Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) stood at the end of five generations of composers. A generous man who helped others when they needed a boost, he loved motorcars and boats for excitement but retreated to his beloved Tuscany's lakes to escape urban hubbub. Much to his jealous wife Elvira's distress, he had many paramours and confidantes. His sense of drama drove him to demand perfection from his librettists. With his third opera, Manon Lescaut, he established himself as a leading composer for the stage. Giulio Ricordi, scion of the music-publishing house, was impresario for productions of his operas, and Toscanini conducted most of their premiers.
Budden, president of the Centro Studi Giacomo Puccini in the composer's ancestral hometown, Lucca, Italy, looks closely at Puccini's music per se. He highlights events in the life but leaves out much in the way of conflict and incident, instead covering the operas' scenarios and music in detail. Because Puccini also wrote pieces for orchestra, band, piano, and chorus, Budden analyzes some of those as well. Puccini's operatic music embraces the use of leitmotifs and some of the harmonies that Wagner pioneered, and it demonstrates his ability to match dramatic and musical structures.