woman.
Do you make your own elbow grease recipe.
To be a Puccini woman. You must be prepared to die. You must know how to die. You must not die quietly. There must be a battle between your life and his art. Which is bigger. The music must always win. Art Defeats death.
MANON – Puccini – was 35 and he is moving from a penniless student to being a rich man.
Manon is about Youthful love versus old love.
Manon is about the passion of young love – that part of life is all curiosity and teenage exploration. Making each other laugh and mocking the old who are not really old.
What flower would hide being a flower.
All pride and vanity.
There is both a paternal affection. He is not vastly successful.
When he met Elvira he wasn’t yet successful.
Act II Arias. – In Quelle Trine Morbide’.
Manon – Aria Solo Perdita –
TIME WILL OBLITERATE MY FAULTS. BUT MY LOVE WILL NEVER DIE.
There must be a moment when Elvira realises that she can’t compete with age and time. This is when she thinks that she is Manon. But she realises that she isn’t any more.
They arrange some flowers together.
Shrinking into just a tiny photographs in a museum. Invisibility.
WHEN SHE IS DONE FOR. SHE IS DYING ON THE BED. SHE IS IN THE DESERT.
TOSCAPuccini - age 41 – A woman ready to sacrifice herself for her lover. Tosca is a woman in Love.
Cars. Accident. Mid life crisis.
You imagined love affairs, when it is only really a sport that most men secretly play without ever sacrificing what is serious and sacred. I mean the family. All artists cultivate these little secret gardens, in order to maintain the illusion that they are neither old, nor finished, nor completely broken by life.’
1908 - Daria
Madama Butterly Puccini age 44.
I think that Turandot will be key. It is the one that is about the affair and lui is little Doria.
Elvira – Turandot
Lui – Manfredi
LA BOHEME3 yearsafter Manon.
ELVIRA PLAYS A GAME TRYING TO DECIDE IF SHE IS MIMI. BUT SHE IS MUSETTA.
Mimi – she had the instincts of a mercenary little tart and her attachment to Rodolpho was lukewarm at most.
Musetta – a pretty girl of twenty who after her arrival in Paris had become what many pretty girls become when they have a neat figure. Plenty of coquteishness and a dash of ambition and hardly any education.
THIS COULD BE A CONVERSATION ABOUT HIS WOMEN.
ELVIRA MUST TRY AND BE YOUNG AGAIN AND FAIL. SHE TRIES TO GET PUCCINI BACK WHEN HE LEAVES HER BUT FAILS. NO MATTER HOW MUCH MAKE UP SHE PUTS ON.
SHE IS GIVING HER A TRIAL. TO SEE IF SHE IS OKAY.
MUSETTA - Coquettish. She longs for Marcello. All bravado and libertine. She is female freedom.
Musetta: Here last prayer for Mimi is deeply affecting:
Oh Gracious virgin Mary
Bless her I beg you
With your boundless mercy
She won’t have to die.
Rodolfo: Mimi is like a flower
Lacking water and sunshine
But you can’t revive
A flower with love along.
Mimi: All is ended.
All is ended.
All I live for is ended
I must say goodbye to all I love
Mimi: Once again I’ll return
To my own scentless flowers
Lonely as once before
To live with all my own memories
Through solitary hours
Where longing never ends
Goodbye then we part as friends.
Mimi’s death is much more moving than Manon’s. THEY COMPARE MANON”s DEATH WITH MIMI’s.
DORIA WITHOUT MEANING TO BE IS MIMI.
DOES SHE TEACH DORIA A SONG.
Elvira: And is this your first job since leaving your mother’s house?
It is Daria’s first job since leaving her mother’s house.
QUESTION: Do you believe that infidelity is wrong, or are you just scared about what would happen if you were?
Would you punish yourself more than the world punished you.
Elvira: You wouldn’t know what to do with him if you had him.
WE HAVE TO SEE THE ACT OF BETRAYAL. WE HAVE TO SEE THE IMAGINED INFIDELITY BETWEEN PUCCINI AT THE PIANO AND DORIA.
WE HAVE TO SEE HER PERSECUTE DORIA.
WE HAVE TO SEE DORIA COPY ELVIRA. IN WHAT SHE DOES.
ALL THREE MUST BE IN THE BED AT SOME POINT. OR ALL THREE AT THE PIANO.
The Bed is like a magnet. That makes our larger abstract feelings real.
What would happen if a woman sang a man’s aria.We need to have Manon’s death next to Mimi’s next to Tosca’s. She fights between the two.
The opening must be as passionate is opening of Jesus hopped the A Train.
She must be Vesuvian in her anger.
She invites Puccini to bed after her prayer.
At one point all must be in bed together.
When she decides to masterbate but fails to cum. And end up even more frustrated.
