Author: linklater (page 1 of 15)

Bel canto and beyond

The Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library has recently acquired the personal collection of Italian accompanist, conductor and vocal coach Luigi Ricci (1893-1981): printed scores containing vocal exercises, opera and other large-scale vocal genres, instrumental music and songs, many of them annotated, some heavily, by Ricci and others. Taken as a whole, the collection illustrates the knowledge and taste of an important figure in the opera world of twentieth-century Italy.

A two-page article by Luigi Ricci outlining the opera singing techniques he learned from Giacomo Puccini. Illustrated by a caricature of the composer.

“Ten Commandments of Puccini,” by Luigi Ricci. Opera News (December 17, 1977). Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library Mus 15.17

From an early age, Ricci provided piano accompaniment at voice lessons given by baritone Antonio Cotogni, whose performances of several Verdi operas were supervised by the composer himself. Ricci took careful notes throughout his career, eventually publishing several books in which he communicates the nineteenth-century bel canto traditions passed on to him in his teenage years by Cotogni and, subsequently, by the composers with whom he collaborated as an assistant conductor at the Rome Opera House.

A vocal score of Il trovatore by Giuseppe Verdi. The cover is printed in black and blue on white wrappers. Across the top of the cover, Luigi Ricci has boldly written his last name in blue crayon

Ms. Coll. 179, Box 12. Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University

The impact of Luigi Ricci on twentieth-century opera performance is summarized by Renata Scotto in a 2016 Opera News article: ““When I teach, I’m thinking of my own teachers and of the great conductors I learned so much from. They gave to me so much—and I gave to them a lot, I believe. In the beginning, I had a great teacher—Luigi Ricci, who had been a coach at Teatro di Roma and did Butterfly with Puccini. I got directly what Puccini told him. I feel it’s my duty to pass it on to young singers. Ricci spoke a lot about the words. Puccini was very much interested in the interpretation, the passion, the love. ‘Un bel dì’ is not an aria—you tell a vision. Ricci told me, ‘Don’t sing too much—don’t make a big sound. Have a vision of that nave bianca.’”

He is best known today for interpreting Puccini and Verdi, but Ricci’s collection also includes scores, most of them enthusiastically annotated, of scores by Shostakovich, Wagner, Mozart and many others. This 1945 vocal score of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes bears Ricci’s typical traces of ownership:

Two pages of music: a vocal score edition of Benjamin Britten's opera Peter Grimes (1945). Former owner Luigi Ricci has added Italian translation and several expressive notes.

Ms. Coll. 179, Box 14. Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library, Harvard University.

The Luigi Ricci collection of scores, 1865-1969 was processed by Émilie Blondin and Christina Linklater. The entire collection is now available; click on Request to Copy or Visit to schedule your appointment or arrange for scans.

Contributed by Christina Linklater, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library and Houghton Music Cataloger.

Meet the Problem Solvers: Christina Linklater, Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library and Houghton Music Cataloger

For the last in our Meet the Problem Solvers series, Kerry Masteller spoke with Christina Linklater about metadata, microforms and magic.

Red, orange and purple tulips grown in a sun-dappled garden.

You can take the Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library out of Ottawa, but she’ll fill her Somerville garden with tulips.

So, tell us a little bit about what you do, Christina.

In my role as Keeper of the Isham Memorial Library, I mostly manage the movement of special collections materials at the Music Library. I also co-administer our exhibition program with my colleague Patricia O’Brien, provide reference assistance to patrons and direct the United States RISM Office. That’s one half of my week. The rest of my week is spent as a music cataloger at Houghton Library.

What’s different about those two jobs?

Well, at Isham I’m in a public-facing role most of the time, ready to assist anyone who needs help with Isham’s materials specifically or special collections research generally. At Houghton I spend my entire day at a desk in the stacks, making records that then appear in HOLLIS.

What role do special collections play at the University?

I’ve seen students encounter Isham’s collections in the classroom, as well as for their research and to discover new repertoire. I also think that the presence of Isham is valuable for students as a place to meet visiting scholars, who find that it is simpler to travel to Isham with its 40,000 microforms than to visit multiple libraries. Bringing together researchers at different stages of their careers is something that special collections is uniquely suited to; while we exist at and for Harvard, a collection like Isham’s can’t help but attract a wide user community, and it’s really nice to witness those interactions.

What’s an Isham Memorial Library secret that more people should know?
That the lives and works lists of composers, particularly composers who are not white men, are much more complex, important interesting than most reference sources can tell you. For instance, Isham’s Joyce Mekeel collection was catalogued after the Grove article came out, and the finding aid says so much about Mekeel and her work that that writer simply couldn’t have known. Same with the collections of Fred Ho and Aziz El-Shawan: all stories can be enriched by looking at archival materials, but it’s especially striking in the stories of people like Mekeel and El-Shawan who published not at all or very little in their lifetimes, leaving these large bodies of manuscript scores that are just quietly waiting for you at Isham.

If we could magically go to a concert right now, what would we be hearing?

How magical is this performance? Like, can we bring people back from the dead?

 It is as magical as you want it to be.

Right! Let’s go to Glenn Gould’s cottage on Lake Simcoe, then, where he’ll play the Goldberg Variations. First the drastic 1955 version, followed by the twilight 1981 version. We’ll sleep well after that.

This interview was conducted by Reference and Digital Program Librarian Kerry Masteller. It was condensed and edited by Christina Linklater for clarity.

 

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