Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
With an inherent passion, Puccini followed his ancestors in pursuing a musical career. His father Michele, a noted teacher, organist, and composer, died when Puccini was not yet six years old. Puccini studied under his uncle, and played the organ at churches in his hometown of Lucca (region of Tuscany). In 1874, at 16, he entered the Istituto Musicale Pacini, and became a student of Carlo Angeloni, who had been a student of Puccini’s father, Michele. Under the influence of Angeloni, Puccini became interested in opera, attended a performance of Aida in Pisa in 1876, and decided to make opera the focus of his career. Puccini received his diploma from the Istituto in 1880 and entered the Milan Conservatory (Conservatorio di Milano).
In Milan, he made important musical and financial contacts, and at the end of his studies there in 1883 he entered a contest, composing a one-act opera. He did not win, but the opera, Le Willis, was well received, and Puccini was offered a contract to compose another opera. While it was not as successful as his first, his third opera, Manon Lescaut, premièred in Torino in 1893 and was staged with great success. Three years later Puccini composed La bohème, followed by Tosca in 1900, and Madama Butterfly in 1904. Today, all three are among the top ten operas most performed in North America. Puccini wrote three more operas, and started another, but died of complications from surgery before completing Turandot.
Written by Janice Mancuso