Biography of Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini was an Italian opera composer who was extremely popular during the romantic period. His work is known for its place in the operatic tradition of verismo, a style of dramatic naturalism on the operatic stage found in the work of such composers as Pietro Mascagni, Umberto Giordano, and Francesco Cilea. His operas include such canonical works as La Boheme, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot.

Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy, the sixth of nine children in a musical family. His family had held the position of maestro di cappella (head of the orchestra) for 124 years, but when it was time for Giacomo Puccini to assume the title, he was only six. As a young adult, he studied at the Milan Conservatory, living with fellow composer Pietro Mascagni at one point.

Puccini's first opera was a collaboration with Ferdinando Fontana called Le Villi. After that, he was commissioned to write Edgar, again with Fontana, which premiered at the Teatro del Giglio in Lucca. When that opera failed, Puccini became determined to write his own libretto for Manon Lescaut. In the end, Luigi Illica and Giusepe Giacosa helped Puccini finish the piece. Manon Lescaut was a huge success and catapulted Puccini to fame.

After this success, Puccini followed up with La Boheme, an opera that remains one of Puccini's most adored and famous works, about a group of bohemians in Paris. Then came Tosca, a prime example of the verismo style of operatic storytelling. In 1904, Madama Butterfly premiered at La Scala to poor responses from audiences and critics, who thought it was underrehearsed and poorly constructed. Puccini made several revisions over the years, and it has since become one of his best-known operas.

Puccini's later operas include La fanciulla del West (1910), La rondine (1917), Il trittico (1918), and Turandot, his final opera. Puccini died of a heart attack after receiving treatments for throat cancer.

Study Guides on Works by Giacomo Puccini