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Madame Puccini

Elvira Puccini

Music & Libretto by Dr. Michael Pratt

A full length opera (two hours of music) in three acts for six singers and an orchestra of thirteen players using three sets. Based on a true incident in the life of composer Giacomo Puccini and his wife Elvira, the “Doria Manfredi affair”.

Setting:

The time is 1908 in Torre del Lago, Italy, the home of Puccini. Puccini is fifty years old and Madame Puccini is forty-eight. They have been living together for twenty-four years after Elvira left her husband to live with Puccini. They have been married for four years after the death of Elvira’s husband. Puccini is world famous after having written Le Villi, Edgar, Manon Lescaut, La Boheme, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. He is currently in the midst of composing his seventh opera, La Fanciulla del West (the Girl of the Golden West).

Synopsis:

Act 1: the interior of Villa Puccini. Doria Manfredi, young housekeeper of the Puccinis is busy cleaning the composer’s study when Tello, her older brother, rushes in with the news that Puccini has returned from a trip to London where has had another affair, enraging his wife, Elvira. Tello tries to persuade Doria that she should not stay any longer in the Puccini household because sooner or later Madame Puccini will accuse her of something with her husband. Doria refuses to leave saying her position is very important to her. Elvira accuses Doria of working late at night in order to be alone with Puccini who also works late at night. When Puccini returns she confronts him with his constant affairs. After Elvira retires, Puccini is working at the piano when Doria asks for help with Madame Puccini. In telling Puccini how Elvira so bitterly accused her of tempting Puccini, she becomes distraught and is comforted by Puccini when Elvira, who has heard the piano stop, comes downstairs and sees them together. She orders Doria from the villa at gun point becoming so enraged she fires a shot into the ceiling which Tello hears waiting outside in hopes that Doria will pack and leave. Puccini persuades Tello to leave with Doria and swears there was nothing between them. Tello is insulted saying the Manfredi family cannot be treated this way.

Act 2: a street in Torre del Lago. Doria confides to Father Michelucci that Madame Puccini’s lies to everyone in the village about her and Puccini have become a nightmare for her and she cannot go on much longer. Elvira tries to convince the Father to ostracize Doria from the village. Puccini tells Doria that he has not been able to write a note in months and that the two of them must somehow weather out the storm. Tello attacks Puccini for dishonoring his sister but is restrained by his mother who tells Puccini that it does not matter whether it is true or not, if the lie is told often enough it will become the truth. Mama Manfredi tells Doria that she must remain out of sight until people forget all about it. Elvira tells Doria that she is responsible for Puccini never writing another note of music as long as he lives and threatens to drown her in the lake. Puccini tells Elvira she has gone too far and starts flee to Paris when Father Michelucci rushes in with the news that Doria has committed suicide.

Act 3, Scene 1: the interior of a courtroom. An autopsy has revealed that Doria died a virgin. In a letter to Sybil Seligman Puccini says that recently he himself has been contemplating suicide. Puccini offers Tello four thousand lire for his family to drop their lawsuit against Elvira which he refuses. As the trial progresses Elvira swears to all her charges against Doria and claims that Doria was an hysteric who had previously attempted suicide because Elvira had found fault with her. The ghostly apparition of Doria appears to testify to her and Puccini’s innocence. Elvira is found guilty of defamation of character, libel and menace to life and limb and is sentenced to a fine of seven hundred lire and five months and five days in prison.

Act 3, Scene 2: the interior of Villa Puccini. Tello comes to pick up Puccini’s baggage and scores as he leaves Villa Puccini forever. Puccini begs Tello to accept a settlement of twelve thousand lire, now that justice has prevailed, so that Elvira does not have to go to prison. Tello agrees. Elvira accuses Puccini of deserting her. He responds that he does not want all his feelings for her to evaporate which is why he must leave. Elvira becomes extremely despondent as she ponders the rest of her life completely alone. Sitting at Puccini’s work table with a pistol in front of her she wonders if she will have the courage this time or fire at the ceiling again. With the final curtain almost to the floor a shot is fired.

Cast (6 singers):

  • Giacomo Puccini, composer, tenor
  • Elvira Puccini, wife of Puccini, soprano
  • Doria Manfredi, young housekeeper of the Puccinis, soprano
  • Tello Manfredi, older brother of Doria, baritone Mama Manfredi, Doria and Tello’s mother, mezzo-soprano
  • Father Michelucci, local clergy, bass-baritone
  • Judge, local judge, bass-baritone (Father Michelucci & the Judge are performed by the same person)

Orchestra (13 players):

  • flute
  • oboe (english horn)
  • clarinet (bass clarinet)
  • french horn
  • bassoon
  • percussion
  • keyboard
  • violin 1 & 2
  • viola
  • cello 1 & 2 s
  • string bass

Sets (3):

Act 1 & Act 3, Scene 2: the interior of Villa Puccini. Upstage and two-thirds to stage left is an entry hallway and door to the outside. Stage left is a stairway leading up and offstage. Downstage from the stairway is a doorway leading to another part of the villa and offstage. Stage right is Puccini’s study. Upstage we see an upright piano where he composes. At a ninety degree angle, stage left of the piano, is a very large writing desk. Upstage is a large window looking out on a wooded lake setting. Stage right is an old beat-up couch. Stage right in the upstage corner is a full gun cabinet. The walls are lined with filled bookshelves. The study is very cluttered and unkempt.

Act 2: a street in Torre del Lago. The street runs from stage left to stage right. Upstage are three stores side by side facing downstage. Stage left is a butcher shop, stage right is a general store and in the middle is a bakery. Each has a door which exits offstage. A raised sidewalk runs from stage left to stage right between the stores and the street. On the sidewalk between the bakery and the general store is a bench.

Act 3, Scene 1: the interior of a courtroom. Upstage center is a railing behind which the accused sits throughout the trial. The railing is not solid, the floor can be seen through the railing. Upstage, stage right is the Judge’s bench facing somewhat on a bias across the stage to downstage, stage left. Downstage of the Judge’s bench is a witness box facing across the stage to stage left. Stage left is a prosecution table facing across to the Judge’s bench and witness box. Behind the prosecution table is a railing and spectator benches. Stage left is the back of the courtroom with a door (exit offstage).

