The great composer Giacomo Puccini is widely-regarded as the most famous cultural figure to have originated from the city of Lucca. Probably best-known for being a leading exponent of operatic realism, Puccini was born on 22nd December, 1858. He was named as Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini and was the last in a long line of a musical family which had for centuries provided directorship of music at the Cathedral of San Martino in the city. The two composers Alfredo Catalani and Luigi Boccherini also come from Lucca, incidentally, but there is little doubt that Puccini’s fame exceeds theirs and that many visitors to the city are primarily interested in his works, which include La Bohème, of 1896, Tosca, of 1900, and Madama Butterfly, of 1904.
Puccini’s place of birth has been turned into the centre of a wider museum complex. Organised to pay homage to the great composer and lead to a deeper understanding of the man, the Puccini Museum is a must-see site for any visitor to Lucca. It affords the chance to discover Puccini’s personality and his genius for theatrical music. Situated in central Lucca, just a few metres to the west of the Basilica Church of San Michele in Foro, the museum is located on Corte San Lorenzo just off the delightful square, Piazza Cittadella. Following the composer’s death, in 1924 in Brussels, his family home passed to his son, Antonio. It was subsequently inherited by Antonio’s wife, Rita Dell’Anna, who, in 1974, donated the home so that it could be transformed into a museum. The Puccini Museum opened his doors in 1979.
Restoring the Museum
In 2004, the Fondazione Giacomo Puccini – the group which ran the museum – started a major restoration project which included fitting out the museum with new facilities and reinstating the original layout of the home’s rooms to give a sense of what it was like in Puccini’s time. This even meant recovering the wall decorations so that the entire visitor experience became more authentic. In 2011, the museum was reopened to the public in much the same way that it can be seen today.
Lucca and Puccini
Piazza Cittadella has not changed a great deal sine Pucinni’s childhood, other than a bronze statue in his image that has been erected. The little square is home to the Puccini Museum Bookshop, as well as the birthplace museum itself. Located on premises which formerly served as a passageway for carriages entering the Palazzo Mazzarosa, the bookshop is also the ticket office for the museum. Here, you can find musical scores, postcards, CDs and DVDs to buy – all dedicated to Puccini’s music.
Lucca’s connection with Puccini was strong, despite the fact that he was a well travelled man in later life. From 1880 to 1883, for example, Puccini attended the Milan Conservatory. In 1905 he travelled to Buenos Aires and London, for performances of his operas. Later, he also went to Budapest, New York, Paris and elsewhere. However, Puccini never really abandoned his roots no matter where in the world he happened to be.
Entering the museum, visitors immediately get a feel for the historic nature of the building from its entrance hall which leads on to the home’s music room. The itinerary of the museum leads visitors through various living quarters, such as the dining room and kitchen, to the room where Puccini was actually born. There are also other rooms which are named after some of his most famous operas, such as the Bohème attic and the Turandot room. At times, parts of the museum are given over to special exhibitions, such as those dedicated to other aspects of Lucca’s cultural life, so these are well worth checking out before visiting.