Giacomo Puccini

Submitted by admin on 2 Nov 2014

Giacomo Puccini, composer of some of the world's favourite operas, was born in the city of Lucca in 1858 and lived almost all of his life in this part of Tuscany. Born into an established musical family in Lucca, four generations before him had held the position of Maestro di Cappella  at the Cattedrale di San  Martino and, as a young boy, Giacomo too was involved in the cathedral choir and later as an organist.

He studied music formally in Lucca and then went on to study at the Milan Conservatory.  By his mid twenties he was already writing operas which were being performed in La Scala and Teatro dal Verme in Milan but perhaps his first real critical and popular success was Manon Lescaut, premiered in Turin in 1893.

He went on to write some of the best-loved and most frequently peformed operas of today - La Bohème in 1896, Tosca in 1900 and Madama Butterfly in 1904.  Puccini died in 1924 leaving his final opera Turandot unfinished.

His personal life was complicated. He started an affair with a married woman named Elvira Gemignani and she bore their son Antonio. Some 18 years elapsed before the husband of Elvira was killed by a love rival, which finally meant they were free to marry and legitimise their son. However their own marriage was troubled by infidelity as Puccini himself had frequent affairs, often with well-known singers of the era.

The house where Puccini was born is in Corte San Lorenzo in the heart of Lucca and today houses a small museum displaying costumes, working scores and many of his private letters. In his mid 30s he built a villa out at Torre del Lago on the shores of Lake Massaciuccoli, then a tranquil spot which offered him peace and isolation. This too is now a museum which houses, amongst other things, the piano on which these famous works were composed.  

But also at Torre del Lago nowadays is a modern 3,400 seater open-air amphitheatre which is home to the annual Puccini festival, which happens every July and August. Other cultural events are also staged during the summer months ranging from book presentations to piano recitals. 

Our new tour which will run in May next year starts in the beautiful city of Lucca and on one of the evenings there we hear a performance of Puccini arias in the church of San Giovanni. Anyone extending their trip before or after the tour might like to spend a day discovering more of Puccini and his connection to the area: Lucca and Torre del Lago are both, after all, only a 40 minute drive from Pisa where are hike starts and finishes. We have just two spaces left on this 2015 departure ....