|Giacomo Antonio Puccini|
|Madame Butterfly Synopsis|
|Madame Butterfly Libretto|
|B. F. Pinkerton|
|Previous scene:||Io so che alle sue pene|
|Next scene:||Glielo dirai prometto|
Alfred Piccaver (1884-1958) was born in England…more specifically, in the town of Long Sutton, Lincolnshire….but moved to the U.S. with his family as a child and settled in Albany, New York. It was here that he received his first musical experience, as a boy soprano at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. Although he trained as an electrical engineer (he actually spent a brief period working for the Edison company), it was his interest in singing that motivated Piccaver during his formative years. He studied at both the Emma Willard Conservatory of Music and the Troy Conservatory before enrolling in the Metropolitan School of Opera at the age of 21. While studying at the Met school, young Piccaver caught the attention of Met general manager, Heinrich Conried, who sent him to Prague for further studies in 1907.
While in Prague, Piccaver was offered a three-year contract by Angelo Neumann of the Deutsches Landes-Theater. His debut occurred in September of 1907 as Roméo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. During his years with the opera in Prague, Piccaver sang a variety of roles including Fenton in Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor, Lionel in Martha, Rodolfo in La Bohème, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte and the title role in Gounod’s Faust. When his contract ran out, Piccaver left Deutsches Landes-Theater and travelled to Milan for a brief period of further study. The tenor returned to Prague, where he was heard by the legendary baritone Mattia Battistini, who took Piccaver on tour. Among the cities in which Battistini’s troupe performed was Vienna. The artistic directors of the Vienna Hofoper (now the Vienna Staatsoper) were impressed by the tenor’s performances and offered him a contract. Piccaver’s debut with the company was as Fenton in Die Lustigen Weiber von Windsor in the fall of 1912.
Vienna would become Piccaver’s artistic (and personal) home for the next quarter century. Known affectionately as “Picci”, he became the idol of the Viennese public, with appearances in Tosca, Pagliacci, Aïda, Die Meistersinger, Fidelio, Eugen Onegin and other operas. So popular was Piccaver that Emperor Karl I bestowed the title of Kammersänger upon the tenor in 1917. As an American, Piccaver was not interned as an enemy alien during World War I. In fact, he was allowed to move about freely…so long as he remained an active member of the Staatsoper’s roster of singers. This affection, it seems, was quite mutual. When Piccaver was offered a lucrative contract by the Metropolitan Opera, he turned it down, stating that he considered Vienna his home and had no intention of leaving.
Following the war, Piccaver was lured away from Vienna for brief periods. In 1923, he made his Chicago debut as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto. He returned to Chicago for other productions over the course of the next two years and made appearances at London’s Covent Garden as the Duke and as Cavaradossi in Tosca in 1924. However, Piccaver never realized the same degree of popularity or success in these venues as he did in Vienna. He returned to the Staatsoper in 1925 and remained there throughout most of the 1930s. He left the company over a salary dispute in 1937, never to return. With the political climate of Central Europe ominously changing, Piccaver thought it wise to leave Austria. In 1938, he returned to his birthplace, England, where he would remain for the next 17 years. Although he retired from the opera stage in his mid-fifties, Piccaver continued giving concerts, making recordings and appearing on radio. In 1955, Piccaver returned Vienna, where he passed away in the fall of 1958 at the age of 74.
Alfred Piccaver possessed a solid spinto voice that was ideal for a variety of roles from Verdi to Wagner, Mozart to Massenet. No less an authority than Puccini declared him the ideal Rodolfo and he outshone most of his Teutonic colleagues during his years in Vienna. Yet, Piccaver was a surprisingly insecure man who suffered from crippling stage fright. Even during his prime, he was said to have cancelled more performances than he sang…some only minutes before curtain. Despite this, Alfred Piccaver was consistently forgiven by his fans and enjoyed true celebrity status. Piccaver recorded for Odeon, Vox, Polydor, Brunswick, Decca, H.M.V. and other labels, leaving behind an enormous legacy that spanned some three decades. In this recording, Piccaver joins baritone Theodor Scheidl (1880-1959) for "Addio fiorito asil" from Puccini's Madama Butterfly. This was recorded in Berlin for Polydor in 1928.
Sì, tutto in un istante
io vedo il fallo mio
e sento che di questo tormento
tregua mai non avrò,
mai non avrò! no!
Andate: il triste vero da sola apprenderà.
dolcemente con rimpianto
Addio fiorito asil,
di letizia e d'amor.
Sempre il mite suo sembiante
con strazio atroce vedrò.
Ma or quel sincero pressago è già.
Addio, fiorito asil,
Vel dissi, vi ricorda?
e fui profeta allor.
non reggo al tuo squallor,
ah, non reggo al tuo squallor.
Fuggo, fuggo: son vil!
Addio, non reggo al tuo squallor,
ah! son vil, ah! son vil!
Andate, il triste vero apprenderà.
Yes, all in an instant
I see my phallus
and I feel that of this torture
truce I will
never have, I will never have! no!
Go: the true sad alone will learn.
sweetly with regret
Goodbye flowered asil,
of joy and love.
I will always see his mild semblance
with atrocious torment.
But that sincere pressago is already.
Goodbye, flowered asil,
Vel said, do you remember?
and I was a prophet.
I can not stand up to your squalor,
ah, I can not stand up to your squalor.
I flee, flee: they are vil!
Goodbye, I can not stand up to your squalor,
ah! son vil, ah! son vil!
Go, the sad truth will learn.