Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924) is recognized for his contribution to classical music. Often touted as one of the best classical composers of modern times, his repertoire is as impressive and as long as his successful career. He was best known for his thrilling melodies and riveting tales of Wild West cowboys and Chinese princesses, which allowed him to travel all over the globe for his performed works. Here are some interesting and fun facts about Giacomo Puccini that you should probably know about:
Facts About Giacomo Puccini :
1. Madame Butterfly and Chinese women
For a long time, Westerners liked to refer to Japanese females as butterflies thanks to Giancomo’s Madame Butterfly. Puccini based this highly successful tragic opera on a Japanese girl named Cho Cho San or Miss Butterfly. Like so many other cultured men in Europe during the late 19th century, Puccini was extremely obsessed with the idea of Japan. By the time he created Madame Butterfly in 1904, Europeans had already been preoccupied with the Fareast for over four decades even though the image they had created for Japan was highly superficial and manufactured.
2. Puccini’s final opera performance
Puccini’s final opera titled Turandot was left incomplete after he suffered from heart failure. Turandot was completed thanks to Franco Alfano who simply followed Puccini’s sketches to the letter to ensure that everything was produced as Puccini himself had envisioned it.
Although the classical composer did not get the chance to give the final product his stamp of approval, Turandot was a raging success and remains to this day one of the few operas created in the 20th century that are still performed for audiences across many parts of the world. Turandot includes one of the most well-known arias, Nessun Dorma, which is sung at numerous football matches today.
3. Long family history of musicians
Giacomo Puccini’s family had been tightly intertwined with the musical life of the city of Lucca providing five generations of organists and composers to the Cathedral of San Martino. It was naturally assumed that Puccini would follow in their footsteps succeeding his father in a role that had been in the family for generations. However, because Puccini’s father Michele passed away when Puccini was only 5, it was held for him until he could come of age. He held the position by the time he was 14 but gave it up for a long and lucrative career after attending Verdi’s production in 1876.
4. Puccini was worth billions
In 1923, Puccini was diagnosed with throat cancer after complaining of a recurring sore throat. Since his throat cancer had already been deemed inoperable, Puccini traveled to Brussels in 1924 to take part in an experimental radiation treatment. Unfortunately, he was too weak to handle the procedure and passed away seven days later on November 29. At the time of his unfortunate passing, he was the most successful commercial opera composer in the world worth an estimated $200 million.
5. La Boheme was not always so popular
Although today La Boheme is celebrated as one of Puccini’s most successful operas, it was not an immediate success with local audiences. At the time, another opera also titled La Boheme by rival Italian composer known as Ruggiero Leoncavallo was experiencing more success. The 2 opera’s power struggle continued for over 10 years until the public decided that Puccini’s was the better of the two after all. La Boheme is still performed popularly today while the rival version is all but forgotten.
6. He wasn’t always a good student
As stated earlier, after Puccini’s father passed away at just five years old, his position as the church organists was held for him until he reached the right age. However, young Giacomo was quite disinterested in music in general and was actually a really poor student. For some time, it seemed evident that he would break the long family history of musicians but his mother believed otherwise. She found him a tutor at the local music school and over time, his progress and eventual passion for music started to grow. By the time he has become the organist, he had already started composing his first works.
Puccini experienced a lot of avoidable problems and scandals between 1903 and 1910. After surviving a near-death experience in 1904, Puccini married a woman called Elvira Gemignani. The two had been having a sordid affair since 1884 unbeknown to Elvira’s husband. When her husband passed away, Elvira and Puccini got married but it was not the life of bliss that she had anticipated.
Puccini was known to be a playboy but matters reached a dramatic turn after Elvira drove one of Puccini’s extra-marital conquests to suicide. Although Elvira was sentenced to 5 months, Puccini intervened and paid compensation to the family as a settlement to free Elvira.
8. He was originally considered to be too risqué
Although Puccini’s opera was loved by many, it was considered to be too risqué at first. Several critics condemned many of his storylines for being salacious. For instance, Rodolfo and Mimi in La Boheme were involved in an affair. During that era, such things were considered taboo and were not spoken of, let alone performed on stage. Furthermore, opera houses were open to the entire family and such stories were too risqué for young audiences.
9. He preferred the country over the city
Puccini preferred to live in the country over the city. He was also an avid hunter, and the country provided the perfect stomping ground. It is also believed that he loved the country because it was easier to hide his affairs there compared to the city.
10. He loved technology
Aside from hunting and composing, Puccini also loved new inventions and modern technology. He was a connoisseur of motor cars and speedboats. He is believed to have maintained regular correspondence with his good friend and inventor Thomas Edison.