“O mio babbino caro” is from Gianni Schicchi, a comic opera by Giacomo Puccini. Gianni Schicchi is a one act opera that premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House, New York as part of Il trittico. (Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi). Puccini was not able to attend the 1918 premiere in New York as he was advised that ocean travel was still too risky, even though World War I had ended a month before the scheduled opening night. So that Puccini could share in the success of the premiere, the Met’s General Manager Giulio Gatti-Casazza sent a telegram to Puccini after the performance of Il Trittico:
“Most happy to announce the complete authentic success of the Trittico. At the end of each opera long very sincere demonstrations, more than forty warm curtain calls altogether. In spite of public notice forbidding encores by insistence Lauretta’s aria was repeated.”
The opera is set in Florence, Italy, in the late 13th century. The family of the recently deceased Buoso Donati is horrified to learn that he has left his fortune to a monastery. The wily Gianni Schicchi is quickly summoned and, at the insistence of his daughter Lauretta, pretends to be Donati. A notary is summoned and, imitating the ailing Donati, Schicchi writes a fresh will, bequeathing most of Donati’s property to himself. Cheeky Cheeky!
The plot was inspired by real events and a brief passage of Dante’s Inferno, where Dante describes the wily rogue who cheated the poet’s own relatives out of a considerable fortune. Dante married Gemma Donati and this betrothal could have led him to be more sympathetic to the Donati side of events.
A little bit about Lauretta…
The libretto suggests that Lauretta is 21, the daughter of Gianni Schicchi. Together they have moved from the country to Florence and are deemed by Donati’s relatives as peasants and boorish newcomers. This prejudice becomes an immediate issue as Rinnuccio and Lauretta have fallen in love. Rinnuccio is 24 years old and is a relative of Donati, (he is the nephew of Zita, who is a cousin of Donati). Zita will not let the pair marry because she thinks that Lauretta is not worthy to marry into their family due to her social standing and because she does not have a dowry. Zita doesn’t hold this opinion to herself but declares it in front of Gianni Schicchi and Lauretta. This act of insolence insults Schicchi who now refuses to help the family. However, Lauretta sings “O Mio Babbino Caro” and pleads with her father to stay, as she loves Rinuccio so deeply and life without him would be torture.
If you want to watch a full performance of Gianni Schicchi, you can see it for £3.00 via the Royal Opera House’s website until 7th March. For your £3.00 you can access the full Il Trittico, which means you get three short Puccini operas in 1!