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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

Women who win the day: Opera’s triumphant heroines


Women who win the day: Opera’s triumphant heroines


2 September 2015

Opera is (perhaps justly) infamous for killing off its heroines – we look at some of the women who buck the trend.

Puccini unpacked: A guide to one of the most-loved operatic composers

Puccini unpacked: A guide to one of the most-loved operatic composers

4 June 2015

The Italian composer created some of opera’s most enchanting romances.

Watch: Nicola Luisotti on Puccini – ‘You can learn more from one of Puccini’s scores than from books’

Watch: Nicola Luisotti on Puccini – ‘You can learn more from one of Puccini’s scores than from books’

27 May 2015

The conductor discusses the composer’s deceptive genius, and how best to approach his operas.

Photos