She moves into Italian when her English words fail her and moves into an Aria when he Italian words fail her.
We play along to the silent movie footage.
I see Doria helping Elvira to dress, a corset or even her hair.
FRAGMENT OF CONVERSATION
It is not the memory that brings all those bitches back to life. But the music. The words are so stupid. But when they sing? I cannot compete. Only silence can kill them.
I am haunted by the applause. I can hear it everywhere. (This is the audience’s applause). Praise isn’t love. That is the fundamental error of our lives.
Applause that never ends. How can I compete? There is a difference between love and praise.
Curtain calls, encores, encores Curtail calls.
When is being adored enough.
ELVIRA - I MUST PUNISH MYSELF.
Her maidan name was Elvira Gemmianni.
PUCCINI: Why did you do it?
ELVIRA: I did it for you.
PUCCINI: For me? You chased her for me? You are deluded.
ELVIRA: I am too good for him. I will not die.
ELVIRA: I am not good enough for him.
PUCCINI: He is always giving of the heart in his music.
Tosca arranges flowers in front of the Madonna.
She delivers her first aria about a love nest.
NOTES FROM ADAM PHILLIPS ON MONOGAMY.
The Central Question for Elvira:
Who is she in her life?
Who is she in the music?
How much is she loved?
How Lovable is she?
Once the beauty fades, we can no longer be an object of desire. Were we just an object of desire? A thing in Puccini’s libido?
Who is she outside the music.
Her choice is what to do with her life without Puccini.
She has to answer this through the music.
There has to be a moment, where the audience expect an Aria. But nothing happens. This will be the 3rd Aria. The silent song.
How violent can Elvira become?
How much kissing will there be?She is about to blame herself. But she is innocent.
Doria understands that even though she is innocent. She has no choice but to die, no one will believe her. She knows that there will be an autopsy. Then they will see.
I showed you what a woman was Giacomo Puccini.
A woman has to fight to be more than just an object of desire, yet she is heart broken not to be an object of desire.
I tried to prove my value, by not letting him destroy our marriage. That is how he could see what I was worth. That marriage was bigger than the music. That my fidelity was bigger than his infidelity. That I was better than the girls he picked up.
AT THE END THERE HAS TO BE A PROMISE. SHE ASKS HIM TO PROMISE.
Puccini was an idealist. He thinks that Art can defeat death.
My shame is as big as his honour.
Elvira tells the story of how he seduced her at the piano. Whilst she is telling this, we see Puccini teaching Doria how to play. This is the part where Elvira is asking herself how far the infidelity has gone. What is more shocking for her, the sexual infidelity or the musical infidelity.
Elvira and Puccini performed together, Then they were never allowed to perform together for shame. To Doria, did you also sit with him at the Piano?
It is my choice.I share him. I am in control. I have no choice but to share him. All Italy adores him. 24 curtain calls atManon. I call him twenty four times to come to bed. He stays. He plays. He even has a boy that comes. No woman has to share their man, like I have to share my man. The thing I love the most.
Passion cools when babies come. A man must have many children, or he is caught in a triangle with the mother and the child which he cannot ever win. The music. The music. You can have him.
I am haunted by applause. It terrifies me. It doesn’t love. He doesn’t love me.
How can he be true to me? It isn’t to a person one has fidelity, it is to the idea of fidelity and he has none. He could be true to no woman. Itisn’t me. I am good enough. I am good enough!
He will come back. He does not wish to die alone. Who wishes to die alone. Only Mimi she dies alone.
Doria, I hope you didn’t die alone. If you take three days to die, you will probably will not die alone. I don’t want to die alone.
What has she got that I haven’t got. I can be exciting. Why can’t he see that? Just because I have a child he thinks I am sacred. I am not sacred. I do not wish to be sacred. I am a woman.
He doesn’t want to grow old. That is what he dreads. I am growing old.
How cynical is Elvira. She can’t be cynical, if she is still fighting for her love.
And when he dies, the hands of the nation will lift his coffin, and the hands from heaven will pull it up.
And me. Well I will settle for a photograph. And no one will know. Not one person will know. All the things that I did. I am nothing.
Elvira: Remember how we fell in love at the Piano?
Puccini must do something with Doria that he promised her. She was having Puccini followed at this point.
This is where Doria tells the truth. That he was seeing her cousin. Julia.
Elvira, he is adored the world over, yet it is to me he comes. I am the one who knows who he really is. He is a little boy. I am the only one that can take the pressure away. I am the one that tells the truth. He doesn’t like what he sees when he sees me. That is why he looks at others.
A bed is a magnet that collects our virtues and our vices. Faith hope. Lust morality.
Puccini: Come Elvira. We will grow young together. (Last Line)
So we were together apart. Together apart. Apart together. Together together. Apart apart.
