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Letter Fighting for His First Opera, “Chatterton”

$1080 net
Item: 22582
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LEONCAVALLO, RUGGERO. (1858-1919). Italian composer; his most enduring work is the one-act opera Pagliacci, made famous by the Italian tenor Enrico Caruso. ALS. (“R. Leoncavallo”). 4pp. 8vo. Monza (?), January 21, 1897. Written to a male friend in French with translation.

“My lawyer has learned that Mr. Tedeschi, as I have told you, with whom I am in a legal case, has written to Germany and to England to gather documentation against me to answer my summons. Will you be kind enough to tell me if he has written to you and what he has asked you? I know very well that everything he will say will certainly not assemble much of anything against me. As for me, I am writing to prove to him that he has failed in my contract with him, which is proved further. With a man as lacking in sincerity as Mr. Tedeschi, it is well to know what he intends to do, in order to be on guard. If I ask him for the immediate return of the money I lent him and the payment of what he owes me for the arrangement of the opera, it is in order for him to declare that he is not able to pay. When he has stated this sentence before the judges, I will take the opera away from him and then you will see Mr. Chatterton. Do you understand that sort of publisher! Do you know what he has just done? Not finding any theaters, he gave Chatterton gratis to Lassari in Sardinia (a city of 2nd rank) with mediocre artists. By un-hoped for luck, the opera triumphed despite all, with 4 encores, an extraordinary number of recalls, and cries of “Long Live Leoncavallo.” But what effect would that have created in Italy for me if the opera would have had a cold success? You understand, the best thing that could happen to the work is to remove it from his hands…”  

Leoncavallo portrait

Ruggero Leoncavallo

Both in style and form Leoncavallo was strongly influenced by German composer Richard Wagner. He wrote his first opera, Chatterton, in 1876 but failed to have it produced; “his hopes for a performance of this work were blasted when an unscrupulous impresario absconded with the money that Leoncavallo himself had provided for one. Falling on hard times, he became an itinerant café pianist, traveling across Europe, even in 1882 to Egypt,” (The New Grove Dictionary).

Finally, after finding success, the opera, based on the life of poet Thomas Chatterton, debuted on March 10, 1896 in Rome with the score published the same year Achille Tedeschi in Bologna. Our letter was written in 1897, the year his La Bohème debuted shortly after Puccini’s version.

Written in purple ink with a docket in the upper left corner and a blue pencil note in the center of the page indicating that the letter was answered on January 25, 1897. In very good condition.

Letter Fighting for His First Opera, “Chatterton”

$1080 net • item #22582

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