This book seeks to establish the originally intended tempos for the soprano arias in those operas. By Examining Puccini's autographs, the first edition vocal scores, and many early recordings-especially those by the sopranos or conductors who worked with the composer or performed the arias during Puccini's lifetime-the author demonstrates that one can discover tempos for the arias that conform better than others to Puccini's musical and dramatic intentions. A living performance, one that resonates best with the soul of the music, requires a faithful interpretation of the composer's score. This is as true of performances of Puccini's operas as it is for renditions of Beethoven's symphonies and Bach's cantatas. Interpretation of the composer's score is always necessary because the score itself can never include indications of every detail and nuance required for a living performance. Instead, scores are really only approximations, more or less incomplete and imprecise, of the composer's intentions. The composer, consciously or not, always depends upon commonly understood conventions, which together with the notation add up to the intention, the musical work, more or less.
Faithful interpretation must include unnotated intentions, which can only be reconstructed through a study of period performance conventions. But this reconstruction can only begin once the meanings of all the notations have been discovered and understood. These are the principles that guide "historically informed performance," the ideal and objective of the "early music movement." The products of the early music movement are heard every day on fine-arts FM stations, in the form of recordings on period, or "authentic," musical instruments. Recordings of this type now comprise 70 percent of classical music CD sales worldwide! It is called the "early music movement" because it began with medieval and Renaissance music, from which it quickly spread to the Baroque, especially the pre-Bach Baroque. The name stuck, in part, because "early music" came to be understood as "music that is earlier than the repertoire that has had a continuous performance tradition since its creation." The idea here was that the performance traditions of "early music" had to be reconstructed through historical research