the Music Master

Giacomo Puccini's
0 mio babbino caro
(from the opera, Gianni Schicchi)

The use of classical music in television ads became trendy decades ago and continues today. Interestingly, operatic excerpts also have become extremely popular— and successful. Perhaps no piece has achieved such endearing praise as the short song from the comic opera Gianni Schicchi, 0 mio babbino caro, by Giacomo Puccini. Translated, it simply means "O my beloved daddy."

The aria, as songs are called in opera, has appeared in sundry formats. It may have reached its zenith of popularity as the prominent music in a beautiful champagne commercial in the late 1980's. People who knew nothing about opera or classical music were soon deluging record stores with requests for the "music for the champagne commercial." The stores quickly sold out and began advertising new shipments on their billboards "Tott's Champagne Music In!"

The commercial featured the voice of renown international opera diva, Kiri Te Kanawa. Her silky smooth, lyrical voice was a perfect match for the splendor depicted in the commercial. The opera itself is based on the historical character of 13th century Florence, mentioned in Dante's The Inferno named Gianni Schicchi. Despite this association, this is a delightful comedy.

In a nutshell, a wealthy man, Buoso Donati, has died and bequeathed his entire fortune to a local monastery. His relatives, angry and greedy, seek to change this outcome. One Gianni Schicchi impersonates Buoso to fool the doctor who has come to declare him dead. The relatives are in on the scheme, but Schicchi makes a caveat: if any of them later were to reveal the scheme they would be found guilty of fraud and face very severe penalties. Gianni (impersonating Buoso) then dictates a new will as planned, designating some property to the relatives, but then pulls a switch and leaves the bulk of the wealth to “his friend,” (himself) Gianni Schicchi. The relatives are angered but can do nothing for fear of legal punishment. The aria, 0 mio babbino caro, is sung by Gianni’s daughter, Lauretta.

When you have the opportunity to hear this lovely and enchanting aria (song) it likely will be sung in Italian. Many people fall in love with the music before knowing what it is about. The melody and the harmonies and the orchestration really is all you need!

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