It could be said that his true passion lay not with music, but with technology. When the automobile was invented, it continued to exert a fascination over him for decades and he never tired of purchasing them. French, and later Italian models were the objects of his desire, from a 1901 5 hp De Dion Bouton to several Fiats and the speedy Lancias of the 1920s. And what does this have to do with his music? At the very least, the simple fact that he would never have been able to afford them all if he hadn’t been so successful as a composer. And the surprising thing is that he achieved this success with works that are set in difficult environments and with no lack of depressing storylines – from La Bohème to Madame Butterfly, Suor Angelika, Gianni Schicchi, and Turandot. But Puccini very skilfully places his extraordinary talent for theater and music at the service of situations invested with social criticism. In the middle of the hopeless atmosphere of Turandot, with its looming death sentence, a single “Nessun dorma” seems to suffice in order to guarantee the opera’s unbroken appeal for decades. In the middle of the dreadful, vile, and deceitful atmosphere of a convent and a story that ends with the protagonist committing suicide, a single “Senza mamma, o bimbo, tu sei morto” is all that is necessary. This is what is so amazing about Puccini: as merciless as the social criticism in some of his operas may be, his music touches the heart just as mercilessly.
© Christian Scheib, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • 1884: premiere of the opera Le Villi in Milan

  • 1889: premiere of the opera Edgar in Milan

  • During his studies in the early 1880s, initiates friendships with the composer, writer, and librettist Arrigo Boito and his flatmate Pietro Mascagni

  • 1893 premiere of the opera Manon Lescaut in Turin

  • 1896 Arturo Toscanini conducts the premiere of La Bohème in Turin

  • Despite his initial operatic successes, Puccini lives a relatively frugal lifestyle up until Manon Lescaut. Things change completely in the 1890s, however, and he rejects offers to serve as Director of the Istituto Musicale in Venice and teach composition in Milan

  • January 1900 premiere of Tosca in Rome.

  • Madame Butterfly is premiered in Milan in 1904

  • La fanciulla del West is premiered in 1910 in New York, La rondine in Monte Carlo in 1917, and Il trittico in 1918, once again in New York

  • The unfinished dramma lirico Turandot is first staged in Milan in 1926. The composer Luciano Berio later authors a completed version that is premiered in 2002 at the Salzburg Festival

Did you know?

  • Both his father and grandfather were professional musicians and composers. In 1875, at the age of eighteen, Puccini wins the “best organist” prize at a competition and works as an organist in a monastery three years later.

  • In 1885 Puccini meets Lucca Elvira Bonturi. He runs away with her – a married woman of high social standing – to Milan, and they have a son, Antonio, born in Monza in 1896. Twenty years would pass before Giacomo and Elvira finally get married.

  • 1891 visits the lake at Torre del Lago, later building a villa on its shores.

  • 1907 Puccini and his wife Elvira travel by steamship to New York, where they remain for two months. Recordings of both of their voices survive from their time in the U.S.

  • 1909 the housemaid Doria Manfredi kills herself, no longer able to bear the distress caused her by Elvira, who suspects an affair between her husband and the young girl. In this case her suspicions are unfounded, but Puccini does write to a friend that he is once again looking forward to a “vagina fresca.”

  • 1922 together with friends, Puccini and his wife Elvira undertake a trip across Europe in two cars, the Puccinis in a Lancia Trikappa that could reach the considerable speed of 130 kilometers per hour.

  • The cars purchased by Puccini between 1902 and 1924: De Dion-Bouton 4.5, Clément Bajard 1904, La Buire Double Phaeton, Lancia 18/24 HP Dialfa, Fiat Tipo 3 Ter, Fiat 501, Fiat 519, Lancia Trikappa, and Lancia Lambda Convertible.