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Giuseppe Giacosa

Librettist

Biography

Italian playwright and librettist Giuseppe Giacosa (1847–1906) collaborated with Luigi Illica on the librettos for Puccini’s operas Manon Lescaut (with others), La bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly, and at the turn of the 20th century was regarded as Italy’s leading playwright.

Giacosa was born in Colleretto Parella, Ivrea, and initially studied law in Turin. His short play Una partita a scacchi (A Game of Chess, 1873) brought him enough success for him to embark on a literary career. He was a friend of Arrigo Boito’s and wrote plays in a variety of styles. His collaboration with Puccini and Illica began in 1893, when he was brought in to work on the libretto for Manon Lescaut. Giacosa and Illica’s partnership on Puccini’s next three operas involved Illica drafting the scenarios and Giacosa putting them into verse for Puccini to set. Nicknamed ‘the Buddha’, he was a calm presence in these often turbulent projects.

Other musical projects include an adaptation of Una partita a scacchi for Piedmontese composer Pietro Abbà-Cornaglia and a draft for the oratorio Cain for Lorenzo Perosi. A planned further collaboration with Illica – a libretto on a Russian subject for Pietro Mascagni – was never realized.

News and features

Opera Essentials: Puccini's <em>Madama Butterfly</em>

Opera Essentials: Puccini's Madama Butterfly

23 March 2017

Our quick guide to Puccini's heartbreaking opera.

Opera’s unsung heroes: What life is like as a librettist

Opera’s unsung heroes: What life is like as a librettist

3 February 2017

While those responsible for the music are often household names, the person behind an opera’s text may have been unfairly overlooked.

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.