By 1923, he was suffering from a debilitating throat ailment as he tried to work on what would be his last great opera. He was quite doubtful about the subject of his final piece before finally choosing the play Turandotte by the Venetian playwright Carlo Gozzi. Although he was seriously ill, Puccini worked hard on his Turandot which unfortunately, he would not be able to complete. He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 1924
Puccini was associated with a movement known as verismo (realism), which involved selecting subjects from everyday life and treating them in a down-to-earth fashion. His La Boheme (1896) and Tosca (1900) are his most famous operas in this tradition . Although verismo was a short-lived movement, some of the best-loved works on the operatic repertory were produced by other leading operatic composers, such as Mascagni and Leoncavallo, who followed the tenants of that movement.
Of all opera composers, it was Puccini who most needed an exciting libretto to stimulate him musically, and unfortunately for him there was only one subject that really excited him. That's why it was so difficult for him throughout his career to find suitable libretto material. As a result, Puccini's operas, which on the surface appear to stand as completely independent works, are actually very closely linked. Whether by design or by necessity, Puccini's works form what could arguably be called a cycle
Though Giacomo Puccini composed in other genres, his name is synonymous with opera. Many singers who helped to define an operatic era appeared and even debuted in Puccini’s operas. Among them were Enrico Caruso, Tito Schipa, and Emmy Destinn. Puccini also helped launch the career of Arturo Toscanini, one of the greatest conductors of the twentieth century, when Toscanini made his debut in the premiere of Puccini’s La Bohème.
Puccini wrote with equal skill and sensitivity for the orchestra, making every note and chord - every instrument - highlight the drama. The combined effect of music and song is pure theatrical magic. His talent as a master of orchestration, is shown especially in Intermezzo from Manon Lescault.
The first opera to reveal Puccini's true genius was 1896's La Boheme. The composer's imaginative treatment of character and situation, his sure instinct for dramatic and comic effects, and above all his radiant, supremely expressive musical portraiture have helped make La Boheme one of the world's most popular operas. [...] La Boheme straddles the divide between comedy and tragedy, and its music has a distinctively bittersweet quality. The score shows Puccini in the full flower of genius.
1893-1900: Puccini produces three major hits, which become cornerstones of the international repertory and place him, figuratively, at the head of the giovane scuola (the young school of composers, including Pietro Mascagni, Ruggiero Leoncavallo, Umberto Giordano and others). The operas are Manon Lescaut (1893), La bohème (1896), and Tosca (1900). With the profits, Puccini builds a villa in Torre del Lago on Lake Massaciuccoli, outside Lucca.
With his third opera, Manon Lescaut (Teatro Regio, Turin, February 1893), success and fame finally arrived. Puccini was 35. He settled in Torre del Lago with his wife Elvira and his son Antonio. Here on the banks of Lake Massaciuccoli, he wrote most of his operas: La Bohéme (Teatro Regio, Turin, February 1896), Tosca (Teatro Costanzi, Rome, January 1900), Madama Butterfly (Teatro Grande, Brescia, May 1904).
Because Puccini was so theatrical, critics and academics have always tried to deny him his proper place among serious composers. The public, however, feels differently, and Puccini remains one of operagoers’ favourites. Critics also point out that Puccini was more interested in his female characters – his heroines generally being a ‘soft, smiling girl driven by emotion rather than by thought.’
The work of [Puccini] of the human soul and great composer shows his very certain theatrical instinct, sumptuous melodic inventions and musical innovations; designed to portray real life situations in the most picturesque way. His operas have become masterworks of the greatest international opera houses and have made him the most popular composer of the early 20th century.
Puccini could hardly have wished for a better start then with his first opera Le Villi which was premiered in May 1884. Even the critics loved it, one journalist excitedly referring to Puccini as the "next Bizet or Massenet".