PUTZI

opera in one act
with music and libretto
by
Eduardo Alonso-Crespo

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Synopsis


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Scene 1:
                       
Life (soprano) and Death (soprano) ran into each other in a rural road of Hungary on their way to Raiding, the village where the little Franz Liszt, whose parents nicknamed Putzi (kid in Hungarian), has been born. Both women march to the encounter of the newly born that Life describe as a man destined to be a genius. Death in particular is especially concerned and wants to get rid of someone who, as a grown up, would endanger her three best friends, Mediocrity, Routine and Envy. To this end, she has sent Fever and Weakness in search of him to the extent that the child lies on his bed, almost lifeless, with a coffin ready by his side. (It is known that Liszt’s fragile health in early childhood compelled his worried parents to live with a small coffin, ready for the worst outcome). Each woman describes her best ally: Life sings the aria of Virtue and Death the aria of Envy. Both are set for confrontation, concluding the scene in the midst of mutual reproaches.

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Scene 2:
Putzi (tenor) has grown and is now a handsome young man in his twenties. Fortunately, neither Fever nor Weakness has been able to destroy him. In his apartment in Paris he receives the visit of Niccolò Paganini (baritone). Putzi has summoned the violinist, famous for his alleged connections with the Devil (the only possible explanation for such musical dexterity), in order to get a pact similar to the one that Paganini apparently made to play so wonderfully the violin. However, the purpose of Putzi’s intent pact is much more altruistic: he needs it to save the life of Maria, her lover (the young countess Marie D’Agoult in real life), victim of a disease that doctors have declared incurable. Paganini explains that the Devil doesn’t make pacts for such noble purposes and wouldn’t have such a humane gesture. But, while the violinist speaks, Putzi observes with astonishment that Paganini has no shadow and that he doesn’t reflect in the mirrors: Paganini is the Devil himself! With his true personality exposed, the virtuoso violinist runs around the room closely followed by Putzi who insists on getting his favors (with the music mimicking the Paganini-Liszt etude The Chase). In spite of his initial objections, the Devil is finally convinced as Putzi flatters him with promises of future compositions that will celebrate his figure (Mephisto Walts, Malédiction, Danse Macabre, Faust Symphony, all works that in fact Liszt would eventually compose). Through them - Putzi promises - the Devil will achieve artistic immortality. With his vanity all puffed up and certain that soon works composed in his honor will come, the Devil accepts to save Maria, finishing the scene with the magical spell.

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Scene 3:
                        During a short Intermezzo Putzi’s apartment in Paris becomes mysterious and surreal, preparing for the entrances of Death and Life. Death bursts into the room furious because Putzi has used her Devil to save a life, seducing him with his music and his promises. Life follows her at a short distance, unsuccessfully trying to calm her down and using the occasion to make fun of her macabre companion. Death, unable to calm down, furiously threatens to discipline her stupid Devil for such an unforgivable stumble singing a bravura aria before noisily leaving the room.

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Scene 4:                      
This time it is the Devil who chases Putzi around the apartment, begging for help to escape Death’s anger. For that purpose he implores Putzi to consent to hand over his soul to calm down the wrath of the enraged lady. However, all the offers of pleasures and luxury do not awaken Putzi’s greed. The young man seems to be only interested in Paganini’s violin, in the certainty that by owning it he will achieve the utmost musical virtuosity, the peak of artistic talent and, with it, supreme wisdom. Compelled by the situation, the poor Devil hands over his violin in exchange for Putzi signing the contract that delivers his soul.

A short orchestral intermezzo indicates the passge of time. Built around Liszt's piano piece Saint Francis of Paul marching over the waves, the interlude anticipates the new and final turn that Putzi's life is about to take.

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Scene 5:
                        Putzi’s apartment in Rome. Several years have passed. Death enters, this time euphoric and jubilant, carrying the contract as a trophy. She has finally gotten Putzi’s soul and she is here to claim it. Life, after verifying the document, sings sadly her resignation. Satisfied and radiant, Death retakes her victorious singing before summing up Putzi to take his soul to Hell. A terrifying silence is followed by a celestial music while a white light baths the access to the room. At this point Putzi makes his entrance dressed as an abbot, with a long cloak, to general amazement. Simultaneously, the Devil bursts into the room from the other side, noisily and clumsily, trying to clarify the situation. He explains to Death that they have had a “tiny” setback: Putzi has taken the religious vows and has saved his life through faith. (As it is known, Franz Liszt became an abbot of the Catholic Church at the end of his life.) This turn of events create a general pandemonium, with Death screaming furiously, the Devil trying to apologize, Life singing her final victory, and Putzi his mystic transformation. But, before concluding our opera, Death – ridiculed for the second time – lets out her final condemnation. If she can’t destroy Putzi’s soul, she will then punish his music: she sentences Liszt to be remembered by his most frivolous pages, condemning his best music to oblivion.

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