Konrad Dryden
Franco Alfano, Transcending Turandot
Publisher: Scarecrow Press, Inc. (September 2009)
238 pages

Binding: Cloth
ISBN-10: 0-8108-6970-5  ISBN-13: 978-0-8108-6970-7

Binding: Paper
ISBN-10: 0-8108-6977-2  ISBN-13: 978-0-8108-6977-6


Franco Alfano: Transcending Turandot is the first fully documented biography in any language of Italy's last verismo composer, Franco Alfano (1875-1954), the composer chosen to complete Giacomo Puccini's swansong, Turandot, in 1924. Alfano remains one of the most undervalued composers, despite arguably representing the best of Puccini's contemporaries. His ability and prowess and his intimate friendship with Puccini, led to his selection for Turandot's completion: a daunting, enervating, and ultimately thankless task, which nearly robbed him of sight.

This biography finally sheds light on Alfano's view of the events, as opposed to the all-too customary Toscanini/Puccini perspective, thereby revealing a largely unknown facet of one of the most important operatic works of the 20th-century. Konrad Dryden, a friend of the composer's late daughter, Nina Alfano, sets out to unravel and organize the facts of Alfano's life, offering a chronological presentation of the composer's vita as well as an examination of his major operas and their literary origins, providing the most complete portrait of the composer to date. Based on unpublished correspondence from international archives freshly translated by Dryden, the book also sheds light on such colleagues and contemporaries as Puccini, Toscanini, Mary Garden, Edward Johnson, Giordano, Rostand, Mascagni, and Mussolini. A selection of previously unpublished photographs is included, as well as plot synopses of Alfano's operatic works. A foreword by the legendary soprano Magda Olivero-his preferred interpreter and Liù in the world premiere recording of Turandot-and an appendix listing the composer's opus round out this important reference.


Konrad Dryden is professor of music and German at the University of Maryland University College-Europe and the author of Leoncavallo: Life and Works (Scarecrow Press, 2007).



Konrad Dryden
Leoncavallo, Life and Works
Foreword by
Plácido Domingo
Publisher: Scarecrow Press, Inc. (March 2007)

384 pages

ISBN-10: 0810858800  ISBN-13: 978-0810858800

Book synopsis

This is the first fully documented biography of the beloved and popular composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857-1919), whose credits include Pagliacci and the operatic works Chatterton, Der Roland von Berlin, Zazà, Maïa, Zingari, La bohème, and the incomplete trilogy Crepusculum. Author Konrad Dryden has amassed material from hundreds of unpublished letters and photographs, creating the most complete portrait of the composer to date. 



"This book examines various facets of Leoncavallo's history: from his youth as the son of the Naples' judge who presided over the murder trial on which Pagliacci was based to his studies with the poet Giosuè Carducci, and from his sojourn in France as a café-chantant pianist to his appointment in Egypt as music instructor to the Khedive. Careful documentation and plot synopses of Leoncavallo's numerous works are provided and his two U.S. tours are discussed. The biography also sheds new light on Leoncavallo's colleagues and contemporaries, including composers Mahler, Massenet, Puccini, Verdi, and Mascagni; singers Caruso, Ruffo, Tetrazzini, and Sanderson; and historical personalities like Toscanini, Hugo, Carducci, Wilhelm II, and Queen Victoria. A foreword by Plácido Domingo, a photo spread featuring more than 25 photos, and an appendix offering the complete list of the composer's opus add to the bibliography and index, making this the ultimate reference on this important figure in music and opera history."

©The Scarecrow Press 2007


"Ruggiero Leoncavallo (1857–1919) led a life so picaresque—some would come right out and say “self-destructive”—that his failure to attract previous biographers in any language seems well-nigh incredible. It can be explained solely, and tentatively, by the dreadful inferiority complex under which Italian musicology labored until very recent times, compared with its Austro-German or British equivalents. That complex, in turn, doubtless derives from the fact that Italian musicology originated during Mussolini’s government, which, as every self-respecting liberal knows, was among the most satanic non-German regimes that has ever arisen. (Quite unlike the splendid chaps now prevailing in Hanoi, Havana, and Pyongyang.) Yet much in Leoncavallo’s existence would challenge historians from even the most intellectually self-confident milieux. He routinely obfuscated details of his career (beginning with the very year of his birth, which he usually gave as 1858), fought with critics, thrashed around in lawsuits as time-wasting as they were inconclusive, shamelessly recycled earlier works, permitted much of his correspondence to go missing, and suffered from the disastrous (if well-meant) caprices of a widow who thought nothing of attaching his name to third-rate operas partly by other hands. So chaotic a curriculum vitae is bound to deter any but the most patient and diligent researcher. Which, fortunately, Konrad Dryden is. A descendant of the great poet, Dryden has already placed opera buffs in his eternal debt with his 1999 book on Leoncavallo’s younger rival Riccardo Zandonai. Here he performs a similar service to the man now remembered for having written Pagliacci and for almost nothing else.

