The Famous Tuscan Giacomo Puccini


posted by on History & Culture

Giacomo Puccini statue in Lucca

The statue of Giacomo Puccini in Lucca. Photo by ConspiracyofHappiness

Many great artists and musicians throughout history hailed from Tuscany. One of the most famous Tuscan composers is undoubtedly Giacomo Puccini. Born in 1858, and whose full name was actually Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini, (it’s no wonder he was just called Giacomo!) this Tuscan is known as one of the greatest Italian composers. He was appreciated for his ‘operatic realism’, and of course, the well-known Madame Butterfly. But there was more to Giacomo’s life than just composing…

Born in Lucca, Puccini came from a very musical family. For five generations, they had been the musical directors of the Cathedral of San Martino in Lucca. It seemed that as a boy, Puccini had little interest in music. However, he later acquired a tutor and began to study music and play the organ in some small, local churches. In 1880 he moved to Milan and entered a one-act opera competition. While he failed to impress the judges, he managed to catch the eyes (or ears!) or the composers Antonio Bazzini and Amilcare Ponchielli, who helped him set up his first production. Le Villi premiered in 1884 and was a huge success.

It wasn’t just dramatic operas that he composed however; his life turned into a bit of a drama too. After Puccini’s mother died, he fled Lucca in the company of a married woman, Elvira. This had caused a big scandal. When Elvira’s husband died, they finally got married, but their marriage was a turbulent one. Elvira was incredibly jealous, and accused her husband of having affairs. She even pursued one particular ‘mistress’ until the poor girl committed suicide. Puccini and the girl were actually innocent, but as Elvira spent 5 months in prison for accosting the girl, he enjoyed numerous affairs with younger women!

Around this time, his next opera Edgar didn’t have much success. Perhaps his ‘affairs’ of the heart got in the way somewhat? However, the following opera Manon Lescout and the Big Three, La Bohème, Tosca and Madame Butterfly fared much better. He failed to finish his last work, Turandot, due to inoperable throat cancer, which caused him to pass away in 1924. The opera was later completed by another composer, and immediately became a huge success.

Puccini’s house still stands, and luckily for us, it has been restored and transformed into the Puccini Museum in Lucca. It’s possible to walk through the house and view all sorts of manuscripts, music scores, photos and even costumes from his operas. It’s a wonderful way to discover more about this interesting Tuscan composer.

Why not find out more about Puccini in Lucca on one of our fantastic Lucca tours. You will have the chance to discover the main sights of Lucca, as well as explore the beautiful beaches of nearby Viareggio and the incredible Leaning Tower of Pisa. A wonderful day tour of Tuscany awaits you!

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