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  • Manon Lescaut, Dramma lirico in Quattro atti by Giacomo Puccini
  • Steven Huebner
Giacomo Puccini, Manon Lescaut, Dramma lirico in Quattro atti ( Le Opere di Giacomo Puccini: Edizione critica, vol. 3). edited by Roger Parker. (Ricordi, Milan, 2013; ISBN 978-88-7592-954-1.)

Roger Parker's edition of Manon Lescaut is the inaugural volume in the complete critical edition of the operas of Giacomo Puccini to be published as a series by Ricordi. Manon Lescaut is a particularly egregious example of substantial editorial challenges caused by the composer's incessant revisionary impulse. Things were messy from the beginning—no fewer than seven people had a hand in the libretto—and Puccini (and also Toscanini, with his approval) went on to tinker with the score periodically for thirty years after its premiere at the Teatro Regio in Turin on 1 February 1893. Change did not always follow a rectilinear path, as with the excision (around 1906) and then reinstatement (around 1920) of Manon's Act IV aria 'Sola, perduta, abbandonata', or the more general aesthetic impulse to lighten the orchestration from what was recorded in the autograph score, only to fill in the texture again later in life. The amount of material is daunting and it includes Puccini's orchestral autograph, six printed scores with autograph markings, five editions of the full score, and seven of the vocal score. Another measure of documentary abundance is the fact that Suzanne Scherr's recent dissertation 'Puccini's Manon Lescaut: Compositional Process, Stylistic Revisions, and Editorial Problems' (University of Chicago, 2013) weighs in at 1,782 pages (this secondary source was not available to Parker).

Comparison with the source situation of Verdi's operas highlights the complexity of the Puccini record. Verdi tracked changes made to his operas in the course of their initial performance runs in his autograph full scores, which have often been considered the document of record and copy-text for the critical edition, though of course they contain inevitable inconsistencies. Puccini, on the other hand, did not enter changes in his autograph full score, which was quickly superseded by other [End Page 133] documents. Instead of a record of changes, the autograph acted as an initial trigger for the realization of the work in an ongoing production process that extended from the premiere to revivals. Not only does choice of a copy-text for the edition become a matter for debate, but also whether to choose a single source at all, in the manner of a so-called 'multiple copy-text eclectic edition' (for an extended review of these issues see Philip Gossett, 'Some Thoughts on the Use of Autograph Manuscripts in Editing the Works of Verdi and Puccini', Journal of the American Musicological Society, 66 (2013), 103–28). For Manon Lescaut, Parker selects the fourth edition of the orchestral score published posthumously sometime between 1924 and 1927 as 'in most cases [the] principal source' (it actually incorporates autograph changes that Puccini had made to the third edition in 1922). The fourth edition probably documents the last contact Puccini had with the opera. But, as Linda Fairtile has noted regarding Puccini's works in general, we need to make a distinction between 'final' and 'definitive' and perhaps even erase the latter as an operative concept: 'The frequency and scope of his revisions suggest a painstaking process of trial and error—of producing a work and waiting to gauge its effectiveness—that nonetheless seems to deny the concept of a single version suited to every audience in perpetuity' ('Giacomo Puccini's Operatic Revisions as Manifestations of His Compositional Priorities' (Ph.D. diss, New York University, 1996), 381). The fourth edition of the orchestral score contains a great many inconsistencies and problems that can only be resolved by drawing on material from earlier sources. And to complicate matters from a palaeographic perspective, some changes recorded in this score were then copied by hand into the second edition of the orchestral score as a different layer of activity from a series of earlier annotations in that source (from around 1910) by Toscanini and Puccini. Readings connected to the composer occur in a variety of other contexts. According to Scherr (pp. 1024...


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