This week's Collective Listening Project pays tribute to a man who has dedicated his career as a teacher, pianist, conductor, and composer to serving his local community in Trenton, NJ: Maestro Joseph Pucciatti, who directs the Trenton Central High School Orchestra, which he founded 25 years ago. He has worked with Trenton Arts at Princeton to implement our Neighborhood Music Project program at the high school, bringing musicians playing on our series to interact with the students in his orchestra.
Having founded Boheme Opera NJ with his wife more than thirty years ago, Mr. Pucciatti is a big opera fan, and his playlist incorporates many of his favorite operatic moments—and there is something poignantly fitting in an Earth Day soundtrack that channels the magic of being alive on this planet through the human voice.
LEONARD BERNSTEIN “Maria” from West Side Story
As a conductor, I am always excited to introduce new singers to the opera scene. In 2018, Boheme Opera New Jersey (BONJ) celebrated the Bernstein centennial, featuring tenor Errin Duane Brooks singing “Maria” from West Side Story. Many have considered West Side Story a great American opera. A new movie production of the musical will premiere next year, directed by Steven Spielberg. In 2008, BONJ produced the entire musical. It is a very difficult show to conduct.
GIUSEPPE VERDI “Sempre libera” from La Traviata
La Traviata holds a special place in my heart, as it was the first opera that I conducted with the newly formed BONJ, way back in 1989. I have conducted five productions of La Traviata. I feel that this opera is Verdi's most popular work. “Sempre libera” is a tour de force for the soprano. Working with soprano Lorraine Ernest was a real treat. There is not a bad measure in the whole opera.
GEORGES BIZET Prelude (Overture) from Carmen
I’ve had several opportunities to not only conduct but also stage-direct Carmen. I call it “the hits” opera. Every aria and ensemble piece is well known and very well written. This may be considered Bizet's ultimate piece. A very powerful piece, Carmen may be considered a one-hit wonder. In fact, it was panned at its premiere. Bizet went to his grave some months later thinking he had written a bad opera. And yet, Carmen is now considered one of the greatest operas ever written.
GIACOMO PUCCINI “Nessun dorma” from Turandot
In 2006, I had the opportunity to conduct my personal favorite opera, Turandot—my dream come true. Tenor Benjamin Warschawski played the role of Calaf. Turandot may be Puccini's most powerful piece. It is his grandest opera. It is sad that he did not live to see the completion of his greatest work. Having Toscanini conduct the premiere is not too bad.
GIACOMO PUCCINI “Un bel dì, vedremo" from Madama Butterfly
My last selection is from Madama Butterfly, which BONJ has performed many times. In 2002, I invited soprano Yunah Lee to premiere the role of Cio-Cio San with BONJ. She has since performed over 175 Butterfly productions around the world. I have conducted Butterfly several times in my career. The give and take in this opera is enormous. I spent a great amount of time coaching the love duet in the first act. “Un bel di” is a very sensitive aria with quite a few twists and turns.
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