Giacomo Puccini was an Italian composer of some of the most prolific exponents of operatic realism whose popular works are the most often performed in opera history.
Born on December 22, 1858 in Lucca Italy to a musical family, he joined the family business. Orphaned at the age of 5 the position held by his father was held for Giacomo in the church, anticipating his coming of age. In fact, his education was subsidized by the city of Lucca. By the age of 14 Puccini became the church organist. It was in 1876 that he discovered his true calling when he visited the city of Pisa and attended a performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida.
Motivated by his new found passion, he began to study seriously and in 1990 gained admission to the Milan Conservatory of Music. In 1883 he graduated and presented his first musical score that attracted the attention of influential musical circles. Urged by them Puccini presented his first attempt at a once act opera called “Le villi” for a competition. Not popular with the judges, it was however, well received by the audience and won many admirers. Guilio Ricordi an important music publisher acquired the rights and commissioned Puccini to compose a new opera for La Scala the most important opera house of the time. Ricordi became a lifelong supporter, friend and counselor to Puccini.
With the carefully selected subjects, accessible melodies with realistic action, Puccini’s next three compositions are considered to be his most important. The four act opera La Boheme (1896) over time would become the most widely performed in opera history. Tosca (1900) with its psychology of its heroine and Madama Butterfly (1904) tell a moving love story that focuses entirely on the feminine protagonist and ends in tragedy.
With his fame widespread, Puccini spent the next few years traveling the world to attend productions of his works. He continued to work on new compositions but his complicated personal life would make it difficult to produce one for some time.
All of Puccini’s operas speak the same refined musical language of the orchestra that creates the subtle play of thematic reminiscences. The music always emerges from the words, indissolubly bound to the images they evoke. Puccini’s conception of melody is rooted in the tradition of 19th century opera, but his orchestral style indicates his awareness of contemporary Impressionists.
I have included some of the most beloved melodic works of Puccini’s music without the words so that you can enjoy the beauty of his creativity.