Get to Know Giacomo Puccini

Oct 18, 2017

Born in December of 1858, Giacomo Puccini was a member of the fifth generation of Puccini’s who made a career in music. In 1874, Puccini was enrolled into the Istituto Musicale Pacini in Lucca, he studied with his uncle Fortunato Magi. During this time Puccini’s major teacher was Carlo Angeloni, who introduced Puccini to different orchestral scores, most importantly the scores of Verdi. In 1877, Puccini experienced his first musical success; when he composed Plaudite populi which premiered alongside a credo in 1878. Puccini’s talent was given recognition in 1880, when he was sent to Milan to study at the conservatory.

During the next three years Puccini laid the foundation for his future success by becoming friends with Antonino Bazzini, and the established opera composer Ponchielli. During this time Puccini became the student of Amintore Galli; who taught him the Wagnerian aesthetic. Puccini also went to performances at La Scala; where he absorbed the French style. This blend of styles would be essential to establish Puccini’s style. His first opera was Le Villi which he entered a competition in 1883, which he was rejected from because the score was illegible. Le Villi was premiered in a private performance and was considered a success, despite its lacking libretto.

During these early years Puccini’s life was dominated by two major influences: The death of his Mother and his relationship with Elvira Bonturi. Whom was married and had a son, they married in 1904 after the death of Elvira’s husband. Puccini formed a collaborative relationship with Fontana, and they wrote for Scapigliati and due to the weak libretto. Puccini had trouble creating unity throughout the opera, and after this experience he decided to pick the story before composing the music. Puccini’s next opera Manon Lescaut is considered his first technical masterpiece and when it premiered Puccini’s financial problems were gone. Puccini and Leoncavallo had a rivalry, and the result of this rivalry was La Bohéme with this opera Puccini managed to escape the restrictions of numbered opera. It took Puccini a long time to decide on writing for La Bohéme but it took six years for him to decide to write Tosca.

The ideals and drama displayed in Tosca differ from La Bohéme which focuses on the realistic portrayal of the tragedies happening the characters based on social class. Whereas Tosca, focuses on the idealistic struggles being the main source of drama. Though not suggesting that the characters were not still real, one of Puccini’s main intention was to present a reality were the character are real and the drama comes because of their actions. In 1904, Madame Butterfly premiered at La Scala, but was soon withdrawn from the public. Due to boycotts of the performance. Puccini made one edit to butterfly after this had happened; the edit was to split the second act. He had first been attracted to the libretto when he saw a performance of David Belasco’s adaptation of Madame Butterfly. In Puccini’s adaptation exoticism dominates the texture; throughout the opera he would incorporate Japanese colours in to the score. After this Puccini, would collaborate with Gabriele D’Annunzio after the death of Giacosa. They then wrote La fanciulla del west but during this time opera was losing its cultural importance due to the appearance of film. In 1909, Elvira had accused Giacomo of having an affair with a maid working for the Puccini family. This accusation led the maid to commit suicide. As reconciliation Puccini, would add a servant girl committing suicide into the second act of Turandot. It being Puccini’s last opera that he did not finish. In 1923, Puccini had constant sore throats and he went to the doctor and was diagnosed with throat cancer. Then in 1924, Puccini died of a heart attack, during an operation dealing with his throat cancer. Puccini’s impact on Italian opera is only equaled by that of his influencer Verdi.

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