Descended from four generations of distinguished composers and organists, Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was driven by family tradition and an ambitious mother to pursue a career that brought him worldwide recognition as the greatest composer of Italian opera after Giuseppe Verdi. But behind the brilliant creator of such lasting works as La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, La Fanciulla del West, La Rondine, and Turandot, there was a person racked with indecision, self-doubt, bouts of depression, and private misfortunes.In this beautifully written work, Mary Jane Phillips-Matz brings to life both the man and his circle. Setting Puccini's intriguing story within the worlds of his beloved Tuscany and the cutthroat opera business, the author follows the composer from boyhood in his ancestral Lucca, to his struggling student years at the Milan Conservatory, to his early successes and failures, to the artistic triumphs that earned him international celebrity and considerable wealth.Filled with colorful details and anecdotes drawn from extensive primary sources as well as interviews with descendents, family friends, and colleagues, the book chronicles Puccini's personal sorrows and scandals, and recounts his stormy professional rivalries and associations in England, Europe, and the United States. Phillips-Matz also skillfully untangles the threads of the gifted artist's complex and contradictory character. She reveals a sophisticated composer who often drew upon exotic thematic material and an elegant cosmopolite who loved his several villas, expensive cars, boats, and fine clothes. Yet Puccini remained passionately wedded to the simple life of the Tuscan countryside of his youth.
About the Authors
Mary Jane Phillips-Matz is the author of Rosa Ponselle: American Diva, also published by Northeastern University Press, and the highly praised Verdi: A Biography, which won the Royal Philharmonic Prize, the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award, and the New York Governor's Award of Excellence. She served as manager of the Spoleto Festival for several years, and is a regular contributor to Opera News. She lives in New York City. William Weaver is Professor of Literature at Bard College. He is a music critic, author of several books on nineteenth-century Italian opera, and translator of many contemporary Italian writers of fiction. He won the National Book Award for his translation of Italo Calvino's Cosmicomics.
“Puccini, a well-researched and accessible study, will appeal to fans and scholars alike. The author provides a snapshot of a gifted composer who faced tremendous challenges on the personal and professional fronts. . . . Highly recommended.”—Opera Journal
Other Titles by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz
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