Writing music was a family tradition for the Puccini's of Lucca and little Giacomo was the fifth in a line of composers, playing organ and writing masses for local churches at 14. It was Verdi's Aida that inspired him to follow his instinct for composing opera; he entered his first one-act opera in a competition while a student at the Milan Conservatory. It failed to win, but brought interest in a second, which led to Puccini's life long association with the publishing house of Ricordi.
The third time was a charm though, and Puccini found huge international success pairing with the librettist team of Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa for the 1893 production of Manon Lescaut. With the help of Illica and Giacosa, Puccini's widely-performed masterpiece La Bohem followed in 1896, and another work of consequence, Madam Butterfly, was produced in 1904. Late in life he developed throat cancer, leaving the masterful Turandot unfinished at his death in 1924. He died a widely celebrated Italian hero and has left a number of enduring operas that weave passion, pathos, despair, and sensuality with singular savvy.