Maybe any Italian composer born in 1857 would have suffered by comparison with Puccini. Certainly the one-hit-wonder status of almost every other Italian composer from Puccini’s own generation and the next—Leoncavallo himself, Zandonai, Pietro Mascagni, Francesco Cileà, the short-lived Alfredo Catalani—suggests a shared fate rather than mere individual shortcomings. With Leoncavallo, though, the problem went deeper and remains mysterious. The son of a judge, he nevertheless condemned himself in youth to the grimmest poverty: fun to contemplate when watching Act I of La Bohème, perhaps, but fairly frightful to have to live through. Did it spring from friendlessness or charmlessness? Most assuredly no. Not only did he spend his youth studying literature with the eminent Italian bard Giosuè Carducci (Nobel laureate of 1906), but scarcely had he left Bologna University than he made the acquaintance of Gounod, Massenet, Victor Hugo, and several cashed-up aristocrats. He also possessed (as he seldom tired of observing) a linguistic flair and culture générale at the very opposite remove from Puccini’s purely instrumentalist notions of non-musical arts. Dryden has somehow unearthed an 1880s photograph of Leoncavallo playing cards with the two-term Prime Minister Francesco Crispi. Rarely has so impressive an address book been so devoid of positive results. Only after the wild popularity of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana spurred Leoncavallo into composing Pagliacci—premiered at Milan in 1892, and soon to become one of the most popular operas ever written—did he score a worldly success to match his circle of contacts.

True to his Neapolitan background, he retained the desire to cut a good figure—una bella figura—and Pagliacci’s acclaim would have destabilized, if not simply unhinged, many a more phlegmatic creator than he. But in his blustering there lurked no malice. Beside Mascagni, who dedicated one of his less inspired lucubrations “to myself, with my distinguished consideration and unaltering esteem,” Leoncavallo emerges as almost humble. He remained—as
far as can be determined now—faithful to the one woman all his days, in educative contrast to Mascagni’s and (still more) Puccini’s debauches. Moreover, he never lost the suspicion that Pagliacci had been more like a freakish lottery win than a culmination of solid effort. Accordingly he avoided sustained bad-mouthing of his most distinguished contemporaries, and he likewise eschewed the dirty pool which Puccini played with enthusiasm against almost every Italian colleague who seemed like a threat. Characteristically, upon learning of Mahler’s hostility toward him, Leoncavallo tried to appease Vienna’s artistic leaders by pretending to be Jewish. Such was his idea of ingenious public relations.

He exhibited no greater skill in backing winners during World War I, being simultaneously too Germanized for Italian musicians, too Italianate for German musicians, and far too fond of Kaiser Wilhelm II to command respect anywhere very much outside Berlin’s more obviously militaristic environments. His friendship with the Kaiser represented, if not a marriage of true minds, then at any rate a marriage of true mustaches. In the book’s later photos, the luxuriant growth beneath Leoncavallo’s nose has acquired a sort of epic defiance far transcending its owner’s physical and mental state: he perished from nephritis after years of degrading commercial failure. Pagliacci’s climactic words—“La commedia è finita,” “The comedy is ended”—acquired, in its composer’s decline, a dreadful appositeness.

Altogether a sad story, sad as Falstaff’s downfall or Micawber’s dauntless optimism is sad, and abundant, as Dryden has com- prehensively demonstrated, in the most tan- talizing might-have-beens. Leoncavallo’s publishers never came close to impinging on the almost totalitarian control over Italian music that the mighty Casa Ricordi firm enjoyed, thanks in part to its canny investments in Puccini and, before him, Verdi. A bullying wife (like Puccini’s) might have counteracted Leoncavallo’s innate tendencies towards laziness, and might also have sharpened his rather too easily mollified artistic conscience. At least, because of Dryden, he has finally been accorded a memorial entirely unlike himself: that is, unassuming, focused, disciplined, and perilously near to perfection. The preface, by no less a performer than Plácido Domingo, merely confirms the whole project’s quality. It is impossible to imagine any subsequent book on Leoncavallo doing more than adding a handful of grace notes, and perhaps the very occasional cadenza, to Dryden’s quietly heroic art."


