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 Search Beat > Arts > Music > Styles > Classical Music > Featured Composer > Giacomo Puccini


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A gripping sense of melodrama, a glorious facility with striking melodies, and the allure of his heroines have made Puccini (1858-1924) the composer for people who think they don't like opera. A popularizer? Perhaps--but his operas offer some of the most emotionally absorbing experiences in the repertory.
recommended recordings
Puccini: La Bohème / Beecham, Björling, De los Angeles, etc [ORIGINAL RECORDING REMASTERED]

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Sir Thomas Beecham
Performer: Jussi Björling, Fernando Corena, et al.
Ensemble: RCA Victor Chorus, RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #56236 / September 16, 1997

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Every so often in the recording industry, there's a miracle, and this is one of them. This 1956 recording was organized quickly in New York, not on the heels of a stage performance and not even with a noted orchestra. All the right singers were in town at the same time--some popping in to sing a few bars before heading for the airport--and the result is the single greatest recording of this oft-recorded opera. The leads--Victoria de Los Angeles and Jussi Björling--would make it special in...Read more


  Puccini: La Bohème / Serafin, Tebaldi, Bergonzi, Bastianini
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Tullio Serafin
Performer: Ettore Bastianini, Carlo Bergonzi, et al.
Ensemble: Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus, Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Uni/London Classics - #25534 / April 9, 1991

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This recording from the late 1950's is superb in every detail. Carlo Bergonzi was a tenor of immaculate quality, refined and romantically subtle. There are many singers who today could learn at the feet of this glorious tenor. Renata Tabaldi was one of most gloriously, full-voiced yet refined sopranos of her day. She was definitely a Diva of the first magnitude. Ettore Bastianini, as Marcello had such wonderfully rounded sounds from a rich baritone voice. Serafin conducts this opera with his accustomed devotion. Love oozes from every bar of the score, brought to life with engulfing affection by the master. Some make think his approach as 'schmultz' all I can say is long may that be the case. But, really it is devotion to romance that is probably the cause! When I first listened to this recording, on disc, some 30 years ago, I cried. It still has this power to do so today, and no other rendition of this opera has done so. None other are anywhere near to approaching the emotion as experienced in this recording , now dating over 40 years.

Callas Edition - Puccini: Tosca / De Sabata, Gobbi, et al
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Victor De Sabata
Performer: Franco Calabrese, Maria Callas, et al.
Ensemble: Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus, Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #56304 / August 19, 1997

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Little can be added to what's been written about this landmark recording, except that Walter Legge's 1953 mono production yields nothing to modern Tosca recordings for vivacity and theatrical impact--especially Maria Callas's. The miraculous Victor de Sabata conjures up a vibrant, inspiring orchestral canvas that enables Callas and her stellar cohorts to work their magic. Tito Gobbi and Callas spur each other on to heights in which the characters take over from the singers in the listener's...Read more


  Puccini: Madama Butterfly / Serafin, Tebaldi, Bergonzi et al
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Tullio Serafin
Performer: Carlo Bergonzi, Virgilio Carbonari, et al.
Ensemble: Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Chorus, Santa Cecilia Academy Rome Orchestra
Uni/London Classics - #452594 / March 9, 1999

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This is Tebaldi's BEST recording and also one of the best recordings of this Opera.It is true that she does not have the soprano voice ideal for the 15-year old Cio-Cio-San but there is no other Soprano that has sung or performed this role like Renata Tebaldi. I first heard "Un bel di" sang by M.Freni,a famous Butterlfy but it wasn't until I heard Tebaldi singing this aria that I realised it's beauty.(Freni is constantly being suffocated by the orchestra).Strength combined with sweetness produce deeply moving moments and everyone knows that Puccini is all about emotions.This is why I love Tebaldi's Butterlfy.She has always sung Puccini like no other soprano ever has. In this edition the rest of the cast is also SUPREME.The ideal lyric tenor Bergonzi,always matches perfectly with Renata and of course Cossotto and the others complete this beautiful cast.


Puccini: Il Trittico / Pappano, Alagna, Gheorghiu, Shicoff, Van Dam, et al
Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: Antonio Pappano
Performer: Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, et al.
Ensemble: London Symphony Orchestra, London Voices, et al.
Emd/Emi Classics - #56587 / April 6, 1999

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Aficionados are familiar with Puccini's Il Trittico or "Triptych," his three one-act operas that premiered at New York's Metropolitan in 1918; everyday opera lovers should know them as well. Here is Puccini at his most imaginative: Il Tabarro, a shocker about the jealousy of an older man towards his deceitful younger wife on a houseboat on the Seine is dark and foreboding, and is, incidentally, probably his greatest, tightest opera. It is given a superb performance here, with Maria Guleghina and...Read more


Puccini: Turandot / Molinari-Pradelli, Nilsson, Corelli

Composer: Giacomo Puccini
Conductor: F. Molinari-Pradelli
Performer: Franco Corelli, Ida Farina, et al.
Ensemble: Rome Opera House Chorus, Rome Opera House Orchestra
Emd/Emi Classics - #69327 / June 1, 1988

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Birgit Nilsson is probably the best Turandot ever. It seems like the role was made for her. Here, her cold, steely timbre, which can sometimes be a bit unpleasant in Wagner's operas, perfectly suits the icy Chinese princess. Her loud, high notes are thrilling, and she portrays the character very effectively. Corelli also fits his role of Calˆf hand in glove. His enormous, even, gorgeous voice is heard to huge advantage in this opera, and his "Nessun' dorma" makes Pavarotti's sound pathetic. Needless to say, Nilsson and Corelli blend fantastically in the climaxing duet (though it is rather obvious that they are singing against rather than with each other). Renata Scotto is great as Liû - her voice is in its prime here, before it developed its ugly wobble. Giaiotti does not have a very pleasant voice for Timur, but he does OK. Molinari-Pradelli is not quite in Mehta's league on the much more famous London set, but he's more than adequate. Anyone seeking the definitive recording of "Turandot" need seek no further.

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