Act 1: the interior of Villa Puccini. Upstage and two-thirds to stage left is an entry hallway and door to the outside. Stage left is a stairway leading up and offstage. Downstage from the stairway is a doorway leading to another part of the villa and offstage. Stage right is Puccini’s study. Upstage we see an upright piano where he composes. At a ninety degree angle, stage left of the piano, is a very large writing desk. Upstage is a large window looking out on a wooded lake setting. Stage right is an old beat-up couch. Stage right in the upstage corner is a full gun cabinet. The walls are lined with filled bookshelves. The study is very cluttered and unkempt. (Doria is busy cleaning the study. Tello enters from the upstage doorway.)

Tello: Have you heard? Have you heard? Puccini is back from London. He returns tonight. I must meet him in one hour and fetch his baggage.

Doria: Yes, I have heard. I have heard. It’s good to have the Maestro back. Villa Puccini is so empty. This room comes alive when he is working.

(Tello walks over to the piano, picks up some music, looks at it, and beings to play the piano.)

Doria: Stop that. No one is allowed to disturb the Maestro’s work.

Tello: An interesting melody.

(He continues to play the piano. Doria comes over, takes the music from his hand and pushes him away from the piano.)

Doria: The Maestro’s study is private. You should not be here. You must not disturb his work.

Tello: I will not disturb his work, but I would like to hear some of it. I could get a lot of money for a melody from his new work.

Doria: You would not dare. Don’t talk like that. I will not allow even my own brother to bring harm to the Maestro.

Tello: Calm down. Calm down. Doria, I mean no harm.

Doria: I know that Tello but I will do everything in my power to keep harm from Puccini. I am completely devoted to him.

Tello: Puccini is not devoted to Madame Puccini. While in London he had another affair. This time with the wife of a London banker by the name of Sybil Seligman.

Doria: It is well known that Madame Puccini is not an easy person to live with. The Maestro’s trips are his only escape from her jealousy and scolding nature.

Tello: She is also impossible to work for. Few people can stand her for very long and they quit. It is said that she possesses the evil eye. Do you remember when the young singer came to see Puccini about her career? Madame threatened her with an umbrella and chased her from the villa.

Doria: It is true, Madame Puccini finds it difficult to be the wife of an illustrious man. She does not like to stay home when he goes away. But the way she acts when he is here causes him to make more trips.

Tello: You came here when Puccini had his accident and broke his leg. You were just sixteen. Mother and father did not want you to take this job. They tried to warn you. I tried to warn you, but you would not listen.

Doria: Tello… (Tello raises a hand to quiet Doria)

Tello: Puccini is notorious for chasing after women and Madame is notorious for her insane jealousy. You will get caught in the middle. You must listen to me now. You cannot stay here any longer. Go and pack your things. When I return with Puccini I will take you with me. We will go home together. You think Puccini is the greatest man in the world, but if you stay here now only tragedy will result. Madame Puccini is enraged over this latest affair and she will take it out on you for certain. You are lucky that Puccini has left you alone. You are lucky Madame has not become suspicious of you. Your luck is going to run out. I was against you taking this position because I thought it would lower you. I was wrong about that but I am not wrong about this. I am only thinking of what’s best for you. I have overheard her relatives talking to her about you. They are telling her that he is susceptible to your charms and she must get rid of you. You know she believes them not you. Go and pack your things. When I return we will leave together. You cannot stay here any longer. Please believe me and trust me.

Doria: Tello, I know that you mean well, but I am not leaving. My place is here.

Tello: Doria… (Doria raises a hand to quiet Tello)

Doria: At home, or somewhere else, I am no different than anyone. But here, working for the Maestro, I am important, I am somebody. Here I meet musicians like Toscanini and Caruso. Here I open the Maestro’s door to diplomats and royalty. You tell me what a terrible temper Madame Puccini has. You tell me I must be very cautious. I tell you I do not worry about Madame Puccini. I am someone she can trust. I look after her. You tell me that Puccini chases every pretty girl in sight. You tell me he will flirt with me and try to take advantage of me. I tell you do not listen to rumors. I shall do nothing to compromise his great name. I know that you do not understand but still you must believe me. I am happy here. I have a place here. Puccini needs me, I take care of him. Nothing is more important to me.

Tello: And what of the things that Ida and Beppe are filling Madame Puccini’s head with?

Doria: Do you believe them? Do you think that I am encouraging Puccini by the way I walk around him? By the way I linger around him?

Tello: It does not matter what I think. It does matter what anyone thinks, except for Madame Puccini.

Doria: I do not care about me. She can do me no harm, but the harm she does Puccini, I must do whatever I can to protect him from.

Tello: That is not your job. That should not even be your concern. She is his wife. It must be between them. Go and pack your things. Come with me when I return.

(Tello exits the upstage doorway. Doria continues cleaning the study. Elvira enters from the stage left stairway.)

Elvira: Who was just here?

Doria: Madame Puccini, that was my brother. He said the Maestro is back. He went to fetch him and will return soon.

Elvira: I was not expecting him back tonight. It is very late, I thought he would return tomorrow. What are you up so late?

Doria: I am just doing a little cleaning, Madame. It is easier to do in the cool of the evening rather than the heat of the day. I enjoy working at night.

Elvira: I am sure you do. You are also aware that Puccini works at night. Perhaps after I have retired you two like to work together.

Doria: Madame Puccini, I would not dare to disturb the Maestro in his great work. I do not come near him or distract him in any way.

Elvira: That is not true. I have seen how you walk by him. I have seen how you linger by him. I have seen the way you look at him.

Doria: I walk by him as quietly as I can. I linger by him to see if he needs me.

Elvira: You make it sound so innocent. I know you work late so you and he can be together.

