Born: 22 December 1858, Lucca, Italy
Died: 29 November 1924, Brussels, Belgium
Puccini is, according to OperaBase, the second most popular opera composer in the world after Verdi. Many of his arias are known to people who have never stepped foot in an opera house. (“Nessun dorma”, for instance, is the unofficial football anthem.)
Three of the five most performed operas are his: La bohème, about young love among poor Parisian students; Madama Butterfly, an East-meets-West tragedy about a geisha abandoned by her American husband; and Tosca, a tense crime drama (or “shoddy little shocker”) about an opera singer pursued by a corrupt police chief.