At the turn of the century, opera was leaderless after the heady days of Verdi and Wagner. Puccini emerged as the new voice of Italian opera, where realism, or verismo, was the way forward. But verismo could never be the answer to the operatic dilemma that faced the latest composers, since it only gave a musical dimension to a stage painting of ‘life as it is’, without reference to underlying psychodynamics — I personally have never thought Puccini much of an intellectual. Beautiful his music may be, but as thinking pieces of theatre they are devoid of real challenges. Their appeal and potency lies, to a great extent, in Puccini's obsession with needless suffering.
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