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Giacomo Puccini

Composer

Biography

Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924) is one of the most popular opera composers of all time. His operas are famed worldwide for the drama and pathos of their plots, for their wonderful melodies and for the wealth of great roles they provide singers.

Puccini was born in Lucca to a family of church musicians. In 1880 he moved to Milan to study at the Milan Conservatory and while a student attended many performances at La Scala. Puccini wrote his first opera, the one-act Le villi, for the Sonzogno Competition; though rejected by the judges, its successful 1884 premiere led Giulio Ricordi, to take Puccini on. His second opera, Edgar (1889) was a failure, but he scored a major triumph with Manon Lescaut (1893), his first mature work. While completing Manon Lescaut, Puccini began a fruitful collaboration with librettists Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, with whom he wrote arguably his three greatest operas: La bohème (1896), Tosca (1900) and Madama Butterfly (1904). Following the death of Giacosa in 1906 Puccini struggled to find new subjects and collaborators. However, he continued to create impressive works, with the dramatic ‘Wild West’ opera La fanciulla del West (1910), the tender ‘lyric comedy’ La rondine (1917) and his most ambitious project, the three one-act operas that make up Il trittico (1918).

Puccini’s last years were spent working on his final opera Turandot, set in ancient China. Puccini never completed the final act – he died of throat cancer while working on the final love duet in 1924. Turandot had its premiere two years later, in a version completed by Franco Alfano.

Videos

News and features

Madama Butterfly Musical Highlight: The Humming Chorus

Madama Butterfly Musical Highlight: The Humming Chorus

17 March 2015

Puccini describes Cio-Cio-San’s vigil, as she desperately awaits the return of Pinkerton, with a chorus of ethereal beauty.

A Dramatic Improvement: Puccini and the creation of Madama Butterfly

A Dramatic Improvement: Puccini and the creation of Madama Butterfly

16 March 2015

With this tragedy, Puccini transcended the role of composer by incorporating touches that mark him as a dramatist of genius.

Opera Essentials: Madama Butterfly

Opera Essentials: Madama Butterfly

9 March 2015

Our quick guide to Puccini's iconic and heartbreaking tragedy.

Operatic magic: Fairytales and magical stories in opera

Operatic magic: Fairytales and magical stories in opera

17 February 2015

Composers have long used magical settings to tell moving, profound and very human stories.

Our favourite romantic love duets

Our favourite romantic love duets

24 November 2014

19th-century opera is renowned for its depiction of intense love affairs.

Living the American Dream: How opera has embraced and attacked a national ethos

Living the American Dream: How opera has embraced and attacked a national ethos

1 September 2014

From cheerful go-getting lumberjacks to a city of hedonism in the desert, lyric theatre has long confronted the ideals of the USA.

Photos