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More about Giacomo Puccini

19th century
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Giacomo Puccini is considered by many to have been one of the greatest composers of Italian opera, second only to Verdi. He was born into a musical family in the city of Lucca, where the position of choirmaster at the Cattedrale di San Martino was held by Puccini family members for 124 years. When his father died, Puccini was only 6 years old and was therefore unable to continue this trend. However, his musical education was extensive, at first studying with his uncle, Fortunato Magi before continuing his studies at the Milan Conservatory.

By the time he graduated in 1883, Puccini’s reputation as a promising young composer was beginning to grow. It was later this same year that he composed his first opera, “La Villi” for a local competition. Although it did not win, it was premiered the following year and received a positive reception, with music publisher, Giulio Ricordi, acquiring the rights to the one-act opera and consequently commissioning a second opera. Puccini’s “Edgar” was not particularly well received when it premiered at La Scala in 1889 and may well have ruined his career had it not been for the unwavering support of Ricordi. It was this experience that led Puccini to become incredibly demanding when working with librettists, with much of the blame for the failure of “Edgar” falling on Ferdinando Fontana’s libretto.

Puccini’s high standards would lead to monumental success, with his next opera, “Manon Lescaut” helping to establish his reputation as one of the leading composers of Italian opera. Though he did not settle on a librettist for this work to begin with, an eventual collaboration with Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa proved to be extremely beneficial and this partnership would continue for Puccini’s next three operas: “La bohème”, “Tosca” and “Madama Butterfly”.

This period between 1896 and 1904 was undoubtedly the height of Puccini’s career. In 1903, he was involved in car accident and suffered serious injuries, but this only temporarily delayed the completion of “Madama Butterfly” in time for its premiere in May of 1904. For the final 20 years of his life, Puccini’s output slowed down considerably. He died in 1924 before completing his final opera , “Turandot”, a work that contains one of the most famous arias of all time: “Nessun dorma”. The composer and pianist, Franco Alfano completed the opera using Puccini’s sketches and it proved to be a huge success.

Puccini’s operas are still performed regularly all over the world, with “La bohème”, “Tosca”, “Madama Butterfly” and “Turandot” considered to be some of the most important operas ever written.


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