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Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Fettucini Alfredo Tiffany "Jackie the Pooch" "Danger" Puccini (22 December 1858 – 29 November 1924) was born to a mafia family in Lucca, Italy. He did not want to grow up to be a mobster, so as soon as he was old enough to go to college, he decided pursue the most unrelated subject he could think of - music composition. His family background still shows through in his work, however, in that he kills off a soprano in each of his operas.
Puccini grew up in an environment full of false identities, cheating lovers, wasting illnesses, and, above all, cold-blooded killings. While this was no picnic in the park for the scrawny young lad (no matter how much his mother tried to feed him), it had a profound influence on his musical career.
When he first left home for music school at the age of 20, Puccini was one of dozens of aspiring composers, and these numbers of rivals seemed only greater considering that they all had at least as many middle names as he did. Furthermore, the eminent opera composer Giuseppe Verdi had such a monopoly on Italian music that he was pretty much allowed to take anyone else's piece and put his name on it, no questions asked.
In 1884, Verdi announced a reality television show in which ten young aspiring composers competed to show their operatic composition and performing knowhow, in hopes of becoming hired as Verdi's successor. Puccini held on until the final round, but was upset by Arrigo Boito, on the basis that everyone knows about Mefistofele, but nobody has a clue what a "willis" is. However, later investigation by Verdi's agent Ricordi showed that Boito had, in fact, plagiarised the entire concept of his opera from Goethe's Faust, so Puccini got the gig.
Once things actually got going musically, though, it was clear that Puccini was the right choice overall. He was an instant success. Each of his operas was more popular than the last - each had a completely different story, was set in a different place, had a different musical style, and had a new and exciting way to kill off the lead singer. The audience could always expect a thrilling time, and Ricordi could always expect to be raking in the lire each time Puccini said he had a new one. Verdi was so jealous of this that he continued to attempt to appropriate Puccini's operas well after his death in 1901.
Puccini probably could have retired happily after his third or fourth opera, but he realised that he was improving with each opera as opposed to burning out, and this brilliant creativity was the perfect contrast to the darker shadow of his family history. That history caught up to him in 1924, though, when he was found dead in his studio, 23 pages away from completing his next opera; this hit was most likely related to the fact that Puccini allowed one earlier opera to slip by without any dead people.
Puccini was an opera composer. He did write some music that wasn't opera, but nobody ever listens to it, so he really shouldn't have bothered.
- Le villi - Puccini's first opera. He changed the original title because nobody knew what a "willis" was, but it turns out that nobody knows what a "villi" is either.
- Edgar - Boy leaves home and has magical adventures and finds girl. This opera is rarely performed because other operas with the same plot are performed too often.
- Manon Descartes - A beautiful Parisian girl falls in love with a famous French philosopher, but because he is already dead, she is deemed to be a necrophiliac for associating with her sweetheart and is exiled to New Orleans, where she dies of thirst in the desert. No, really. You can't make this shit up.
- La Boheme - Four broke artist types take in an equally broke and dying girl. The poet of the group falls in love with her, and the artist and the musician don't know whether to laugh at this undoubtedly doomed love affair, or to laugh at the philosopher, who is singing a love song to his winter coat. The four stay broke and the girl dies from a nasty bout of syphillis. How sad. A real weeper, but also sweat and funee.
- Tosca - The tragic tale of barrel organist Floria Tosca, who loves hopscotch champion Mario Cavaradossi, but is desired by the powerful NCAA hopscotch ref Scarpia instead. Scarpia benches Cavaradossi, Tosca brains him with her organ, the splatter from Scarpia's brain ends up giving Cavaradossi mad cow disease, and Tosca jumps off a building to avoid the stress. This opera was the only one of Puccini's works that was successfully appropriated for several decades by the dead Giuseppe Verdi.
- Madame Butterfly - An American soldier goes to Japan and marries an innocent young woman, who believes him to truly love her. She wait years for him to return for her, and bears his child. Butterfly is a disgrace to her family and still she waits. Finally, he returns, but brings with him his American wife. It turns out that the American only return to collect his child. Butterfly, too proud to admit her love for him, gives him her child, and commits suicide.
- La Fanciulla del West - This is seriously like every other Western ever made. The thing that makes this unique is hearing people try to say American names with a sung Italian accent. Comedy gold! This is the opera in which nobody dies, which Puccini realised was a mistake only after his own death[[.]]
- La Rondine - Cutesy fluffy comedy about how fashionable romantic love can be. This wasn't at all an escapist attempt to ignore World War I, noooo...
- Ill Trittico - Three one-act operas meant to comprise one full evening. The first, Il Tobacco, is about a cigarette company executive who kills his wife and her secret lover by smothering their lungs with nicotine and tar. The second, Sore Angelica, is about a lovesick nun moaning her way to a slow and inevitable death by food poisoning. The third, Johnny Skeekie, is about a clever peasant gravedigging a bunch of snooty jerks. Dave Barry's masterful origination of the role of corpse Buoso Donati made Skeekie the most instantly successful part of the tryptich, and it remains one of Puccini's most popular works.
- Polkadot - Set in mystical ancient Poland, a crazed man-hating princess demands that any prince who wishes to seek her hand must survive three different specific polka dances with her. If one wrong step is made, she reserves the right to cut off his head. One prince, whose name we conveniently forgot, manages to get through the dances, at which point Princess Polkadot has a hissy fit and wants to kill him anyway. He agrees that if she can tell him his name before dawn, she can kill him. He then bribes his blind father's slave girl to kill herself in front of Polkadot in order to distract her from thinking about the whole name thing. This is where Puccini died; it is possible that Polkadot herself was associated with the mob and wanted blood since she didn't get to decapitate the prince actually in the opera.