Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca on December 22, 1858 from a family of musicians for five generations. From an early age he proves to have a great musical talent. Indolent and unwilling to study, perhaps because it was all too easy, the professors complained about his laziness. He nevertheless manages to obtain a scholarship for the Milan Conservatory; nevertheless the mother, wishing to continue the family traditions, sends him to study at the musical institute of Lucca.
The well-known expert of Puccini's works Mosco Carner writes that listening to Verdi's Aida in Pisa, where the young Puccini had gone on March 11, 1876, walking from Lucca "consuming a pair of shoes" was for the same " 'opening a window on the world of music'.
At the age of eighteen the young Puccini presents the cantata "Juno" in a Lucca competition; he does not win the prize but gets the job done, which stimulates his ambition. Under the influence of Verdi's Aida, he turned his interest to Italian opera traditions. With the financial help of his family and thanks to a grant from Regina Margherita, he enrolled at the Milan Conservatory, where from 1880 to 1883 he studied with Antonio Bazzini and Amilcare Ponchielli.
The latter presents the young composer to the writer Ferdinando Fontana who is responsible for writing the libretto for Puccini's first opera: "Le Villi". Presented in a competition, the work, like "Juno", fails to win the prize, but gains the favor of the public when it is represented in Milan in 1884.
This success led Ricordi to commission a new opera to Puccini, which the composer wrote five years later calling it "Edgar"; However, it will not have particular success.
It will be with "Manon Lescaut" of 1893 and the "Bohéme" of 1896, respectively the third and fourth works of Puccini, both represented for the first time in Turin, which will find fame and fortune.
The two subsequent works, "Tosca" of 1900 and "Madama Butterfly" of 1904, are received with less enthusiasm than the first performance. The critics who had condemned the Tosca, however, are later denied by the public; so, after the revision in the weeks following the premiere at La Scala, Madama Butterfly is also a great success.
Giacomo Puccini married Elvira Gemignani in 1904, who had fled from Lucca and his family to stay with him; it would have been an unhappy choice, however. Elvira haunts Giacomo with her scenes of jealousy and leads to suicide a young girl, such Doria Manfredi, who had come to be a maid at the Puccini house in Torre del Lago. According to the most accredited historical-musicological studies, it seems that Puccini's wife exasperated the waitress to such an extent, accusing her of knowing it with her husband, that the poor woman took her own life. All these events, as it is easy to perceive, remove the necessary serenity from the teacher, who experiences very sad moments of severe depression.
However, the fame remains firm, now in the empyrean of the acclaimed composers all over the world. With all his works mentioned so far, unforgettable for melodic quality, dramatic intensity and sound preciousness, the composer soon became known as the heir of Verdi, although perhaps Puccini will not be equally innovative from the musical point of view and dramatic.
The next opera, "La Fanciulla del West", is written for the Metropolitan in New York, where it is represented in 1910 for the first time. They follow "La rondine" of 1917, the "Trittico" of 1918 and finally "Turandot", whose last act will be completed by Franco Alfano after the death of Giacomo Puccini, which took place in Brussels on November 29, 1924. The first of Turandot will be performed at the Scala in Milan in 1926.
The qualities of Puccini were above all dramatic. His intense and sensitive theatrical vein and his immortal works, give us a theater that is still very modern, a great anticipation, in some ways, of cinematographic sensitivity. Moreover, Puccini possessed an exceptional taste for the instrumental tonal color and a very developed melodic sense that made it unique. His poignant works represent for all the world, like those of Giuseppe Verdi, the Italian opera tradition to its highest degree.