Doria: That is not true. I work at night because it is easier for me that way. I only respond to his needs.

Elvira: Of that I am sure. You must not disturb him when he is working. When I retire you must go to bed. You must leave Puccini alone.

Doria: Yes, Madame.

Elvira: I do not know if Puccini has had his supper, it is late. Go and make sure something is ready if he wishes it.

Doria: Yes, Madame.

(Doria exits the stage left doorway. Elvira wanders around the study looking at things, touching things, and finally picks up a photograph of Puccini from a bookcase.)

Elvira: I love you, Giacomo. I have loved only you since the day I left my husband to come here and live with you twenty-four years ago. I loved you and lived with you for twenty of those years before we could be married. I loved you before you became a rich and famous composer. I loved you all those years when we had nothing and before you had written anything. How do you repay my love? You turn your eye on everything that swishes by in skirts. You don’t even worry about who knows it. It is me who they say cannot keep you happy. It is me who they say drives you away and into the arms of other women. You know this is not true. It is you, Puccini, not me. It is you who cannot be content with what he has. I am always here for you but you do not share with me. You do not discuss your work with me. You do not ask my opinion. I love you, Giacomo but you shut me out. Am I not good enough for you? Am I too stupid for you? I am torn to the bottom of my soul by the way you treat me. I love you, Giacomo but I cannot go on anymore like this.

(Doria enters the stage left doorway.)

Doria: Madame Puccini, the Maestro has arrived.

Elvira: Do not forget what I have told you. Do not stay up and work at night. When I retire, you retire as well.

Doria: Yes, Madame.

(Puccini and Tello enter through the upstage doorway. Tello is carrying baggage.)

Puccini: Elvira, my dear, I am back. How good to see you.

(Puccini and Elvira embrace.)

Elvira: Giacomo, I did not expect you tonight. I thought you would arrive tomorrow. Had you had your supper?

Puccini: Yes, I ate earlier. Take the baggage upstairs.

(Doria and Tello exit the stage left stairway with the baggage.)

It is good to be home. The trip was tiring. So many people. The singers were not very good. One good result. The bass complained he did not have one good aria so I wrote one for him. I inserted it before Mimi’s death, he sings a farewell to his coat.

Elvira: Did you work yourself to the bone or did you have any time to indulge yourself?

Puccini: Indulge myself in what? You know that very little interests me outside my work.

Elvira: I heard from Ida and Beppe you made a new acquaintance in London. Someone in the financial world.

Puccini: You must mean Sybil Seligman and her husband, the banker. Fascinating people.

Elvira: They must be. I heard you spent a great time with them. No, I heard you spent a great time with her.

Puccini: There is very little left for me to tell. You already know everything.

Elvira: Not quite. Tell me all the details of your intimate afternoons with Sybil Seligman. Tell me all the details of your shameless affair.

Puccini: Elvira, this has got to stop. I spent some time with a lady in London who made me feel good. She flattered me. She called me a genius. What man would not enjoy such attentions. When was the last time you told me…

Elvira: That does not give you any right or excuse.

Puccini: It is mostly in your imagination. You have no cause to rail at me like this.

Elvira: My cause is just. My cause is moral. You assume that I will always be here when you return. Maybe next time I won’t be here.

(Doria and Tello enter down the stairway.)

Tello: The baggage is all taken care of. Is there anything else I can do for you tonight?

Puccini: No, that will be all. I appreciate all your trouble, Tello.

Tello: Maestro, you can call on me anytime, day or night.

(Puccini pays Tello. Doria and Tello move toward the upstage door, out of earshot.)

Tello: Are you coming?

Doria: No.

(Tello glares at Doria and Doria pushes him out the door.)

Tello: I will wait outside. Please, go and get your things.

Elvira: That is all for tonight, Doria. Do not forget our discussion earlier.

(Doria exits the stage left doorway.)

Puccini: What discussion was that?

Elvira: I told Doria I did not want her staying up working at night after I have retired. I told her she was disturbing your work.

Puccini: She has never disturbed by work. She is very quiet. I never hear her unless I need something.

Elvira: I am sure that is true. That is also the problem, your needs. Why can’t I take care of your needs? Why do you look elsewhere for advice and comfort? You have all you need right in front of you. I am warning you, I will not put up with you and Doria…

Puccini: (interrupting) There is no me and Doria to put with. You are making this all up in your head. Your jealousy has made you lose hold of your senses. You must stop badgering and leave me alone.

Elvira: Very well, I will leave you alone.

(Elvira exits the stage left stairway. Puccini goes over and lies down on the couch.)

Puccini: I love you, Elvira. I have loved you for twenty-four years. How do you repay my love? Your jealousy rages every time I cast my eye on another woman. I cannot pursue my career without battles at every turn. People in the town stop me in the street and ask me what is wrong with you. Our son is so confused he flees with me to Paris. I love you, Elvira, but lately it is impossible if I am around you. You only allow me to love you from afar. When we are together the flame in my heart goes out. It has not always been this way. We used to be content with each other. Now it seems that there is no contentment at all with each other. Now you imagine something with me and Doria. That is beyond belief. I would never disgrace that sweet child. This time I will not allow you to rage over nothing. This time I will stand up to you and you will see the truth.

(Puccini goes over to the piano and begins playing. Elvira enters from the stairway.)

Elvira: Surely you are not going to work tonight? After such a long trip?

Puccini: I wanted to work a few things out. Elvira: I as well. Come upstairs so we can discuss some things. Puccini: Perhaps in a bit, I am not ready yet.

Elvira: I will listen to the piano from upstairs. When it stops I will expect you.

(Elvira exits up the stairway. Interlude of Puccini working at the piano. After a while Doria enters from the stage left doorway and looks at Puccini hard at work and then turns to go.)

Puccini: Doria, I did not see you there.

Doria: Maestro, I did not want to disturb you.

Puccini: Nonsense, you are not disturbing me.

Doria: It is good to have you back, Maestro. It is very lonely when you are gone, and much too quiet. Did you have a good trip?

