Drama, variety, pure life – these are the operas of Giacomo Puccini. The Italian composer created a total of 12 stage works in his lifetime. That is comparatively few: Mozart wrote 22, even Wagner, known as a slow worker, wrote 15 (some of monumental length).
BUT: Puccini’s “hit rate” is enormous. Of his 12 operas, at least 5 are absolute world hits (Manon Lescaut, La Bohème, Tosca, Madama Butterfly, Turandot). Tosca is one of the most performed operas year after year.
All 12 Puccini operas are listed below. Further below you will find brief summaries of the plots in one sentence each.
|Title||Period of Creation||World Premiere (Date and Place)||Beginner friendliness 0-100 (more on this below)|
|Le Villi||1884||31 May 1884 in Milan||40 |
|Edgar||1889||21 April 1889 in Milan||50|
|Manon Lescaut||1893||1 February 1893 in Turin||70|
|La Bohème||1896||1 February 1896 in Turin||90|
|Tosca||1900||14 January 1900 in Rome||80|
|Madama Butterfly||1904||17 February 1904 in Milan||85|
|La Fanciulla del West||1910||10 December 1910 in New York||75|
|La Rondine||1917||27 March 1917 in Monte Carlo||65|
|Il Tabarro (Part 1 of Il Trittico)||1918||14 December 1918 in New York||60|
|Suor Angelica (Part 2 of Il Trittico)||1918||14 December 1918 in New York||55|
|Gianni Schicchi (Part 3 of Il Trittico)||1918||14 December 1918 in New York||95|
|Turandot (unfinished)||1926||25 April 1926 in Milan||100|
Puccini's Operas in 1 Sentence Each
Get to know all of Puccini’s operas at a fast pace – with plot summaries in 1 sentence each!
Additionally, for each opera I indicate how beginner-friendly I think it is. Of course this is subjective, but maybe it will give you some orientation: 0 stands for not at all beginner-friendly, 100 for very beginner-friendly.
A jilted lover dies from a curse placed on him by the spirits of his former lovers.
Beginner friendliness: 40/100. Straightforward plot, but little known.
A knight must choose between a pious peasant woman and a seductive countess who drives him to war.
Beginner friendliness: 50/100. Dramatic music, but the plot is complex.
A beautiful young woman is kidnapped by a rich man and sent into exile, where she dies in the arms of her lover.
Beginner friendliness: 70/100. Passionate love story with a tragic ending.
Four poor artists experience love and suffering in 19th century Paris, where a seamstress suffering from tuberculosis sacrifices her life to save her lover.
Beginner friendliness: 90/100. Much-played, very popular work, although (or precisely because?!) it is soooooo sad.
An unscrupulous police chief takes advantage of the jealousy of a famous opera singer, who throws herself to death out of desperation.
Beginner friendliness: 80/100. Suspenseful – an opera that perhaps should be given the label “adults only” 😉
A Japanese geisha waits in vain for the return of her American husband, who has left her with a child.
Beginner friendliness: 85/100. Heartbreaking clash of cultures.
La Fanciulla del West
A plucky saloon owner falls in love with a wanted outlaw whom she saves from the gallows.
Beginner friendliness: 75/100. Unusually adventurous theme.
A rich courtesan gives up her love for a naive student to protect him from social ridicule.
Beginner friendliness: 65/100. Charming, breezy, light – though rather unoriginal.
Il Tabarro (Il Trittico 1)
A jealous barge owner murders his unhappy wife’s lover aboard his ship.
Beginner friendliness: 60/100. Short and gritty – AND brutal 😊
Suor Angelica (Il Trittico 2)
A nun learns of the death of her illegitimate child after seven years in the convent and takes her own life to see her again in heaven.
Beginner friendliness: 55/100. Religious subject, incredibly touching, but also a bit depressing.
Gianni Schicchi (Il Trittico 3)
A greedy family tries to scam the inheritance of a rich relative by hiring a clever con man to impersonate the deceased.
Beginner friendliness: 95/100. Fun, entertaining and satirical opera.
A cruel princess poses deadly riddles to her suitors until a brave prince captures her heart.
Beginner friendliness: 100/100. Spectacular and fabulous work, with the only flaw that it remained unfinished.