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A lake to dream on


by Sandra Massai Fallaci, ph. Alessandro Gambinossi

The power of the “spirit of place”

Could the pier on the lake be a metaphor of Puccini’s life?
Maybe. The access to the lake’s edge directly from the villa’s garden has long gone: but how many times did the Maestro cross it to go to the boat which would have taken him on those waters he loved so much?
Those waters together with the lake reeds and all that reminded him of the Orient, must have certainly inspired him for the setting of Madame Butterfly, an opera where water, but the sea this time, has an important role.
All art comes from a dream which becomes substance, be it visual art or musical, therefore I ask myself: how many times did Puccini, contemplating the lake, dream settings, people, things, situations and, obviously, musical notes?
As happened to the Maestro many times, even we remain taken by an enchanted atmosphere which transmits endless serenity. A lot has been said and written about Puccini, the musician, a person of undoubted stature on the scene of Italian melodrama with his dozen of operas, second only to Verdi according to the “Verdiani”, or absolutely the first according to the “Pucciniani”.
As for Puccini, the man, he was an interesting figure: fascinating, controversial, an extraordinary person from Lucca, there was a lot of talk about him as an unrepentant playboy but in reality oversensitive and not much inclined towards superficial relationships. His relationship with the female world is seen in his characters: female figures of great substance and not just the protagonists. And on this dream-like lake we can today feel the peace nature gives, or contemplate the surrounding landscape which he looked at, through his eyes and imagine his sensations and what inspired his eternal music. Perhaps listening to Turandot. Massaciuccoli, however, is not just the lake of Puccini’s dreams. It is a special place which deserves attention. Were the Romans right in saying “Genius loci”?
It would seem so, seeing how various settlements and activities developed around this lake from prehistoric times onwards. Etruscans first and Romans later occupied the eastern shores of the lake, precisely that opposite the Puccini museum-house where today there is the Roman archeological site of Massaciuccoli in via Pietra a Padule, open for visits thanks to local voluntary workers. Already in the 18th century, archeologists studied these ruins with the first excavations and during the 1990s both the Baths and a villa of a rich family of senators were brought to light, because even the Roman patricians went on holiday and they knew how to choose the best places. Well, if the “spirit of place” exists as cultural identity which comes to life in a place changed in time, I truly believe that this lake is in some way witness of this.