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Puccini was born in Lucca in Tuscany, Italy, into a family with a long history of music. Only five years old when his father died, the boy was then sent to study with his uncle Fortunato Magi, who considered him a poor and undisciplined student. Later, Puccini took the position of church organist and choir master, but it was not until he saw a performance of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida that he became inspired to be an opera composer. He and a friend walked a 18.5 miles (30 kilometers) to see the performance in Pisa. In 1880, Puccini traveled to the Conservatory of Music in Milan to begin his career by studying composition with Amilcare Ponchielli.
In 1880, at the age of 21, Puccini composed the Messa that marks the culmination of his family's long association with church music. Although Puccini himself correctly titled the work a Messa, referring to a setting of the full Catholic Mass, today the work is popularly known as his Messa di Gloria, a name that technically refers to a setting of only the first two prayers of the Mass, the Kyrie and the Gloria, omitting the Credo, the Sanctus, and the Agnus Dei. Puccini's work is, in fact, a Messa.
The work anticipates Puccini's career as an operatic composer by offering glimpses of the dramatic power that he would soon unleash on the stage; the powerful arias for tenor and bass soloists are certainly more operatic than is usual in church music. The Messa, in its orchestration and drama, exists on a par with Verdi's Requiem.
From 1880 to 1883 he studied at the Milan Conservatory under Amilcare Ponchielli and Antonio Bazzini. In 1882 Puccini entered a competition for a one-act opera. Although he did not win, Le Villi was later staged in 1884 at the Teatro dal Verme; it also caught the attention of Giulio Ricordi, head of G. Ricordi & Co. music publishers, who commissioned a second opera, Edgar (1889).
From 1891 on, Puccini passed more of his time at Torre del Lago, in the Tuscan countryside on the border of Lake Massaciuccoli. He hunted and found refuge from the crowded city. By 1900 he had acquired land and built a villa on the lake, now known as the Villa Museo Puccini and presently owned by his granddaughter Simonetta Puccini. He lived there until 1921 when he moved to Viareggio, a few kilometers north.
A habitual cigarette smoker, Puccini began to complain of chronic sore throats toward the end of 1923. After a diagnosis of throat cancer, he underwent a new and experimental treatment called radiation therapy, which was being offered in Brussels, Belgium. He and his wife never knew about the seriousness of the cancer, as the news was only revealed to his son. Puccini died there on November 29, 1924 from complications from the treatment. News of his death reached Rome during a performance of La Bohème. The opera was immediately stopped, and the orchestra played Frédéric Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B flat Minor Funeral March for the stunned audience.
He was buried in Milan, but in 1926 his son ordered the transfer of his father's remains to the chapel in his house at Torre del Lago where he still lies together with his wife and son.
His villa in Torre del Lago is now owned by his granddaughter, Simonetta Puccini, and is open to the public.
Giacomo Puccini. (2017, June 21). New World Encyclopedia, September 12, 2017 from http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/p/index.php?title=Giacomo_Puccini&oldid=1005244