Puccini: Yes, I suppose so Although, I must admit that the older I get the more boring these trips become. I would rather stay here in Torre del Lago with my friends looking for a duck to shoot. These are the pleasures I really crave. Not all that fame and fawning in London or Paris.

Doria: I should leave. If Madame heard me here she would be very angry.

Puccini: Is Madame being difficult with you Doria?

Doria: Not when you are away. But when you return she imagines all kinds of things. Today she said I was distracting you from your work. She said she has seen the way I walk by you and the way I linger around you. I do not know what she is imagining about me and you. You know I only want to serve you. To be near if you need anything. You know I would never harm you or disgrace you. Maestro, you are the only thing in the world important to me.

(Puccini goes over to Doria and takes her hand.)

Puccini: Doria, I do not want you to worry about this. I will talk to Madame and straighten all this out. You are completely innocent. You have done nothing wrong and have nothing to worry about.

Doria: But Maestro, if Madame imagines bad things she will tell people lies about us. You will be hurt by all of this. I will not be able to take care of you. Puccini: Doria, I tell you do not worry. I will take of it all.

(Doria becomes very distraught. Puccini puts his arms around her to comfort her. Elvira enters from the stairway)

Elvira: As I thought. I was right about you Doria. I have known it all along.

Doria: Madame, I only…, I wanted…

Elvira: Yes, I am sure. I see what I see. I see my husband’s arms around you, Doria.

Puccini: Elvira, what you see is completely innocent. It is you who have upset her so that she came to me for help.

Elvira: Help with what? I have seen with my eyes what you help with. The same help you give Sybil Seligman in London. The same help you give every soprano you meet. I see your help. It has been a long time since you helped me like that.

Doria: Madame, please, I just wanted to see if the Maestro needed anything before I retired like you told me to do. I become upset. The Maestro put his arms around me because I was crying. Please, Madame, you must listen.

Puccini: Elvira, you must calm down.

Elvira: Why should I calm down. I hear the piano stop. I come downstairs. I find you two embracing each other. I see with my own eyes this time. I catch you in the very act this time. You want me to calm down. Not while she stays in this villa. Not while she remains under my roof.

Puccini: Elvira, you are hysterical. You must calm down. Nothing happened between us. You are imagining all this. Doria: Madame, please, he is innocent. You must not blame the Maestro. Please, listen to me. It is all my fault.

Elvira: Why should I calm down. I hear the piano stop. I come downstairs. I find you embracing each other. Doria, you must leave this very instant.

Doria: Maestro, please…

(Puccini approaches Elvira. Elvira goes to the gun cabinet and takes out a pistol which she aims at the floor.)

Puccini: Elvira, you cannot be serious.

(Elvira aims the gun at the ceiling and fires. Doria begins to scream and runs toward the upstage doorway. Tello enters the upstage doorway and grabs Doria.)

Tello: Doria, are you hurt?

(No response. He stands between Elvira and Doria.) (looking at Elvira)

Maestro, what is happening here?

Elvira: I have caught your slut of a sister in the arms of my husband. If she does not leave, the next shot will not be in the ceiling.

(Puccini lunges and grabs the gun from Elvira.)

Puccini: Elvira, come to your senses. You are behaving like a lunatic.

Tello: Maestro, what is she saying about you and my sister?

Doria: Tello, nothing is true. The Maestro is completely innocent. I think the Madame wants to kill me.

Puccini: Tello, it is probably best if you take Doria and leave.

Elvira: Why do you stay? For the last time, leave now.

(Elvira reaches for the pistol, Puccini restrains her.)

Elvira: I have caught her with my husband. She must leave at once. Take her out of her with you. I swear to you I will punish her.

Puccini: Elvira, why are you doing this? There was nothing wrong here. Tello, you must believe me. Your sister is completely innocent.

Doria: Maestro, I am sorry. You are not to blame. If I had not come down here, this would not have happened.

Tello: I warned you this would happen. This woman is not right. Now you must come with me. You must not stay here any longer.

(Doria begins crying hysterically. Tello takes her by the arms.)

Tello: We will leave, Maestro. But the Manfredi family cannot be treated like this. This is not the end of it.

Elvira: Of that you can be certain.

(She lunges towards Tello and Doria. Puccini holds her back and motions them to leave.)

This will not be the end of it. I will see to that.

(Doria and Tello exit the upstage doorway. Curtain.)

 Act 2: a street in Torre del Lago. The street runs from stage left to stage right. Upstage are three stores side by side facing downstage. Stage left is a butcher shop, stage right is a general store and in the middle is a bakery. Each has a door which exits offstage. A raised sidewalk runs from stage left to stage right between the stores and the street. On the sidewalk between the bakery and the general store is a bench.

(Father Michelucci enters from the bakery and sits on the bench eating a roll.)

Father: The sky is overcast today. It looks like a storm approaching. We don’t need a storm from Mother Nature. Madame Puccini’s storm is all we can stand for now.

(Doria enters from stage right.)

Doria: Father Michelucci, it is good to see you.

(Father rises.)

Father: Doria, how are you today. Come and sit with me a bit. I wanted to talk with you, Doria. Madame Puccini has been saying some very unkind things about you.

Doria: Father, she has been telling nothing but lies. Lies about me and lies about the Maestro. She has talked to everyone in the village. I cannot go anywhere without someone looking at me. But it is worse for the Maestro. Puccini is a great man. This village has never seen a greater man. He has not worked in months. She has dried up his inspiration. For me it does not matter but for him she must be stopped.

Father: Madame Puccini makes some very serious charges. She says with her own eyes she saw you and the Maestro in an adulterous affair. She says it has been going on for some time now. She says she is not the only witness but Ida and Beppe have also witnessed these things.

Doria: Father, you have heard me say over and over that there is no truth to any of it. Madame lies so often people are starting to believe her.

Father: Doria, I am not here to judge you or Madame Puccini. I will pray for you.

Doria: Thank you Father. Perhaps that is the only solution after all.

