One of the most beautiful of operatic arias must be "O Soave Fanciulla" at the end of Act 1 in La Boheme. Performances of this opera can vary in a number of ways, most noticeably in this aria where at the end the tenor either goes 'up or down'. A little background by way of explanation:
Luigi Ricci (1893-1981) was a vocal coach who over a period of years worked closely with Puccini (1858-1924) on the rehearsal and staging of his operas. Whilst Puccini never conducted one, he did carefully supervise several productions and was tireless in explaining the effects he wanted. Ricci made copious notes and in 1954 published a book "Puccini interpreti di se stesso" (Puccini interpreted by himself) which is a valuable, but little known source of information. Yet another opera star, Alfredo Mariotti, who has sung Benoit in La Boheme also studied under Ricci and is, in turn, another mine of information about performance practices. There are some traditional practices sanctioned by Ricci which some would say sound old-fashioned to modern ears and which are often accused as detracting from the originality of Puccini's writing. A famous example occurs at the end of O Soave Fanciulla where Rodolfo's final notes, sung offstage, are sung as an A rising to a high C - as demonstrated by Pavarotti:
Whereas what Puccini actually wrote was an F falling to an E, as demonstrated by Domingo:
'Up' or 'Down' - you choose.........