22 Dec 2010

Composer of the week – Giacomo Puccini

Happy Birthday to Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini who was born today in 1858. (Puccini might also win an award for the longest name: Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini.)

Puccini was born into a great musical family, and he started his career as an organist and chorus master. Puccini found his calling as an opera composer in his late teenage years when he and his brother are said to have walked 30 kilometers to see the performance.

Puccini’s operas are some of the most frequently performed in opera repertoire. In fact, four of the top ten produced operas in America in 2010 are by Puccini. What makes his operas so popular? Exciting stories, beautiful melodies, and using the texture and color of the orchestra to set the mood.

Here are two of his most popular arias:

“Nessun dorma” from his last opera, Turandot. (performed by Jussi Björling)

“O mio babbino caro” from his short comedy, Gianni Schicchi.