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Summary Article: Puccini, Giacomo (Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria) from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Italian opera composer. His music shows a strong gift for melody and dramatic effect and his operas combine exotic plots with elements of verismo (realism). They include Manon Lescaut (1893), La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and the unfinished Turandot (1926).

Puccini was born in Lucca, the fifth in a line of musicians and composers. (The earlier members of the family were Giacomo Puccini (1712–1781), his son Antonio Puccini (1747–1832), his grandson Domenico Puccini (1771–1815), and his great-grandson Michele Puccini (1813–1864).) Although his father died early, Puccini was given a musical education by his uncle, and at the age of 19 was organist and choirmaster at the church of San Martino and had written a motet. In 1880 his mother managed with the aid of a grant from the queen to send him to the Milan Conservatory, where he studied composition first under Antonio Bazzini (1818–1897)and later under Amilcare Ponchielli. Here he wrote a Capriccio sinfonico for orchestra. Ponchielli urged him to take part in a competition for a one-act opera advertised by the music publisher Sonzogno, and he wrote Le Villi; but the prize was won by Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria rusticana. Le Villi, however, was produced at Milan in 1884, and as a result Ricordi commissioned him to write a second opera, Edgar in 1889. It failed, but Puccini had his first great success with Manon Lescaut at Turin in 1893; La Bohème was produced in the same city in 1896. His first verismo opera, Tosca, confirmed his stature: the combination of natural melody, a sure dramatic sense, and unerring aptness of orchestral colouring have made it his most enduring piece.

His successes made him immensely wealthy and he bought an estate at Torre del Lago near Lucca, where he lived with Elvira Bonturi, who had left her husband for him, but whom he was unable to marry until much later, when she became a widow. Their life together was marked by scandal in 1909 when their servant committed suicide after Elvira accused her of having a sexual relationship with Puccini. The following year La fanciulla del West/The Golden Girl of the West was produced at the New York Metropolitan Opera House. If this opera, and La rondine (1917) represent a decline in Puccini's career, his final work, Turandot, unites some of the elements that most fired his imagination: physical passion, cruelty, strong sentiment, and oriental flavour. In the last years of his life he suffered from cancer of the throat and died after an operation undergone at Brussels.

Puccini was the dominant figure in Italian music in his time; and his operas, which combine the sensuous melody of Verdi with the richness of modern Impressionist harmony, are exceedingly popular.

WorksOperaLe Villi (1884), Edgar (1889), Manon Lescaut (1893), La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), La fanciulla del West (1910), La rondine (1917), Trittico, Il tabarro, Suor Angelica, and Gianni Schicchi (1918), Turandot (unfinished, completed by Alfano, 1926).

orchestral and choralScherzo sinfonico for orchestra (later used in La Bohème); cantata Juno; a Mass and a motet Inno a Roma for chorus.

Other two minuets for strings.

quotations

Puccini, Giacomo (Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria)

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costume for Turandot

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