We can never be equal. Either I win, or he wins. Or neither of us win, or we both win. Can I accept what he has done.
Can he accept what I have done.
You cannot force forgiveness. But you can hope for it.
What if I had an affair? What if I took a lover. Could I get him to prove his love to me. I did this, and this is what I learnt, that jelous can outlast desire. He was jelous, but still didn’t want me. I wanted to see if his love was true. He wants to keep me in case you desire me. If he is jelous, then the passion is still there.
Elvira: I made him. I am Manon. I am Tosca.
Elvira: So I knew that I had to give him freedom. I decided his freedom need not be my frustration.
They would call him a sex addict now. Like Michael Jackson, does music give you permission? What is it about art that gives you permission? Maybe you are so en-nobled by your ability to express, that your acts are not gratuitous. Or maybe people need you to be like that?
Now I know. I now listen to the music, I compare myself with the women, who were they? Who were they? Who was Manon, Mimi, Musetta, Tosca – I thought that they were just in the music. Imprisoned within the bars. But they were never in there. Now every time the music plays, they walk the streets. They parade.
Who let the sluts out.
Puccini’s first affair was with an unmarried woman – his mother. His father was dead.
Trust is risk.
Trust is risk masquerading as a promise
Why should I believe you?
If she knows that he has affairs, then she won’t let that define her. WHAT IS THE THING THAT KEEPS ELVIRA BELIEVING IN HERSELF? SHE MUST BE ROBBED OF THAT.
She presents a to do list to Doria and then at the end – it says and sleep with my husband!
ELIVIRA to PUCCINI – Just think about me! ME!
Was it flattering when a married man wanted to have you? Did you wonder how you would compare with me? Well my dear, you do compare with me. You will only ever be a comparison.
Doria: No one gets what they deserve.
Puccini is hiding from the fact that he has to die. He is a boy who through everything he does he pushes away that knowledge. He is looking for a father to tell him no. There are instead just women who adore him.
I know he was a boy, because a boy he brought into the house....
We are trees that agree to have a gardener. That is what people are in relationships. We turn from birds into trees.
Is Elvira is a social climber?
Can you hate the person you sleep with? Oh yes.
I think we need to see how much she loves Puccini. She has to prove it in a tragic way.
Why is she so threatened by Doria, - because it is in her home. She has things that she needs to protect. The house is the only place that they can show their love. Where they can perform. This is her stage. – She cannot have that here. It is her refuge. The place where they are really married.
She was worried that her looks were declining. She was a woman afraid. She had to make some noise.
He is mine. He is my man. He is my love..I am in the music. He is the father of my children. My sense of self.
When I first met you, it was fun, we laughed when we misunderstood the accident of looks. But in those accidents we agreed on many things. On times and places and possibilities, and the possibility of no other place but here and now. You said yes to me as if you could see more in me than me. But I am blind of me and sick of me, and if I am obvious to you, why not to me. .....
The fumbles, the laughs. When does a relationship become something you have to work at?
Life is long. Our promises do not change, but we do.
Is it so cold outside a marriage? Do not people huddle together for warmth?
I do not wish to be alone. I do not wish to die alone. Loneliness. Each day we are evolving into smething that we are not on the day we make our vows.
The impossible promise of marriage. That no matter what happens, in this respect we will not change.
The masturbation scene. She tries to get off but can’t. She decides to die, but then decides to wank. She cannot even do that. I can’t even satisfy my own needs.
Monogamy takes the pressure off.
How dare you exclude me from a place in my own house.
Elvira: He has never had to grow up.
She is not allowed to love as a normal women loves. Never honoured. Never showing it openly. Not a joint performance.
I can share him up to a point. What is that point? For each person it is different.
I know what he likes in bed. I know that he finds kindness a pre-requisite to sexual arousal. I know a smile that will bring him to heel. I know his fetishes.
I had to wait 17 years to have the word for our relationship. Marriage.
I reject this punishment. I was misinformed!
I will not be addicted to punishment and blame. Why? I reject it all. I want to break the rules. She can also be unfaithful.
I am too good for him.
He is to good for you.
WE HAVE TO SEE INFIDELITY.
THEN SHE MASTERBATES AND SINGS WITH HER KNEES in the air. She comes out with a baby.
CAN PUCCINI rediscover Elvira at the end.
Am I the music of affection. No, I am not the music of affection. I am the music of passion.
Page 10 Tosca – Mario Mario Mario
Also Page 21 – When Scarpia tells her he has been unfaithful.
THERE HAS TO BE A PROMISE AT THE END. A COMMITMENT TO PERSONAL TRUTH.
Colie, Quella Donna!
Ho udito I lesti
Passi e un fruscio vesti
T: Lo neghi?
C: Lo nego e t’amo.
