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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

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.

The satirical stories that inspired La bohème

The satirical stories that inspired La bohème

12 July 2014

Henry Murger's tales are a far cry from the soaring romanticism of Puccini's opera.

How to Stage an Opera: the ugliness of Manon Lescaut

How to Stage an Opera: the ugliness of Manon Lescaut

1 July 2014

Why Jonathan Kent and Paul Brown’s production focuses on the ugly side of Puccini’s opera.

Who was Abbé Prévost?

Who was Abbé Prévost?

16 June 2014

The man who created Manon Lescaut was, like his heroine, full of contradictions.

Louisiana's mysterious desert: a convenient inaccuracy in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut

Louisiana's mysterious desert: a convenient inaccuracy in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut

5 June 2014

What the climax of Puccini's opera tells us about historical European attitudes to America.

Photos