If he’d faced #MeToo, Puccini would be banned

If he’d faced #MeToo, Puccini would be banned


norman lebrecht

November 02, 2019

Read Basia Jaworski’s new picture essay here.



  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    As if women are pure, innocent and always monogamous creatures. So much ridiculous hypocrisy today. It is a case of Ressentiment of those who missed out in sexual liberation.

  • kundry says:

    An excellent idea ! Let’s ban the bastard and all his operas! How dare he?! While we are at it , we should have the 1st International Congress of the Party for Political Correctness and #metoo and after a rigorous research by the various committees of the Party, any impropriety found, during the investigations of said committees, in the life of all composers, from Gesualdo, Josquin des Prez, Bach, Monteverdi and Palestrina, to our days , shall be punished with a total ban of their works and they should be burned in effigy , together with the musical scores they created, in a public event. The place for such a score burning should be decided by the Congress and the event should be broadcast worldwide , so no one from this day forward shall dare to stray off the line (whatever that is, according to the Party and its members).

  • Edoardo says:

    And many more are missing….quite a reductive list…

    Puccini had an affair with Doria’s cousin, Giulia

    -Rose Ader

    -Heraclea Darcle

    -Josephine von Stengel

    and many more… 🙂

  • mary says:

    1) I have no idea what his biographies say, but this page of picture montage is just that, a page with a few pictures and short captions.

    And nothing in this short picture piece suggests lack of consent.

    The issue isn’t the number of lovers or the prowess of the person, the issue is consent.

    2) OK, OK, I’ll take the bait: let’s say Puccini was banned.

    Horrible right?

    Well, in an alternate history in which women were in power, in which matriarchy ruled, our whole sense of aesthetics, our whole construction of culture would be very different, and women composers would dominate, and we would be debating today whether we need more male composers or if males were just musically and intellectually inferior.

    • John Borstlap says:

      it is to be doubted whether matriarchy would just be a mirror image of patriarchy. There are indications that early matriarchal societies were more friendly, more peaceful, and less suppressive that their partiarchal successors, more pleasure-loving and with art and aesthetics central in their world view, but the idea is contested:


      • Saxon Broken says:

        These claims about matriarchal societies is wrong.

        • John Borstlap says:

          We know that the early Greeks as depicted in the Odyssey and the Iliad were a warlike collection of tribes with patriarchal social constructs and religion. But before that period, Cretan civilisation was different, as the founds in Knossos revealed, with women routinely appearing in roles of leadership, and the chief deities appearing to have been female. Also evidence suggests a religion based on earth deities and a society which was peaceful and artistic (refined depictions of beauty, nature and people in wall paintings). We are talking about the period from 2000 BC to 1600 BC.

  • Paul Brownsey says:

    I can’t find anything in the story to suggest his relationships with women were not jointly consensual.

    Does this mean that @MeToo is now turning into an anti-sex crusade?

    ““For him, hunting was more of a display of virility, and as he grew older, the need to prove his masculinity grew stronger and stronger” (van Leeuwen). ”

    Oh dear, such pathetic amateur psychology.

    Perhaps I could say that Jaworski’s piece expresses subconscious resentment that Puccini wasn’t available to her.

  • Daniel says:

    more click bait – the essay makes no reference to the #metoo movement, nor does the author make any such claim that Puccini was a womanizer.

  • sam says:

    No need to speculate on alternate universes where Puccini never existed, such universes already exist: geographically and culturally.

    Geographically, Puccini never existed and could never have come into existence in Asia, Africa, but not only, nor in Germany or in England. Can you imagine the Germans producing a Puccini? Yet, billions of Asians don’t know and don’t care who Puccini is. Not even the Chinese building their opera houses in every provincial town, they just want a fancy building financed by the Central Government.

    Culturally, even more billions of people on earth don’t know or care who Puccini is. The earth hasn’t stopped revolving.

  • Operaisdoomed says:

    And yet, how many of the righteous would proclaim he is their favorite composer.

    Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

    In a few years, a lot of these MeToo-ers will be taken down by a new crowd who find their personal misdeeds worth judging. So is the cycle, so it shall ever be. They just don’t realize it yet. I don’t enjoy watching it now, and won’t enjoy watching it then. But in these days of instant gratification, no one looks past the immediate, so they almost certainly deserve it.

  • Caranome says:

    To judge all recorded history by a movement started 2 years ago by privileged and victim-prone American women is absolutely ignorant and ridiculous. Mark my words, I am predicting some woke scold would want to ban Don Giovanni or Tosca one day, charging they celebrate sexism and violence against women blah blah stupid…Or stage a “feminist” version that would be absolutely butchered and unlistenable.

    • Paul Brownsey says:

      The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland did a magnificent production of Weill’s Street Scene last year. The show includes a number, “Wouldn’t You Like To Be On Broadway?” in which a caddish man tries to get a girl to be his mistress by promising to get her Broadway roles.

      An online reviewer (a postgraduate at Edinburgh University) wrote: “The opera’s age also shows in scenes that are distasteful today. Colin Murray’s Weinstein-type Harry Easter is uncomfortable to watch, especially given how jovial his song Wouldn’t You Like to Be on Broadway? Is. It may have some attendees questioning calling whether a production featuring such a character should be performed during today’s sexual-political climate – particularly when the cast includes young children.”


  • Kay Langford says:

    And America had slavery in the 19th century.

    I do hope in the 21st century today we have progressed Beyond what was common in some nineteenth-century settings.

    • Guest says:

      Have you realized that most Americans immigrated to the US after slavery was abolished and don’t give a flying…?

  • Sharon says:

    In my opinion the “me too” movement is legitimate but like anything else sometimes the innocent go down with the guilty, unfortunately.

    I am hoping that becoming conscious of me too will encourage more communication i.e. asking “May I kiss you?” rather than just doing it and will also encourage people not to intimately involve themselves with anyone in a professionally or educationally subordinate position and thus will cut down on abuses.

    In a similar way, the fact that parents and teachers have become more conscious of child abuse and the fear of child abuse charges has probably led to less child abuse that is, corporal punishment, which has probably led to fewer runaways.

    However, I do fear that instead the “me too” movement will be a flash in the pan and 4 or 5 years from now things will be business as usual.

    As far as Puccini is concerned if I recall there was also some dysfunction in his daughter’s marriage concerning sexual infidelity (I do not remember the details). Was it related to Puccini’s behavior? I do not know but “children learn what they live”. If one is around sexual infidelity one learns the behavior.

    I have read that Donald Trump jr. who was a teenager when his father, the US president, got involved with Marla Maples and divorced his mother, was quite upset about it. However, although he has five minor children, Donald jr. was unfaithful to his wife, getting involved in an affair with a conservative political commentator (I forget the name) and is now traveling the US with her campaigning for Republican congressional candidates.

    When I was a caseworker in child support enforcement I would frequently ask the custodial parent which was generally the mother about the type of home her irresponsible ex (the father who was not supporting the kids) came from. Generally the deadbeat Dad did not have a responsible father either.

    My point is that, right or wrong, people are probably more likely to imitate their parents’ dysfunctional behavior rather than use it as a warning and avoid it. Even those who may try at first to behave in different ways eventually become sucked into it, unfortunately.

    I have studied the life and work Gore Vidal (I do not want to get into a debate about his anti Zionism here). Until he was around 40 he was largely a teetotaler because of what alcoholism did to his mother. During this time he did his best work.

    By the time Vidal was 50 he had become a severe alcoholic and the quality of his work slowly declined. Also related to his alcoholism was that he became hypersensitive, never letting go of a grudge, and somewhat paranoid.

    The Bible says that punishment for sin lasts until the third and fourth generation. Psychologists and social workers can tell you that this happens naturally as effects selfish, dysfunctional behavior last through several generations.

    • Eric says:

      How children from difficult home situations turn out is anyone’s guess. Some will flourish later in life and others won’t. To claim that they usually imitate their parents’ dysfunctional behavior is reductive and deterministic. Some children of alcoholics become teetotalers for life as a reaction, and parents physically abused as children don’t usually go on to abuse their own offspring. That scenario belongs to the pop psychology in Hollywood films.

