Puccini, Giacomo (jäˈkōmō pōt-chēˈnē) [key], 1858–1924, Italian composer of operas. He wrote some of the most popular works in the opera repertory. A descendant of a long line of musicians, he studied piano and organ at his Tuscan birthplace, Lucca, and in 1880 entered the Milan Conservatory. He first gained recognition with a one-act opera, Le Villi (1884). His finest operas, Manon Lescaut (1893), La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), and Turandot (produced posthumously in 1926), display his characteristically lyric style and masterful orchestration, evoking strongly dramatic emotional effects. Although the characters in his operas are rather generalized, romantic figures, they come alive through expressive melody. A penchant for exotic settings produced some incongruities in his music, as in La Fanciulla del West ( The Girl of the Golden West, 1910), and some of his works have been criticized for excessive sentimentality. Wit and dramatic vivacity, however, mark his comic opera Gianni Schicchi (1918), and Puccini has remained, with Verdi, a preeminent master of the Italian operatic stage.
See his letters, ed. by G. Adami (tr. 1931, repr. 1973); biographies by V. Seligman (1938), M. Carner (1959), R. Specht (tr. 1933, repr. 1970), and M. J. Phillips-Matz (2002); critical biography by J. Budden (2002); studies by W. Ashbrook (1985) and W. Berger (2005).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.