Oh Innanzi La Madonna
No Mario mio
Lascia pria che la preghi
Ora stammi a sentir – stessera canto
Sull’uscio della scena
E alla tua villa andiam soli soletti
She sings Tosca to try and get him back but it fails. She uses every trick, but it fails.
I think that the Madonna is becoming a character in this or are her prayers to God or to the Virgin. I think it would be better, or she discovers the mercy of the Virgin.
Dear Team Il Letto,
I wanted to bring you up to date on my thinking around IL Letto.
Puccini's Home Movie
Going to Torre D'el Lago and Viareggio was a wonderful and creative experience. I have never been so cold as I walked miles, first in the wrong direction and then in the right direction to get to Puccini's villa on the final day. I have a about 20 photographs, but thought we might talk about when to deploy them to give most sense of momentum for Helios.
In terms of the story, I certainly feel that something good and interesting is brewing. I think that it was so telling that there were only two small portraits of Elvira in the museum, this happens so often. That the woman doesn't seem to match up with the male creative hero narrative.
Il Letto as we know is firmly centred around Elvira. It tells of the scandalous events around the lake from a woman's perspective whilst at the same time shedding light on Puccini too. The play looks at the relationship between art and death. In the first showing of Turandot Toscanini stopped the work where Puccini's pen left the paper and said, that Death had defeated Art in this case. One way of looking at Puccini's heroines, is that through the qualities of the music art defeats death.
Suffice it to say that little Doria Manfredi, the maid that Elvira hounded took 3 days to die. She is Manon combined with Mimi and Tosca, I mean she was all the deaths combined. And here I think is perhaps an opportunity for a bit of Helios magic, like the great shock (from which I am still recovering) of the National Portrait Gallery Opera Mash-Up.
The play now starts quite clearly for me. Doria and Elvira hanging up bedsheets to dry. Elvira is teaching Doria the job of house-maid. It is not uncommon for the mistress of the house to show how she likes things done. As this sheet is put up we see that it is in fact working like a cinema screen and Pucinni's very early home movies are projected onto it. (This can be done with a small hand held projector) Noah comes on stage and plays at the Piano whilst the home movie runs.
Elvira and Doria take down the sheet and make the bed. They discuss how to give the bed 'hospital corners'. Through this process, we see Doria is in awe. Elvira is happy to teach and at the same time we see a metaphorical mother and daughter relationship. Elvira tells Doria that she is now one of the women around the maestro. An honoured position. Doria reminds Elvira of her youth..when she too had beautiful skin. Elvira also might teach Doria a fragment of La Boheme, cementing a Mimi and Musetta moment. She then stops herself. She is in danger of Doria into a 'Puccini heroine' - a fate she would wish on no woman....
The rest is less fleshed out, but we proceed to tell the story of what happened at the Lake, and how Doria did, in fact become a real tragedy, a real Puccini woman. We apprehend the story from Elvira's point of view, discovering the facts as she did. These are the main beats.
The news from Fosca that the Maestro was having an affair with Doria.
The rising fury and passion of that knowledge. The imagined happenings in and out of IL Letto'
The decision to run Doria out of town - (Torre is small!)
The news that Doria has killed herself, and died slowly over three days.
The knowledge that she has caused the death of a young woman.
The knowledge that she was a virgin.
The utter ruin of Elvira Bonturi. That she will go to prison.( For 5 days)
Elvira decides, like Tosca to take her own life.
Evira decides that she wants to live. She rails against the Maestro. She isn't the one to have been unfaithful. Why should she die? She is not an aria, she is Elvira Bonturi. More than just the wife of a musical genius. She is herself.
Elvira pities Doria. We re-live Doria's last moments in the Bed, with Elvira holding her hand. (I do see a space for Soeur Angelica during this part).
None of this is in stone. It will ebb and flow. I am still working my way through the music.
I am listening to Tosca. It will take me a week or so to get to Madama Butterfly and Turandot. I am going through the Librettos in English and highlighting parts I feel work from a thematic point of view.
I am going to try and complete a fuller synopsis as soon as I can.
'Il Letto' will be my only new project of the year I think. (What with the financials being what they are, I will need to be working by March.)
After the success of the Mussorgsky Song at the NPG. Helios asked if I might consider writing a script around the music of Puccini. (Two C's One N).
The story concerns Giacomo Puccini's wife, Elvira Bonturi, and the well documented events at Puccini's house at Torre De'l Lago which resulted in the death of the 20 year old house maid - Doria Manfredi.
New evidence came to light in 2008 that suggested that the story that people understood, namely that Elvira, driven by passion and jelousy, hounded the maid, until the maid killed herself, was not the whole story.
'Il Letto' tells the story from Elvira's perspective. It shows Puccini's music in a unique new light.