puccini1Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (December 22, 1858 - November 29, 1924) is remembered as one of the greatest composers of Italian opera to have ever lived. Puccini is known for being one of the leading composers to have worked in the 'realistic' verismo style of opera, and his music remains among the most frequently performed in the standard repertoire. His most notable operas include Madame Butterfly, La bohème, and Tosca.

puccini2Puccini was born in Lucca, Tuscany, to Michele Puccini and Albina Magi. Puccini was one of seven children, and born into a family which had already established itself as a local musical dynasty, thanks to Puccini's great-great grandfather, also named Giacomo. The elder Giacomo had been the maestro di cappella (choirmaster) of the Catedrale di San Martino in Lucca, and was succeeded by his son Antonio, who passed it to his son Domenico, who passed it onto his son, Michele.

By the time Michele Puccini died, the family had occupied the position of maestro di cappella for 124 years. Although it was anticipated that the young Giacomo would eventually occupy the position, he was only six when his father died. Nonetheless was an active member of the church's musical organization for many years.

Puccini completed his general education at the seminary of San Michele in Lucca, and then went on the the Pacini School of Music, also in Lucca. A grant from the queen of Italy helped Puccini to continue his studies at the Milan Conservatory, where he studied composition. In 1880, at the age of 21, he composed Mass, marking the culmination of the Puccini family's involvement with church music.


As something in the nature of a thesis composition for the Milan Conservatory, Puccini wrote an orchestral piece called the Capriccio sinfonica. It was well reviewed, and his teachers at the conservatory discussed the possibility of writing an opera next. This became Le villi, which Puccini created with Fernando Fontana. He was soon commissioned to write a second opera, Edgar. During this time, the composer eloped with his former piano student, the married Elvira Gemignani.

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Their married life was fraught with conflicts and affairs, including a major episode where Elvira publicly accused one of their maids of having an affair with Puccini. The maid, Doria Manfredi, committed suicide as a result. An autopsy then determined that Doria had died a virgin. Some interpreters of his music have claimed that Puccini was inspired by these events in later work, including the character Liu from Turandot (his last opera), a slave girl who commits suicide.

 

 

 

 

 

After Edgar, Puccini decided that he would write his own libretto, so that "no fool of a librettist" could ruin it. After rejecting a string of other librettists, he settled on Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, who became his crucial collaborators, as they helped him complete Manon Lescaut, but also his next three, and most successful operas of his entire collection: La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly. Manon Lescaut also established Puccini's reputation as he most likely "successor" to Verdi as the leading exponent of the Italian operatic tradition.

 

Puccini's next work was La bohème, based on the 1851 book by Henri Murger, La Vie de Bohème. The libretto also drew inspiration from Puccini's own life, including his experiences of near-poverty and chronic shortages of basic necessities like food and clothing. Although Puccini was granted a small monthly stipend by the Congregation of Charity in Rome (Congregazione di caritá), he frequently had to pawn possessions in order to cover basic expenses. The opera was immensely popular and reamins one of the most frequently performed operas ever written.

 

 

Next came Tosca (1900), his first foray into verismo, the realistic depiction of many facets of real life including violence.

Then, Puccini composed Madama Butterfly, masterfully performed below by Maria Callas, which was poorly reviewed until it went through several revisions. In 1907, Puccini released the fifth and standard version, which was highly praised.

 

Later work by Puccini was rather hindered by the death of his editor and publisher, Giulio Ricordi, although his work was still fairly well-received. His final works include La fanciulla del West, La rondine, Il trittico, and finally Turandot, which was left unfinished. The final two scenes were completed by Franco Alfano based on Puccini's sketches.

 

 

In 1924, the composer died from complications from cancer treatment. He was buried in Milan, in Toscanini's family tomb, but that was always intended as a temporary measure. In 1926 his son arranged for the transfer of his father's remains to a specially created chapel inside the Puccini villa at Torre del Lago.

Turandot (Domingo, Marton, MItchell, Levine)

Turandot (Georges Prêtre/Birgit Nilsson)

Madama Butterfly (Tito Beltran)

Madama Butterfly, part 1 (Summers)

Madama Butterfly, part 2 (Summers).

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Monday, 22 December 2014
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