Giacomo Puccini

(22 December 1858, Lucca - 29 November 1924, Brussels)


Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini, was an Italian composer (the most important after Verdi) whose operas are among the important operas played as standards. Born in a family with musical traditions (his father, Michele, lead the city orchestra and was a composer as well), his interest in music sparked at an early age. After his father died when Giacomo was just 6 years old, he studied music with two of his father's former pupils. As a child, he participated in the musical life of the San Martino Cathedral, first as a member of the boy's choir and later as a substitute organist.
Although he first dedicated himself to music as a family profession, he later realized that it was his personal vocation (a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, which he saw in Pisa in 1876, may have convinced him of this). He received a general education at the seminary of San Michele in Lucca, and then at the seminary of the cathedral. Puccini got a diploma from the Pacini School of Music in Lucca in 1880, having studied there with his uncle Fortunato, and later with Carlo Angeloni, who had also instructed Alfredo Catalani.
Having received a grant from the Italian Queen Margherita, and assistance from another uncle, Nicholas Cerù, in the autumn of 1880 he went to study at the Milan Conservatory. Here he studied composition under Stefano Ronchetti-Monteviti, Antonio Bazzini, a famous violinist and composer of chamber music, and Amilcare Ponchielli, the composer of the opera La gioconda. The same year Puccini composed his Mass, which marked the culmination of his family's long association with church music in his native Lucca.
On July 16, 1883, he received his diploma and presented as his graduation composition Capriccio sinfonico, an instrumental work that attracted the attention of influential musical circles in Milan. On 31 May 1884 took place the premiere of his first opera, Le Villi, which was well received by the public and critics. The originality and modernity of his future works erupted after his first opera. The music publisher Giulio Ricordi immediately acquired the copyright, with the stipulation that the opera be expanded to two acts.
Impressed by Puccini's first opera, Giulio Ricordi commissioned a new opera for La Scala, also giving him a monthly stipend, which would result in Edgar (premiered on 21 April 1889). This work didn't have the intended impact on the public and so, after its third performance it was withdrawn for revisions. A revised version met with success at the Teatro di Giglio in Puccini's native Lucca on 5 September 1891. In 1892, further revisions reduced the length of the opera to three acts from four, in a version that was well received in Ferrara and was performed in Turin and in Spain.
On the 1st of February 1895, he obtained a triumphant success with his new opera, Manon Lescaut, at the Regio Theater in Turin. This work was played across whole Italy, in South America, Russia, Spain and Germany. After exactly one year (1 February 1896), the premiere of his opera La bohème took place in the same theater in Turin under the baton of the conductor Arturo Toscanini. Puccini's composition of La bohème was the subject of a public dispute between Puccini and fellow composer Ruggiero Leoncavallo. In early 1893, the two composers discovered that they were both engaged in writing operas based on Murger's work.
Puccini's next opera was Tosca (1900), arguably his first foray into verisimo (a post-Romantic operatic tradition, meaning "realism", from Italian vero, meaning "true"), the realistic depiction of many facets of real life including violence. Tosca, premiered in Rome in 1900, was played immediately worldwide, triumphing even in front of the most traditional public, despite its extremely bold language. On 17 February 1904, the premiere of his opera Madame Butterfly was a complete failure. Only after the remake of the libretto and music, the opera gained audience, being presented a few months later at the Grande Theater in Brescia. In 1910, his opera La Faniculla del West made its debut at the New York Metropolitan Opera with Arturo Toscanini being the conductor and Enrico Caruso the soloist. 
On the peak of glory, Puccini started composing a series of works with different character: an operetta written in the Viennese style, but political circumstances led him to modify it and make it an opera, La Rondine, with its premiere in Monte Carlo, in 1917. This piece was followed by 3 other short pieces combined under the title Il trittico (translated The Triptych; which were premiered at the Metropolitan Opera on 14 December 1918), and by the operas: Il tabarro (The Cloak), Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) and Gianni Schicchi.
In 1921, Puccini moved to Viareggio where he started working on the composition of another opera, Turandot. This opera was left unfinished and in this state it was played on 25 April 1926 at "Teatro alla Scala" in Milan, under the musical conduct of Arturo Toscanini. In subsequent performances, the opera was presented with completions added by Franco Alfano after Puccini's remaining sketches.
Puccini died in Brussels on 29 November 1924, from complications after the treatment; uncontrolled bleeding led to a heart attack the day after surgery. News of his death reached Rome during a performance of La bohème. The opera was immediately stopped, and the orchestra played Chopin's Funeral March for the stunned audience.
His artistic creation spans over a period of 40 years, between 1884 and 1924, during which he composed orchestral pieces, sacred music and songs for voice and piano (most notably his 1880 mass Messa di gloria and his 1890 string quartet Crisantemi. However he is primarily known for his 12 operas.
Here  you can find a list of Giacomo Puccini's works.