Puc­cini

O Mio Bab­bino Caro

Guitar Techniques - - Guitar Techniques -

Brid­get Mer­mikides presents a great tran­scrip­tion of Puc­cini’s emotionally-charged aria for the solo clas­si­cal gui­tar.

The op­eras of Gi­a­como Puc­cini (18581924), among them La Bo­hème, Tosca and Madama But­ter­fly, have been per­formed count­less times over the past cen­tury and are a sta­ple of the genre (and of ‘clas­si­cal mu­sic’ in gen­eral). Fur­ther­more, there are pieces taken from th­ese op­eras that are hugely popular in their own right, such as World Cup and tal­ent-show favourite Nes­sun Dorma from Tu­ran­dot. Here, we tackle one such aria, the stun­ning O Mio Bab­bino Caro (which trans­lates as Oh My Beloved Fa­ther) from the 1918 opera, Gianni Schic­chi. Sung by the character Lau­retta, this very short aria man­ages to cap­ture her dev­as­tat­ing heart­break and pleas to her fa­ther to

The main tech­ni­cal chal­lenge is to bal­ance a pro­jected melody with a sup­port­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment, to en­sure that the melody is al­ways au­di­ble and not over­whelmed by the bassline.

al­low her re­la­tion­ship to con­tinue. It’s an ut­terly beau­ti­ful melody that is per­formed of­ten as an iso­lated work in con­certs and recitals (usu­ally as an en­core due to its short du­ra­tion). It’s char­ac­terised by a soar­ing melody with evoca­tive melodic leaps, and a sim­ple but ef­fec­tive lyri­cism.

Achiev­ing this lyri­cism on the solo gui­tar while em­u­lat­ing the del­i­cate or­ches­tral ac­com­pa­ni­ment is al­ways go­ing to be a chal­lenge, but by trans­pos­ing the orig­i­nal key All pro­fes­sional clas­si­cal gui­tarists pluck the strings us­ing the fin­ger­nails. Th­ese need to be kept the right length and shaped cor­rectly, so that they cre­ate a good pluck­ing ac­tion and the best pos­si­ble tone. Ev­ery se­ri­ous player keeps a va­ri­ety of nail files and buf­fers – a big favourite is very fine wet and dry sand­ing pa­per. This is used to smooth off the edges of the nails and keep them buffed to a fine pol­ish. The bet­ter the nails, the bet­ter the tone! of Ab ma­jor to D ma­jor, and us­ing drop-D tun­ing, one can cre­ate an ar­range­ment that is tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble and ex­tremely sat­is­fy­ing to play, and one that cap­tures the mu­si­cal essence of Puc­cini’s master­piece.

The main chal­lenge here is to bal­ance a pro­jected melody with a sup­port­ing ac­com­pa­ni­ment, so the melody is au­di­ble but not over­whelmed by the bassline. The tempo is slow and flex­i­ble, to ac­com­mo­date the free­dom of the melody. Also, look out for Puc­cini’s fer­mata mark­ings (the sym­bol at the end of bars 3 and 11, for ex­am­ple) where you can pause on that note, so adding a poignancy to the piece.

There are some tricky chal­lenges in keep­ing the melody sus­tained so, as ever, take your time and use the tab cap­tions to guide you through this won­der­ful work. A clas­si­cal gui­tar ‘great’ would prop­erly study the story be­hind the tune, in or­der to en­sure their per­for­mance con­veyed as much of its poignancy as pos­si­ble.

Puc­cini: Italy’s late-era clas­si­cal ge­nius com­poser

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