Puccini Goes to the Movies: How Cinema Influenced Italian Opera

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)

Think Italian opera, and there’s a good chance the first composer who comes to mind is Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)—creator of such classics as La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Tosca. However, you probably wouldn’t associate the works of Puccini with cinema, says opera scholar Christy Thomas, but this would be a mistake: this period of Italian opera is much more influenced by movies than one might think, she argues.

Thomas was visiting assistant professor of music at Bowdoin for the 2017-2018 academic year and has now returned to Yale, where she will continue working on a book project looking at how the Italian opera industry responded to the emergence of cinema and sound recording.

During the spring semester, Thomas entertained faculty colleagues at Bowdoin with a seminar examining the links between the early years of the movie industry and the opera of Puccini, focusing on one work in particular. She also spoke with Bowdoin College writer and multimedia producer Tom Porter, who put together this audio piece.

Audio may take a few moments to load

Opera excerpts from Teatro di San Carlo performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS9DtBTSVJo

Click here to read a transcript of the audio piece.

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