Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, Tuscany in 1858. He was one of nine children of Michele Puccini and Albina Magi. The Puccinis were established in Lucca as a musical dynasty by Puccini’s great-great grandfather, also named Giacomo. Music ran in his blood.
Puccini is the Italian opera composer whose music makes us all fall in love with the human passion expressed in a new realism, musically and emotionally. Musically because he explored new ways to combine the rhythms of Igor Stravinsky and the beauty of Claude Debussy’s Modern Impressionist Romanticism into a story we could all relate to.
His operas are the standards and most popular worldwide because they tap into the problems of ordinary people whose lives parallel our own. His music has an unrelenting dramatic flow which captivates you with the passion of Puccini’s own life.
For example, the scene in La Bohème in the aria “Che Gelida Manina,” in which Rodolfo is touching Mimi’s hand, makes you immediately fall in love because of his interpretation of human emotion at its truest basic level.
The desperate passion he exhibited in La Bohème mirrored his own life. And like all great artists, he incorporated the new rhythmic themes of the rising Igor Stravinsky and the chromatic subtleties of Debussy, but totally re-structured to reflect his Italian persona and emotions. In studying Chinese music boxes, he studied and dramatized the overwhelming music in his Turandot.
In the writing of Madame Butterfly, he had a romantic liaison with the first soprano studying for the role. He surely had the human failings of having lived his life like his operas and left us a legacy of being hopeless romantics.
Today, La Bohème is the opera most often performed around the world. Puccini died at age 56 tragically like all the heroines in his operas. He passed away in Brussels on November 29, 1924, from complications after a car accident led to a heart attack the day after surgery.
Ironically, news of his death reached Rome during a performance of La Bohème.