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Scene 1:
Life and Death meet on a country road in Hungary, both on their way to the village of Raiding, the place where little Franz Liszt has just been born and to whom his parents gave the affectionate nickname Putzi (boy, kid or lad in Hungarian). Both women march to meet the newborn whom Life describes as a human being destined to be great. Death, in particular, seeks to get rid of him, in fear that by becoming an adult, he would endanger her three best friends, Mediocrity, Routine and Envy. To that end he has sent Fever and Weakness in search of Putzi, to such an extent that the boy lies in his bed, almost lifeless, with a coffin prepared next to his bed. (It is known that Liszt's fragile health as a child forced his hopeless parents to live with a small coffin prepared for the worst.) Each woman describes her best ally: Life singing the aria of Virtue, and Death the aria of Envy. Both intend to present battle, ending the scene in a duo of accusations and mutual reproaches.

"Eduardo Alonso-Crespo" Putzi
"Eduardo Alonso-Crespo" Putzi

Scene 2:
Putzi has grown up and is now a handsome young man in his twenties; fortunately, neither Death nor Sickness could destroy it. In his apartment in Paris he receives the visit of Nicollò Paganini. The violinist, famous for his alleged connections with the Devil (the only possible explanation for such musical prowess), was summoned by Putzi help him make a pact with the Devil, similar to the one apparently made by Paganini to play the violin so masterfully. But the purpose of the pact that Putzi requests is much more altruistic: he needs it to save the life of his lover, Maria (the young Countess Marie D'Agoult in real life), victim of a disease that doctors describe as incurable. Paganini explains that the Devil does not make pacts with such noble ends, nor does he have such humanitarian gestures. But, while the violinist speaks, Putzi observes with amazement that Paganini does not cast a shadow, nor is his image reflected in the mirrors: that Paganini is the Devil himself! With his true identity uncovered, the virtuoso violinist runs around the room chased by Putzi who insists on getting his favors (with the music from Paganini-Liszt's La Caccia studio in the background). Despite the initial refusals, Putzi ends up convincing the Devil, flattering him by promising to compose works that celebrate the Devil's figure and incorporate him into artistic immortality. The Devil - with his vanity fed and assured that works composed in his honor such as the Waltz Mephisto, Malédiction, Danza Macabra or Symphony Faust (works that in fact Liszt would compose years later) - will soon come - agrees to save Maria, completing the scene with the final spell.

"Eduardo Alonso-Crespo" Putzi

Scene 3:
During a brief Intermezzo Putzi's room in Paris gradually acquires a supernatural aspect for the entry of Life and Death. Death bursts in furious because Putzi has used his Devil to save a life, seducing him with his music and his promises. Life follows her at close range, futilely trying to calm her down and taking the opportunity to mock her macabre companion. Death, unable to calm down, furiously threatens to claim this unforgivable stumble from the Devil in an aria of bravery, retreating noisily from the room.

"Eduardo Alonso-Crespo" Putzi

Scene 4:
This time it is the Devil who is chasing Putzi across the room, begging Putzi to help him save himself from the wrath of Death. To this end he implores Putzi to agree to give his soul to calm the anger of the furious and plump lady. But the offers of lust and riches do not arouse the young man's greed. Putzi only seems to be interested in Paganini's violin, in the certainty that by possessing it he will reach the maximum musical virtuosity, the peak of artistic talent and with them the supreme wisdom. Poor Devil, pressed by the situation, hands him his violin (with a subtle musical reference to Stravisny's L'Histoire ) in exchange for Putzi signing the contract by giving his soul.

A brief orchestral intermezzo marks the passage of time. Built around Liszt's work St. Francis of Paul Marching on the Waves , the intermission anticipates the new and final turn of events.

"Eduardo Alonso-Crespo" Putzi

Scene 5:
Putzi's apartment in Rome. Many years have passed. Death enters the room, this time euphoric and brandishing the contract as a trophy. She has finally gotten Putzi's soul and comes to claim it. In the meantime, Life, after verifying the veracity of the document, sings her resignation with deep sadness. Satisfied and radiant, Death takes up her song - a victory aria - and darkly summons Putzi to take his soul to Hell. There is then a terrifying silence after which a celestial music and a very white light bathe the door through which Putzi makes his entrance dressed as a priest of the Catholic Church to the general astonishment. At the same moment, the Devil bursts soundly and clumsily from the opposite side, urged to explain and clarify to Death that they have had an unexpected setback: Putzi has taken over the religious orders and saved his soul through faith. (As it is known, Franz Liszt became an abbe in Rome towards the end of his days.) This situation generates a general pandemonium, with Death screaming furiously, the Devil trying to apologize, Life singing her final victory and Putzi his mystical transformation. But, before ending the opera, Death, mocked for a second time, launches her last sentence. If she cannot destroy Putzi's soul then she will punish his music: Liszt is sentenced to be remembered for his most frivolous pages, condemning the best of his music to oblivion.

"Eduardo Alonso-Crespo" Putzi "Claudio Aprile"
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