Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) is perhaps the world's most popular composer of operas. Works such as La boheme and Madama Butterfly have a universal appeal and are an essential part of the repertoire of every major opera house. With Turandot, completed after his death, Puccini composed the last Italian work in the genre to hold a firm place in the international repertoire. Although he composed a handful of non-operatic works, his fame rests entirely on his operas, beginning with the gothic Le villi (1884) and reaching a peak of success with Boheme, Tosca and Butterfly. He is renowned above all for his gift as a melodist, but he was also a new force in musical drama, and possessed a tremendous sense of theatre. The author draws attention to the felicity, daring and extraordinary colouring of Puccini's music, and counters the view that he was a retrogressive who through his choice of harrowing subject matter aimed to shock. His effects may often have been described as 'calculated', but he wrote with an emotional tenderness and a powerful sense of theatricality for which he has not always been given full credit. His many relationships with women were an influence on his music and he was one of the greatest creators of operatic heroines, commemorating them in music that played directly on the heartstrings. The contradictions in Puccini's personality - that he was a man who revelled in the affluent lifestyle and worldly success his operas brought him, yet remained insecure about his creative powers - are fully explored in this biography which is a polemical, passionate and rational attempt to set the man from Lucca among the immortal greats.
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