(Doria exits into the bakery. Father starts to exit stage left. Elvira enters stage left.)

Elvira: Father, a moment please.

Father: Madame Puccini, may I help you find a way to end this campaign of yours. The village is in such a terrible uproar.

Elvira: Indeed you can, Father. Perhaps it’s you who can end it altogether.

Father: What can I do?

Elvira: You know what an evil person Doria Manfredi is. She must be driven out of the village. She is not fit to associate with decent people. You must not fail to help me with this.

Father: Madame Puccini, you must calm yourself. You must consider what you are saying. What you are accusing. Who you are accusing.

Elvira: I know what I know. I know what I saw. In my own villa. In front of my own eyes.

Father: What have you seen? Your husband says they are innocent. You have accused them of adultery but you have no proof.

Elvira: I saw them embrace each other. Father, I am not a fool. I am not blind. They dishonor the name Puccini.

Father: Madame Puccini, you have no basis for your accusations. You must control yourself and stop this hate.

Elvira: Father, I am right. I will not rest a minute until Doria Manfredi is gone permanently.

(Elvira exits into the butcher shop. Father exits stage left. Puccini enters stage right heading for the general store. He meets Doria entering from the bakery carrying a package.)

Puccini: Doria.

(Doria begins crying, sits down on the bench and places her package on the bench beside her.)

Doria: It is more than I can bear Maestro. To hear her telling everyone that you have done this evil. Your name will be revered like Verdi. To bring dishonor to you like this…

Puccini: Doria, we have nothing at all to be ashamed of. Like you this is more than I can bear. I cannot make her stop this madness. For you this has been a living hell.

(Doria rises from the bench and leaves her package behind.)

Doria: I do not care what she says about me. But your great name must not be stained. I must prove to everyone your innocence.

Puccini: There is nothing we can do except weather out the storm.

Doria: I promise you I will do more than that. Puccini: Anything you or I do will just make matters worse. You know the truth. Soon everyone will know the truth as well.

(Doria exits stage right. Puccini heads for the general store. Tello enters stage left and stops him.)

Tello: There he is, the great man. The great man who dishonored my sister. The great man who has ruined my name.

Puccini: Tello, I swear to you again there is nothing between your sister and me. My wife is insane. Her rantings and ravings are completely without foundation.

Tello: Who do you expect to believe that. The whole village knows about you. We all know you have chased everything in skirts all your life. Where there is smoke there is fire.

Puccini: There is no fire.

Tello: You have ruined my family.

(Tello lunges towards Puccini. Puccini pushes him away.)

If I had a gun in my hand I would kill you on this very spot. You do not deserve to live. I despise you. May you rot. My sister cannot hold up her head in the village. My parents dishonored as well. We have all become outcast. You must pay for all of this.

(Tello lunges again for Puccini. Mama Manfredi enters stage left and stops him.)

Mama: Tello. Stop. Leave the Maestro alone.

(Tello stops and glares at Puccini with fists clenched.)

Tello: Do what your mother says. You will not do this. Leave the Maestro alone.

(Tello backs off and goes over by Mama Manfredi.)

Tello: Mama, he must pay for what he’s done.

Mama: That is not for you to say. I want you to go and leave the Maestro alone.

Tello: Mama…

Mama: Do what I say.

(Tello glares at Puccini and then exits stage left.)

Puccini: Thank you, Mama Manfredi.

Mama: I did not do it for you. My family has had enough suffering and misery. We do not need any more. This would only make matters worse, not better.

Puccini: Mama Manfredi, my name is an old one. I am the fourth generation of a family of musicians. We have always been a well respected family. I swear to you there is no truth to any of this.

Mama: That may be, but even so it does not matter. Madame Puccini is proving that if you repeat the lie often the lie becomes the truth. The truth does not matter.

Puccini: I am ashamed of all of this. I am sorry for you and your family. I wish I could stop it.

Mama: Maestro, can you not control your wife? Puccini: No, I am afraid it is she who is controlling all of us.

(Puccini exits into the general store. Elvira enters from the butcher shop.)

Elvira: You dare to show yourself in public. Your family should not be seen in the light of day. You should crawl along the streets at night with the other vermin.

Mama: You may be ‘la donna Puccini’ and I may be a simple peasant woman, but nothing on God’s Earth gives you the right to speak to me like that.

Elvira: You dare to speak of rights. What right did your whore of a daughter have to take away my husband?

Mama: If you no longer have your husband, it is because you have driven him away.

Elvira: You should be begging my forgiveness. You should be crawling on your knees to me.

(Mama Manfredi spits on the ground in front of Elvira.)

I will see your whole family banished from this village. People dispose of their trash.

(Elvira exits into the bakery. Mama Manfredi sits down heavily on the bench as if stunned. Doris enters stage right.)

Doria: Mama, what is wrong? Mama: I just spoke with Madame Puccini. She is worse than ever. You should not be here. If she should see you…

(Doria picks up the package she left on the bench).

Doria: I returned for the package I left here. What lies is she telling now?

Mama: Doria… I believe everything you say, Doria. Your brother believes the lies. People are talking, people are looking. They say he has done it before, it must be true. I will tell you what I told the Maestro, Doria. The truth does not matter. People believe it, that is what matters. The lie becomes the truth. You must wait. She will stop. People will forget. Stay out of sight I believe everything you say, Doria. Everything will be all right. I must see to Tello. He may do something foolish..

(Mama Manfredi exits stage left. Doria starts to exit stage right. Elvira enters from the bakery.)

Elvira: How dare you show yourself on the street? Your mother is ashamed to be seen.

Doria: Madame Puccini, please, I am innocent.

Elvira: You must leave my husband alone.

Doria: The Maestro is innocent.

Elvira: You tart, you slut, you whore.

(Doria covers her face with her hands.)

Doria: I am none of those things.

Elvira: You have ruined my life. You dare stay here.

Doria: Why won’t anyone believe me.

Elvira: You dare walk the street in broad daylight.

Doria: None of it is true.

Elvira: You should flee to the farthest end of the Earth.

