Puccini powerhouse

By Sonia Isaacs

SOPRANO Vanessa West brings her ‘hot-blooded hybrid of drama and operatic recital’ to Maleny, with her Queensland premiere of The Pucci Effect.
This one-woman powerhouse production delves into the intriguing backstories of the women who inspired the operatic heroines in some of Puccini’s most passionate and dramatic masterpieces.
Speaking with GC&MNews, Vanessa, a self-confessed “Puccini super fan”, explained that she had originally written and performed the show 15 years ago. Following the warm reception she received last year performing with the Maleny Players in Cavalleria Rusticana, she felt instinctively that hinterland audiences would enjoy the production.
Given the time that had passed since she last performed the show, she enlisted the help of stage director Tarita Botsman to refine the script.
“The show has evolved, and we’ve added a couple more women since I first performed it. I’m super excited to be bringing the show to Maleny,” Vanessa said.
“Within the show, I play six women who were close to Puccini, and one woman I portray at two different points in her life.
“The first act of the show is focused on Puccini’s lovers, and the second act revolves around the Doria Manfredi affair involving Puccini and his young maid, which was a huge scandal in society at the time of operatic proportions.”
Vanessa noted that during her initial research for the show 15 years ago, there was a missing piece in the ‘Puccini Puzzle’ regarding the scandalous affair.
This piece revealed itself when she re-researched the story late last year.
She could never understand why Puccini refused to tell his wife the truth about the affair and the resulting scandal that led to Doria’s death.
Recent discoveries revealed that Puccini did not have an affair with Doria but with her cousin, whom Doria tried to protect.
“I don’t think people are really that familiar with the absolutely intriguing backstories of these women who inspired Puccini’s work,” said Vanessa.
“His operatic heroines are based on the real women in his life. Puccini needed to be in love to get the creative juices flowing, but more importantly, he needed to fall out of love to really strike the furnace.”
Vanessa explained that it was the ‘bittersweet angst’ that propelled Puccini to create his masterpieces, which include some of the most famous operas of our time, such as La Bohème, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly.
“I think he believed that to love is to suffer, and he needed to be in love to compose,” Vanessa explained.
“Understanding that there were real, living, breathing women who inspired his most magical music is very powerful and yet grounding.”
In her Maleny performance at the end of June Vanessa will sing some of the most beautiful arias ever composed, accompanied by Associate Artist Angus Grant. The Puccini Effect’ will be performed at the Maleny Community Centre on Sunday, 30 June at 2 pm. Tickets start at $35, available via tryBooking.com/events/landing/1178227