Puccini & Toscanini: The Cake
Giacomo Puccini was in the habit, every Christmas, of sending a cake to each of his friends. After quarreling with Toscanini one year, he attempted to cancel the order for his cake. The confection, he was told, had already been shipped.
Puccini, peeved, promptly sent Toscanini a telegram: "Cake sent by mistake." Some time later, he received a reply: "Cake eaten by mistake."
During a rehearsal of Puccini's Tosca one day, Maria Jeritza slipped and fell on her way to the sofa from which she was supposed to sing "Vissi d'arte." As she was not injured, she simply began to sing from her prone position on the stage. "At last!" Puccini exclaimed. "That's how it is to be sung! Tosca struggles with Scarpia, falls to the ground and from there addresses her aria not to the tyrant but to Heaven."
In February 1904, Puccini's Madame Butterfly debuted at the La Scala opera house in Milan. Puccini had high hopes for the work: It starred the best singers of the day, the music was impeccable, and he was the leading figure in Italy's music scene:
"The composer was so sure of the opera's success, he piled his whole family into the carriage and, for the first time, took them to a premiere of one of his works. But he didn't count on hecklers, planted by his envious enemies, in the house.
"The breathtaking love duet in the first act was greeted with hissing and booing. At one point, Butterfly's kimono billowed and an audience member yelled out that she was pregnant. The bird calls that greet the sunrise during the second act brought a cacophony of cock-a-doodle-doos, mooing and braying."
Puccini returned La Scala's fee, pulled the production, and rewrote it.