Doria: Please, listen to me.

Elvira: You have ruined my husbands name. He was a respected man. People looked up to him. Now his life is ruined and it is because of you. He cannot even bring himself to work. And it is all your fault. He will never write again.

(Doria begins to run away stage right.)

Elvira: Yes, yes, you had better run away. You little whore. Sooner or later, as sure as the Madonna, I will drown you in the lake with my own hands.

(Puccini enters from the general store.)

Puccini: Elvira, leave her alone.

Elvira: Don’t tell me to leave her alone. You are in no position to be telling me anything.

Doria: Maestro, please…

Elvira: You tart, you slut, you whore. You must leave and never return. You are an evil person. Why do you stay here?

Puccini: I can’t stand any more of this. I haven’t written a note in months. She won’t listen to me at all. Somebody must do something.

Doria: She is destroying you. You must defend yourself. Something must be done to save you. The truth must be known. This is going to end today. Everyone will know the truth. There is only one thing left. Maestro, I must say good-bye.

(Doria begins crying and runs off stage right. Puccini starts after her, then stops )

Elvira: Perhaps now that she is leaving we will have some peace.

(Puccini whirls around.)

Puccini: You have gone too far. Your insanity is too much. What you have done to that poor girl is beyond belief. I will not live with you any longer.

Elvira: Do not make threats to me. You are just as much to blame for this as she is. You are more responsible than I.

Puccini: I am not the one spreading poison like a black widow spider. I am not the one spewing forth day after day until the entire village is upset.

Elvira: You are the one who is not man enough to be content with his wife. You are the one who everyone in this village has been gossiping about for years.

Puccini: Elvira, I am done with you. I am leaving for Paris tonight and I shall not return.

Elvira: I have heard this before as well. I know your threats and they mean nothing.

Puccini: You will soon realize that this time is different. I will not be back. You will never see me again. Perhaps then you will realize your cruelty.

Elvira: You make a big speech but it is all to cover up. You know I am right. You know you are wrong. You cannot change that.

Puccini: Good-bye, Elvira.

(Puccini starts to exit stage left. Father Michelucci enters stage right.)

Father: My God in heaven…

Puccini: Father Michelucci, what is it? What is wrong?

(Father looks first at Puccini and then at Elvira and then back to Puccini.)

Father: She is dead. She is dead. Puccini: Who? Who is dead?

Father: Doria Manfredi is dead. She swallowed some poison and has killed herself.

Puccini: God in heaven… Father: She left a note. It said she was innocent of everything. It also said she was pure. The doctor examined her and verified that it was true. She was telling the truth. You were telling the truth.

(They both turn and look at Elvira. She does not change her appearance and glares right back.)

Have you any concept of the harm you have caused here today?

Elvira: It is not I who have caused the harm. You must turn your gaze to see the guilty party.

Puccini: Still you insist on your way. Even now, in the face of proof positive.

(Tello and Mama Manfredi come running in from stage right.)

Mama: My Doria is dead and it’s your fault. She would not be dead except for your evil accusations.

Elvira: I spoke nothing but the truth. You cannot blame me for this. Her guilt made her do it. This is not my fault.

Mama: You are an evil woman. And you will rot in hell. My daughter has killed herself. And it is your fault.

Puccini: This tragedy is beyond belief. How could it have gone this far? Doria did not have to do it. She was not to blame.

Tello: You will pay for this. This crime must be punished. You are an evil old hag. You will not get away with it.

Father: What an innocent young girl. Her life was all before her. And now it’s over. Tragedy beyond belief.

Tello: (to Elvira) I should kill you right now for what you did to my sister. I’ll make you pay for this.

(Tello lunges for Elvira. Puccini stands in between. Father restrains him.)

Father: Tello, stop. You cannot do this. Do not make a tragic day more tragic. Doria would not want you to do this.

Tello: Are you sure of that Father? Why do you think she killed herself? It was the only way to stop Madame Puccini. It was the only way to make us believe her. She is counting on us to make her pay for what she has done.

(Puccini starts to lead Elvira off stage left.)

You cannot run away. You must pay for this. This will most certainly not be the end of it. I will see to that.

(Curtain.)

Act 3, Scene 1: the interior of a courtroom. Upstage center is a railing behind which the accused sits throughout the trial. The railing is not solid, the floor can be seen through the railing. Upstage, stage right is the Judge’s bench facing somewhat on a bias across the stage to downstage, stage left. Downstage of the Judge’s bench is a witness box facing across the stage to stage left. Stage left is a prosecution table facing across to the Judge’s bench and witness box. Behind the prosecution table is a railing and spectator benches. Stage left is the back of the courtroom with a door (exit offstage).

(Puccini enters and sits in the front row of spectator benches. He takes some paper from a case he is carrying and begins to write a letter.)

Puccini: My dearest Sybil, I am leaving soon for Paris. I cannot stand it any more. I suppose you have heard, read something in the newspaper. It is a tragic affair. I shall leave Elvira for good. She has become completely deranged. Elvira started imagining all sorts of things. She made such a terrible scene. Made such awful accusations. Called her such horrible names. She even went around the village spreading her poison. She tried to turn Doria’s family against her. Doria’s brother attacked me saying he would like to kill me because I was his sister’s lover. Poor Doria was faced with a hell in her own home and dishonor outside. With Elvira’s insults ringing in her ears she swallowed some poison and died after torment and atrocious agony. You can imagine. Everyone was against me, but even more against Elvira. She left for Milan the day of the poisoning. By the order of the authorities a medical examination was made in the presence of witnesses and she was found to be pure. Poor Doria. I am only telling you the truth when I say that I have often lovingly fingered my revolver. What now? What now?

(Tello enters and goes over to Puccini. He takes off his hat and holds it by both hands in front of him.)

Tello: Maestro, please, I hope you understand. The Manfredi family honor is at stake. We cannot allow this to go unpunished. That is why we are here today, for justice for Doria.

Puccini: Tello, I understand that.

