Giacomo Puccini: the man behind La Bohème


Giacomo Puccini: the man behind La Bohème

He is considered the greatest Italian composer after Giuseppe Verdi. Born in Lucca, in Tuscany, in 1858, Giacomo Puccini is the mastermind behind some of the greatest pieces in the story of opera. Among his works one can find renowned compositions like La Bohème and Madama Butterfly.

Giacomo Puccini was the last heir of a family that for two centuries had provided the musical directors of the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. Facing tragedy very early age, he was orphaned at the age of five by the death of his father; the composer used his sorrow as a source for his compositions.

The municipality of Lucca supported the family with a small pension and kept the position of cathedral organist open for Giacomo until he came of age,; until then, he participated in the musical life of San Martino’s Cathedral as a member of the boys' choir and later as a substitute organist.

After studying at the seminary of San Michele in Lucca, he got a diploma from the Pacini School of Music in Lucca in 1880, and then continued his studies at the Milan Conservatory for three years. In 1880, aged 21, Puccini composed his Mass, which resulted in the culmination of his family's association with church music.

In his first stage as composer, he started to build a name while still in the conservatory, where he wrote an orchestral piece called the Capriccio sinfonica as a thesis. The work impressed his teachers, who encouraged him to compose operas. Le Villi was the first of many, and was performed at La Scala in Milan in 1885.

Due to the success of Le Villi, Puccini was commissioned to compose another opera. This time he called it Edgar, a three-act work with influences of Wagner's Tannhäuser. Manon Lescaut followed, being the first of his operas for which he also wrote a libretto, as he wanted nobody to spoil his music. However, along the way the composer changed his mind and allowed five of his closest collaborators to help him.

The greatest operas of Giacomo Puccini were written during the middle of his career, when he composed La bohème, a four-act opera based on the 1851 book by Henri Murger, La Vie de Bohème; Tosca, arguably Puccini's first foray into “verismo,” the realistic depiction of many facets of real life including violence; and Madama Butterfly, based in part on the short story Madame Butterfly by John Luther Long, which premiered at La Scala on February 17, 1904.
After 1891, Puccini passed more time at his villa in Torre del Lago, in the Tuscan countryside. The region remained his home and workplace during the last years of his life. However, the composer died in Brussels on November 29, 1924, from complications after a new and experimental radiation therapy treatment in that city.

Although Puccini wrote only twelve operas, his works still dominate the operatic stage, particularly in the United States, where, according to Opera America, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème are the two most frequently performed acts, respectively, with Tosca being eighth and Turandot being twelfth on the same list.

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