In 1858, Giacomo Puccini was born in Lucca, the once independent republic in northwestern Tuscany. In the traditionally Catholic, bourgeois and elegant city surrounded by olive tree hills and a city wall, Puccini reinvents opera and its stories. The onset of industrialization and the working class that emerged in large numbers as a result upset the long-standing fabric of the burgeoning region. The young composer, with his romantic soul, feels closer to the people than to the merchants and pilgrims. In his operas “Tosca”, “Madam Butterfly” and “La Bohème”, the common people become the heroes of the respective stories. Their deep feelings in everyday life become epic through Puccini’s music.
The bourgeoisie and merchants were in the minority in the city of Lucca at the beginning of the 20th century, but very powerful and endowed with great property. The many beautiful facades of the city tell of this. The majority of the population, however, consisted of peasants who gradually participated in the emerging industrialization.
Puccini came from a family of church musicians. They were very respected, but led a modest life. Giacomo’s childhood and youth friends came from the common people and these people were then already the heroes of his first operas. Lucca – the city of 100 churches – lies on the Via Francigena. This is the pilgrimage route to Rome. A lot of church music has been heard here since ancient times and Puccini also earned his first money as an organist. Throughout his life, this music would accompany him and also appear in his operas. In TOSKA, the organ plays an important role as an accompanying instrument at the climax of the dramaturgy in the Te Deum.
Emotional outbursts and great passions run through Puccini’s entire oeuvre, and they also determine the composer’s life away from the opera stage. He spends much time with his mistress, who had scandalously broken their marriage, in the small village of Torre del Lago. There he writes MADAM BUTTERFLY and perhaps the endless lapping of the waves and the rustling of the wind in the reeds inspired him to write the hummed, tender chorus of Act 2.
Passion, betrayal, love, death – these are the things that touch people. And Puccini brought them to the stage with his unique and new kind of music.