Tello: Please, do not think that this is something against you. I was wrong. I am sorry that I attacked you. I should have believed you and Doria.

Puccini: I was disturbed that you did not believe us. Your sister died to convince you of her innocence.

Tello: I know that. That will haunt me to my own grave. I cannot undo my wrong to Doria but I tell you I am sorry. I would like to be a friend again of the great Maestro.

Puccini: You are my friend.

Tello: Thank you, Maestro.

Puccini: I would like to ask your family. Drop your lawsuit.

Tello: Maestro…

Puccini: (interrupting) Please, allow me to give your family four thousand lire.

(Tello straightens up to a more determined stance.)

Tello: Maestro, I cannot do that. Justice must be done. Why should you care? You are packed and are leaving.

Puccini: It is true, I am leaving, but I still love her.

Tello: That I do not understand, Maestro.

Puccini: Neither do I.

(Tello sits down at the prosecution table. Mama Manfredi enters and sits beside Tello. Madame Puccini enters and goes to the accused box. The Judge enters from behind his bench. Everyone stands up. The Judge sits down and bangs his gavel. Everyone sits down.)

Judge: The court is now in session. Madame Puccini, towards the deceased Doria Manfredi you are charged with defamation of character, libel, and menace to life and limb. Enter the box and give your testimony.

(Elvira leaves the accused box and goes to the witness box and sits down.)

Elvira: Charged with defamation of character. I am innocent of that charge. How can it be defamation of character if what I said is true, completely true? Charged with libel and menace to life and limb. Innocent. Innocent. How can it be libel and menace to life and limb? If it is true is it wrong? True I threatened to drown her in the lake but I did not mean that literally. I wanted for her to leave the village but I did not want her to kill herself. Your honor, I regret my conduct, but I beg of you, I caught her there with my husband. It was jealousy that drove me to do what I did to her. I could not stand it any more. Not my fault she was an hysterical. Not my fault. Not my fault. Not my fault, I cannot be held responsible. It was her. That is all I have to say.

(Elvira leaves the witness box and returns to the accused box. The Judge bangs his gavel.)

Judge: Tello Manfredi. Enter the box and give your testimony.

(Tello goes to the witness box and sits down.)

Tello: Your honor, I ask for justice. My sister is dead. And she (pointing at Elvira) must pay for it. She was pure when she died, she had never known a man. Doria was completely devoted to the Maestro. She died to prove her innocence. Your honor, find her guilty. Only then can she rest in peace. Let me read a letter she wrote.

(Tello takes a letter from his pocket and begins to read.)

I am innocent.

(The figure of Doria suddenly appears standing behind Tello. She is completely shrouded in white. Her face cannot be seen clearly. She and Tello read the previous line in unison and then she continues alone. The effect should be of him reading the letter but we hear her voice and see her figure behind him.)

Tello and Doria: I am innocent.

Doria: My life has been devoted to taking care of the Maestro. I am caught up events. Some force holds me tight. Madame understands what she is doing. Maestro cannot break free. She is relentless, he is defenseless. Something must give way. That something is me. It is the only way. I am innocent. I am innocent. When I am dead you will believe me. Remember me fondly.

Tello and Doria: Goodbye.

Doria: I go to a better place.

(Doria disappears.)

Tello: You honor, I ask for justice. My sister speaks from the grave. She cries out for justice.

(Tello returns to the prosecution table.)

Judge: Signora Manfredi. Enter the box and give your testimony.

(Mama Manfredi goes to the witness box and sits down.)

Mama: Your honor, I am the only one who believed her. No one else believed her. They all turned against her. All she says are lies. I, too, have some letters to read. This one from the Maestro to Doria. (reading) My conscience is clear. I am desolate. It is all lies. The greatest injustice. (finishes reading) This one by the Maestro to me. (reading) There is no truth in all that has been whispered. Your honor, I thought I understood her actions but she went too far. She became unbalanced. She should be put in an asylum.

Elvira: This is absurd. I am not crazy.

(The Judge bangs his gavel.)

Judge: Madame, sit down and be quiet.

Elvira: I won’t sit here and listen her say I am crazy.

Judge: You will be quite be in contempt of court.

Elvira: My contempt is for her lies.

(The Judge bangs his gavel.)

Judge: You are in contempt. Sit down.

(Elvira glares at the Judge and slowly sits down.)

Please continue.

Mama: My son wants justice and so do I, but now I know it is not her fault. She has become unbalanced. Lock her up so she can hurt no one else.

(Mama Manfredi stands up and returns to the prosecution table. She never looks at Elvira but Elvira glares at her all the way. The Judge bangs his gavel.)

Judge: Maestro Puccini. Enter the box and give your testimony.

(Puccini goes to the Judge’s bench and stands before the Judge.)

Puccini: Your honor, I am her husband. I do not wish to testify.

Judge: That is your right. You do not have to if you do not want to.

(Puccini returns to his seat in the spectator’s benches.)

The court will recess while I deliberate my verdict.

(The Judge bangs his gavel and exits behind his bench. Puccini goes over to Elvira.)

Elvira: You could have given testimony to support me. You could have helped.

Puccini: What could I have say? I would have had to tell the truth. And the truth is that you were wrong. You did everything they said you did.

Elvira: You could have for once admit your actions. You could have told the Judge I’m not crazy.

Puccini: I am sorry, Elvira, I could not do that.

Elvira: Do you realize I could go to jail. Think about that. The wife of the great Puccini, in jail.

Puccini: I do not think it will come to that. I do not want you to go to jail. But for you, not for me.

Elvira: Giacomo, I cannot go to jail. The very thought of it frightens me. Please, help me.

(During the preceding Tello and Mama Manfredi have gone to the back of the courtroom.)

Tello: Justice is at hand, Mama.

Mama: Yes, I suppose so. But I wonder what kind.

Tello: Mama, surely you’re not serious. Do you want her name unstained? Do you want the Manfredi name unstained? Do you want her punished?

Mama: Yes, as much as you. But still I feel sorry for her. She is so crazy.