"Anyone writing a book about Leoncavallo faces problems. There are no full-scale earlier studies to draw on, serious mistakes have been perpetuated even in standard reference works, while source material has been dispersed and in some cases is hard to access. Further, Leoncavallo's own accounts are unreliable, not to say mendacious. Konrad Dryden, who has previously written a book about Zandonai, an Italian opera composer of the next generation, knows this territory well, and in producing what is (surprisingly) the first substantial study of the composer in English can be congratulated in assembling so much new information."


"Das Angenehmste an Konrad Drydens Biografie über Ruggiero Leoncavallo, den Schöpfer der unsterblichen "Pagliacci", ist die klare Strukturierung des 350 Seiten starken Bandes in einen biografischen Teil und eine Beschreibung der mehr als 20 Bühnenwerke des berühmten Komponisten. Noch rechtzeitig im 150. Jahr nach der Geburt des Komponisten 1857 und in englischer Sprache erschienen, darf es als wichtige Bereicherung jeder privaten oder öffentlichen Opernbibliothek gelten."

Michael Lehnert, DAS OPERNGLAS

"...This new volume on Leoncavallo by Konrad Dryden is an important addition to the scholarship of this composer...thorougly researched, generously documented, and written in a non-technical language that is easily accessible by the general reader. His style is conventional, somewhat academic but not dry. ...This book must be considered THE definitive source on the composer and is an invaluable reference for anyone who has an interest in Leoncavallo."


"Konrad Claude Dryden, der nun erstmals eine umfassende Biographie und Werkübersicht des Komponisten (einschl. Opernführer) vorlegte, weist mit Recht auf die derzeit völlige Unterbelichtung dieser Epoche des italienischen Musikdramas und des Oeuvres von Zandonai im Besonderen hin. ...Seine Monographie ist weit mehr als die vordergründige Abhandlung von Lebensfakten: Sie ist ein einziges Pläydoyer für einen zu Unrecht Vergessenen der Operngeschichte. Mit großer Detailkenntnis und unter geradezu akribischer Auswertung bisher unzugänglicher Briefwechsel porträtiert der Autor das aufschlussreiche Bild einer interessanten Musikerpersönlichkeit.... Trotz der umfangreichen Quellenarbeit und exakter Zitierweise geriet die neue Zandonai-Biografie keineswegs akademisch trocken, wenngleich das wissenschaftliche fundierte Arbeiten des Autors nicht unerwähnt bleiben sollte."



Konrad Claude Dryden
Riccardo Zandonai, A Biography
Foreword by Renata Scotto
With tributes by Magda Olivero and Tarquinia-Jolanda Zandonai
Frankfurt/Main, Berlin, Bern, New York, Paris, Wien, 1999.
530 pp., 23. fig
ISBN 3-631-34374-4
US-ISBN 0-8204-3649-6

Book synopsis

This is the first fully-documented biography of the Italian composer Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944). A pupil of Mascagni, Zandonai composed ten operas for Casa Ricordi, who considered him Puccini's heir. He achieved international recognition in 1914 with his operatic adaptation of D'Annunzio's play Francesca da Rimini. His opera I cavalieri di Ekebù after Lagerlöf's novel Gösta Berling was heralded as the national Swedish opera during the 1920's. The biography presents a monthly chronicle of the composer's life taken from his unpublished correspondence as well as his working and private relationships with D'Annunzio, Lagerlöf, Mascagni, Tito Ricordi, Puccini, Respighi, Pascoli, and his wife the soprano Tarquinia Tarquini. Working with original sources from international archives including Milan's Casa Ricordi, the author herewith presents the most comprehensive portrait of Zandonai to appear in any language. 



The first fully-documented English biography of the composer Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1944) - A monthly chronicle of the composer's life - Discussions of his working relationships with D'Annunzio, Lagerlöf, Pascoli etc. - Foreword by Renata Scotto with tributes from Tarquinia-Jolanda Zandonai and Magda Olivero.