Saturday, 26 May 2012


It has not hitherto been thought that the works of Giacomo Puccini have much to offer the cricketer. A bit operatic; a bit melodramatic; a bit dare it be said Italian. Fantasy Bob is ashamed to say that previously he inclined to that view.

But the unexamined life is not worth living, and, after attending a performance of Tosca last night, Fantasy Bob is coming to another view.

For FB the highlight of this magnificent opera is the great soprano aria Vissi d’arte. Tosca sings this after the villain Scarpia has put his cards on the table. He has imprisoned Tosca’s lover Mario Cavaradossi and makes it clear to her that unless Tosca submits to his desires (or, in a less operatic idiom, puts out for him) Cavarodossi will be executed. There is not a dry eye in the house as the orchestra swells and the singer’s voice soars. It is perfect. Test Match Quality. 

The aria is conventionally understood as a lament by Tosca on the cruelty of her fate:

Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,
non feci mai male ad anima viva!
……….perchè, perchè, Signore,
perchè me ne rimuneri così?

I lived for my art, I lived for love,
I never did harm to a living soul!
………why, why, o Lord,
why do you reward me thus?

The words, while they might be consistent with this interpretation, strike FB as being inspired by something different.  Something even more distressing than Tosca’s plight. She can only be speaking for all batsmen who have just been dismissed LBW in the certain knowledge that they got a thick inside edge before the ball thudded into the pad. As they disconsolately return to the pavilion can be heard muttering, sotto voce, perchè me ne rimuneri così?  Why do you reward me thus? Indeed.

But this is not the only inspiration that cricket provides in Puccini’s work. Perhaps his best known number is also deeply relevant to cricket  – Nessun doosra.

Puccini was clearly a devoted fan of the game. Fantasy Bob suspects that he also played. But what was his bowling action? Critics frequently pass observation about the cruelty, if not outright sadism, in Puccini’s great works. His tragic heroines, Tosca, Mimi in La Boheme and Madame Butterfly (Cio-Cio San) are all dead at the end of the operas, 2 by their own hand and Mimi through consumption. Cruelty? Sadism? This answers the question: Puccini’s bowling action could only be Leg Break. 


  1. FB's assertion of a connection between Puccini and cricket may not be so fanciful. Apparently cricket was well established in Italy by the end of the 19th Century and some of the clubs combined both football and cricket. Thus AC Milan was originally known as the Milan Cricket and Football club - to borrow Michael Caine's famous catchphrase, not a lot of people know that.

  2. Many thanks. FB is interested to hear of the history of AC Milan. He also understands that La Scala CC withdrew from fixtures because it had so many prima donnas who all wanted to open the batting.