Tello: I told the Maestro earlier it does not matter. Crazy people should be punished as well.

(During the preceding Puccini has gone back to his seat in the spectator benches. Tello and Mama Manfredi return to their seats at the prosecution table. The Judge enters from behind his bench. Everyone stands up. The Judge sits down and bangs his gavel. Everyone sits down.)

Judge: Madame Elvira Puccini, please rise.

(Elvira stands up in the accused box.)

For your actions today in contempt of court. Guilty. On the charge of defamation of character. Guilty. On the charge of libel. Guilty. On the charge of menace to life and limb. Guilty.

(Elvira begins to sob. Puccini stands up)

You are fined seven hundred lire And five months and five days in prison.

(The Judge bangs his gavel. At the sound of the gavel Elvira cries out and faints to the floor. Puccini runs to her aid.)

Tello: Justice. Justice. Justice.

(Curtain.)

Act 3, Scene 2: the interior of Villa Puccini, the same as act one.

(Puccini is in his study packing things from the piano and work table. Enter Tello from the upstage doorway.)

Tello: You asked me to come, Maestro.

Puccini: I am leaving tonight for Paris. I am only taking what I need. Please send the rest.

Tello: I will take care of it, Maestro.

Puccini: That is not all. I want to ask again please drop your lawsuit. If you do that,Tello, Elvira will not have to go to prison. Your sister’s name is clear. You have your justice. Do not be vengeful. I know you have suffered and so has you family. Let me make it up to you. Twelve thousand lire. Please, do this for me.

Tello: We have our justice, Maestro, and the whole world knows. My sister can rest in peace, Maestro. I cannot understand you. You should let her rot in prison. But, for you, Maestro, I will accept your offer.

(Puccini writes a check and hands it to Tello.)

Tello: Goodbye, Maestro. I will miss you.

(Tello exits the upstage doorway.

Puccini finishes his packing, closes his case, sets it down in the middle of the room and begins to look around. Elvira enters from the stage left stairway.)

Elvira: Deserting me after all?

Puccini: I am not deserting you. I am fleeing from you.

Elvira: Fleeing from yourself, maybe. Fleeing from your guilt.

Puccini: Elvira, I love you but I cannot bear to be near you any more. It is for your own good. It is for my own sanity.

Elvira: You would leave now? I’m going to prison? What kind of a man are you?

Puccini: You do not have to go to prison. I made a settlement with Tello.

Elvira: Thank God. Puccini: Thank me. I’m leaving because around you my love grows weaker. You are leaving to be free to pursue anyone you like.

Puccini: I am leaving tonight for Paris. I must find some peace somewhere. There is none here any longer. Goodbye, Elvira.

(Puccini picks up his case and walks towards the upstage doorway.)

Elvira: This is not the end of it. I will see to that.

(Puccini stops, turns around, looks at Elvira, turns back and exits the upstage doorway. Elvira looks at the doorway for a long while as if expecting him to return. She then walks around the study looking at things. She picks up a music box and opens it. It begins playing.)

He brought me this one time from Paris.

(She listens to the music box for a while and then closes the lid and sets it down. She picks up a picture.)

How young we look in this picture.

(She sets the picture down, goes to the piano, plays a few notes, stops and begins to cry.)

Why does he have to be like he is? Why can’t he be true?

(She sits at the work table.)

I know what dishonor is like. I know what disgrace is like. I endured dishonor. I endured disgrace. And now this. How can I endure this? He has left me before. He has said the same things before. What if this time it is true? I could not stand that. He does not tell me where he is going. He tells me Tello has the address. He is punishing me. He is torturing me.

(Elvira covers her face with her hands.)

Why does he hate me so much?

(She sinks to her knees.)

Giacomo, will you return to me this time? Without you. I could not continue.

(After a while Elvira rises, goes over to the gun cabinet and gets out the pistol she fired in the first act.)

Perhaps this is the solution. Doria certainly thought so. He won’t be back.

(Elvira aims the pistol at her head.)

No, I can’t do this. I have no courage. And he will be back.

(Elvira places the pistol on the work table. She stares downstage for a long time.)

That is not true. He will not return. Never. Never. I can find the courage. I must find the courage.

(Elvira picks up the pistol and aims it at her head. During the following the curtain starts to slowly descend.)

This time I will not be a coward and fire at the ceiling. My life is useless. I cannot go on any longer…

(The curtain should have reached her knees by the last line. A shot fires and the curtain immediately descends to the floor. We cannot tell if she has really shot herself or not.)

Madame Puccini was commissioned by the Adrian Symphony Orchestra. Act One was performed in concert on March 11,1995 in Spencer Recital Hall on the campus of Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan as part of the ASO’s River Raisin Chamber Series.

The cast included Meredith Zara (head of voice faculty at Michigan State University) as Madame Puccini, Erik Johanson (professor of applied voice and opera workshop at The University of Toledo) as Giacomo Puccini, Vivian Dettbarn (professor of voice at Adrian College) as Doria Manfredi, and Lance Ashmore (faculty on the Creative Arts Department at Bowling Green State University) as Tello Manfredi. The remaining characters of Father Michelucci and Mama Manfredi do not appear in Act One. Conducting was David Katz, music director of the Adrian Symphony Orchestra with Wilnella Bush playing piano.

Madame Puccini was completed in May, 1997 and orchestrated for thirteen players (flute, oboe, clarinet, french horn, bassoon, percussion, keyboard, violin 1 & 2, viola, cello 1 & 2, and string bass) over the summer of 1997.

The fully staged premier by The Adrian Symphony Orchestra scheduled for March 21, 1998 was, unfortunately, cancelled due to budgetary problems.

On a final historical note, Doria Manfredi did, in fact, have a brother. When this opera was researched, his name could not be discovered and the character was named, in the opera, Tello (a shortening of the Italian word for brother, fratello). Subsequent research has discovered that his actual name was Rodolfo (ironically enough named after the main character in Puccini’s opera La Boheme).

Copyright 2010 by Pratt Music Co.

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