Giacomo Puccini – Composer

puccini3_top100Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (22 December 1858 – 29 November 1924) was an Italian composer whose operas are among the important operas played as standards. Puccini has been called “the greatest composer of Italian opera after Verdi“. While his early work was rooted in traditional late-19th-century romantic Italian opera, he successfully developed his work in the realistic verismo style, of which he became one of the leading exponents.Most broadly, Puccini wrote in the style of the late-Romantic period of classical music. Music historians also refer to Puccini as a component of the Giovane scuola (“young school”).

puccini2_top100The Giovane scuola is a cohort of composers who came onto the Italian operatic scene as Verdi‘s career came to an end, such as Mascagni, Leoncavallo, and others mentioned below. Puccini is also frequently referred to as a verismo composer. Puccini’s career extended from the end of the Romantic period into the modern period. He consciously attempted to ‘update’ his style to keep pace with new trends, but did not attempt to fully adopt a modern style. One critic, Anthony Davis has stated: “Loyalty toward nineteenth-century Italian-opera traditions and, more generally, toward the musical language of his Tuscan heritage is one of the clearest features of Puccini’s music.”

Davis also identifies, however, a “stylistic pluralism” in Puccini’s work, including influences from “the German symphonic tradition, French harmonic and orchestrational traditions, and, to a lesser extent, aspects of Wagnerian chromaticism.” In addition, Puccini frequently sought to introduce music or sounds from outside sources into his operas, such as his use of Chinese folk melodies in Turandot. All of Puccini’s operas have at least one set piece for a lead singer that is separate enough from its surroundings that it can be treated as a distinct aria, and most of his works have several of these. At the same time, Puccini’s work continued the trend away from operas constructed from a series of set pieces, and instead used a more “through-composed” or integrated construction. His works are strongly melodic. In orchestration, Puccini frequently doubled the vocal line in unison or at octaves in order to emphasize and strengthen the melodic line.

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