Giacomo Puccini 22:12:1858 – 29:11:1924

By | May 19, 2020
Black and White Photo Graph of Giacomo Puccini

Giacomo Puccini was an Italian composer who was born in 1858.

He was from a musical family – in fact five generations of organists and composers for the Cathedral of San Martino.  Sadly, his father died when he was only five but his position at the Cathedral was held and he took it at the age of fourteen but didn’t remain and ended the line after two centuries!  I am sure that caused a few ructions in the family.

Personal Life

Photograph of the front of a car after a crash

This section of Puccini’s blog reads a little bit like a soap opera.  In 1884, aged twenty four he began an affair with a married woman called Elvira. She had an unhappy marriage as her husband was a notorious womanizer.  However, his actions caught up with him as he was killed by the husband of one of the women he was having an affair with.  His death coincided almost to the day when Giacomo, Elvira and their son Antonio had a serious car crash in which Giacomo got trapped underneath the vehicle. Fortunately, all three survived and it was at this point that Giacomo and Elvira could marry and legitimise their son (whom Elvira’s previous husband had believed to be his own!).

Marriage wasn’t the bliss that Giacomo and Elvira had envisaged, and Puccini became quite a ladies man having many affairs.  As a consequence of this Elvira ended up going prison for five months after publicly announcing Puccini’s affair with their maid which lead to her suicide… (the autopsy revealed the maid died a virgin).

I am sure the soap opera continued, but ..

Back to Puccini’s Music

Puccini built his reputation after writing Capriccio Sinfonico for his thesis for the Milan Conservatory.  It was performed in 1883 and his teachers Amilcare Ponchielli and Antonio Bazzini were extremely impressed.

Puccini’s most renowned works:

  • 1896      La Bohème
  • 1900      Tosca
  • 1904      Madama Butterfly
  • 1924      Turandot

Poster advertising the opera Boheme

La Bohème

Puccini’s famous opera La Bohème was not always so famous.  At the time it was first performed, another opera with the same name by Ruggiero Leoncavallo was more successful.  It took about ten years for audiences to decide that Puccini’s version was the best.

Madame Butterfly opera poster

Madama Butterfly

Following Puccini’s Madama Butterfly people called Japanese women butterflies.  Puccini made various revisions to this opera and today the standard version is the fifth.

Tosca opera poster in red and gold

Tosca

Many of the worlds greatest sopranos have put their mark on this opera including Maria Callas, Eva Marton, Leontyne Price and Renata Tebaldi.

Poster for the opera Turando picuring an Eastern Asian lady

Turandot

Sadly Puccini did not finish his final opera Turandot due to suffering from heart failure following experimental radiation treatment for throat cancer. He never saw the final product. Franco Alfano finished the opera using Puccini’s sketches and style.  Turandot was an incredible success and is still one of the 20th Century operas being performed today.

Turandot contains one of the most famous aria’s Nessum Dorma which is sung all around the world today. We have almost forty arrangements of this piece on our site for various instruments and ensembles. Just click on the link above and then similar titles on the left hand side of the page to view the different versions available.

Further Reading

For Further information on Puccini take a look at Wikipedia and Britannica.

I couldn’t finish the blog off without listening to the beautiful Nessum Dorma from Turandot, sung by none other than Pavorotti.

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