Puccini’s best work (equalled only by Tosca) premiered on this day (1 February) 1896 in Turin, conducted by Toscanini. Whereas opera before concerned itself almost exclusively with the grandeur of the Idle Rich, this memorably essayed people like me (the Idle Poor).
It is simple, sentimental, poignant and full of melodrama and truly great music. The critics were initially snippy about the low-rent characters but this piece more than any other has become a standard work, to what would be a tiresome degree but for the sublime music. Such as “O soave fanciulla” – Here are Ramón Vargas (Rodolfo) and Barbara Frittoli (Mimì) from the Met production of a couple of years ago: