Puccini 1858 - 1924 (66)
Giacomo Puccini (1858 -1924) was an Italian composer famous for his operas, most notably Bohème, Madame Butterfly and Tosca. He was born on December 22, 1858 in a family of musicians, in the city of Lucca in Tuscany. He was only six years old when he was orphaned by his father and at the age of 17, together with his friends, he walked 20 km from Lucca to Pisa to watch the opera Aida by Giuseppe Verdi. That night, he declared that he would become a famous opera composer. And he succeeded.
He was rejected the first time he took part in an opera competition, but he staged his own show which proved successful enough to attract the interest of the famous Ricordi publishing house in Milan. He signed a contract when he was still unknown and then as he wrote his operas, the publishing house's profits were huge for many years even after the composer's death.
While still living in Lucca, Puccini fell in love with a young woman who was giving her piano lessons. The girl was already married – to an old classmate of Puccini's – the two had an affair and she became pregnant. To escape the gossip they moved to Milan, where Puccini scored his first major success with the opera Manon Lescaut. For a quieter life, they left Milan and settled in the countryside.
At first they rented an old house, but around 1900 with the money he earned from the success of La Bohème he bought a large piece of land overlooking Lake Massaciucoli in the village of Torre del Lago near the Tuscan coast where he built a mansion, known locally as Villa Puccini, (today it functions as a museum, the composer, his wife and their son are buried there). In 1903 the three of them had a car accident on their way back from Lucca, the car ended up in a field and Puccini hit his leg; he was hospitalized for months and needed a cane to walk for the rest of his life.
Puccini's wife was very jealous, he often gave her reasons as he had many love affairs. Her jealousy came to a head in 1909 when she publicly attacked their young maid, accusing her of trying to seduce her husband. The girl drank disinfectant and killed herself, with the wife being sentenced to 5 months in prison for libel but she didn't go to jail as Puccini paid the girl's family. The composer stopped composing for a period but eventually the drama inspired him to write his last opera, Turandot, where in the climax of the aria Nessun Dorma, the young slave takes her own life.
Puccini died at the age of 65 in 1924 in Brussels of a heart attack while receiving treatment for laryngeal cancer, which had plagued him for the past few years, causing him to lose his voice.