Paris. Rome. Nagasaki. The Gold Rush. Florence. Legendary China. How many directors want to relocate Michele’s barge from the Seine to, let’s say, the Ohio River? Who wants to forego the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, in favor of, oh, any other bridge. Who wants to replace the Emperor Altoum’s stairway to heaven with, let’s say, the head of the table in a corporate boardroom?
Nobody, that’s who.
Puccini is relatively immune to the phenomenon of Regietheatre because his scene settings are irresistable. Roman dawns, Seine twilights, and miner’s cabins in the mountains (complete with sterotypical indians) are good enough for anybody, it appears. Yes, there are occasional exceptions, such as Vienna’s recent Turandot. But even Jonathan Miller, in his admirable 1991 Faniciulla, retains the gold rush setting.
What does this say about Puccini? Does it mean he doesn’t have “universal scope”? Does it mean that he “doesn’t transcend his time”? Or is it simply that he was possessed of uncommon theatrical shrewdness?