      Furthermore not everyone considers sexual “infidelity” deviant behavior – it all depends on whatever the couple involved agrees to. Situational ethics has little to do with the bible or the rigid morality of the past.

  • Muhammad al Bashar says:

    We should ban Puccini, Mozart, Wagner and Verdi!!!! These damn rapists!!!

    Instead we should embrace the 21st century talentless composers.

  • Bill Ecker says:

    When he wooed Geraldine Farrar, she rebuffed him and told him to his face he looked like a rabbit. (View any picture of his teeth) He didn’t get anywhere there. Then again, she married Lou Tellegen…that wasn’t a match made in heaven and allegedly via at least one letter I’ve seen by her never consummated.

  • Luca Logi says:

    As for the essay: Puccini couldn’t divorce from Elvira at the time of the Turin affair as they were not married. Actually, what drove Elvira crazy was that he could not marry her (she was married to another man), but he could marry the Turin girl had he wished.

    As for the #metoo tag: there is no hint of non-consensual sex in the whole Puccini biography. On the contrary, in the end he was forced to marry Elvira by a conspiration involving Elvira, his sisters, Luigi Illica, Giulio Ricordi, and even his attorney Nasi. While Puccini’s behaviour was often rash and untimely, in several case he was more the victim than the guilty party.

  • Margarida Cunha says:

    Other times…today is today…of course, in his time his behaviour was normal.

  • BanTrump says:

    Clearly, the author doesn’t understand what the #metoo movement is. It’s not about men who have affairs, or men who love women. It’s about women who have been abused and finally making the world listen. It’s about finally making the abusers take responsibility for their abuse.

    Someone commented about “priviledged American women.” That’s a slap in the face to all abused women (and men).

  • Sharon says:

    With regard to Eric, Yes, some kids do overcome a difficult upbringing but I believe in general only with effort. Social workers, psychiatric nurses and therapists of all types tend to see multigenerational dysfunction. I believe it is a lot easier for an individual to be functional if he/she has functional role models.

    However, I will concede that the point of view of myself and others in the helping professions may be skewed because we see only dysfunctional people; those who have overcome difficult childhoods and are functioning well do not come to us.

    As far as situational ethics are concerned it has been my experience that “situational ethics” in general is just a way to rationalize expediency. It takes tremendous self confidence and security in the relationship
    to be complacent about sexual infidelity of an intimate partner in a long term relationship. I believe that many open relationships are only open because one party feels trapped or is attracted to someone else and the other party has no choice but to go along to prevent a breakup. This is emotional exploitation and yes, I would consider it dysfunctional.

    There was an off Broadway play two years ago called “Afterglow” about a married gay couple in an open relationship. However what started as a sexual fling between one of the spouses and someone else became more serious as these “f*k buddies” began developing feelings for each other. Eventually the marriage broke up although they were about to have a child (through a surrogate mother).

    Although in my opinion the acting and the script were just average the show kept being extended again and again and again; something that was originally supposed to be a six week run continued for around 9 months. Why? Probably because a lot of people, both gay and straight, could relate.

  • V.Lind says:

    I don’t find anything MeToo in Ms. Jaworski’s captioned picture parade. There is a massive difference between having an affair and workplace sexual harassment.

    Very odd story.

  • John Borstlap says:

    As far as I understand, all women in Puccini’s opera end badly – except in Turandot but he could not finish that opera.

  • Blair Tindall says:

    Don’t do anything untoward and you won’t end up in court. A novel idea, gentlemen.

  • Diane Brouard says:

    Well he would be banned for ex. because Madama Butterfly is supposed to be 14 (practically pedophilia) ahah ! That’s why every synopsis would tell she is 19. We can’t change the past we can just juge it, contextualise and treasure the best it has gave to the world – art, science, philosophy. People where the way they where before feminism, human right and so forth because they did not know better yet. It is useless to “copy-paste” our knowledge of real freedom and equality on them and conduct that big swiping court of judgement all sail out.
    Or make for each piece of art the ridiculous warning as Disney+ has started to do, of “outdated cultural depictions”. We are now living in a perpetually apologizing culture.