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Matthew Bouchard, MUS303: Music History 2
Faculty Mentor(s): Professor Carolyn Guzski, Music

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) spent the final five years of his life composing his final opera, Turandot (1926). Before tragically dying of a heart attack due to complications from his throat cancer, Puccini completed nearly the entire opera “up until the final scene. He left behind 23 pages of notes on his bedside table in a Brussels hospital, where he had been working up to the final moments of his life. What survived him was a gorgeous and exceptionally extensive “fragment” produced by an artist at the peak of his creative and intellectual form. The opera is based on the eighteenth-century play Turandot (1762) by Count Carlo Gozzi. No opera of the Italian tradition that preceded Puccini's Turandot attempted to forge such a strong integration of music and drama. Additional influences that helped create this masterpiece came from the East, most notably Asia. The story is set in China, and many Asian musical motifs are used throughout. Puccini takes full advantage of the pentatonic melodies foundational to traditional Asian music. I focus on the famous aria found in the third act: "Nessun Dorma," and how it has become so popular due to the stirring melody and beautiful harmonies that Puccini wrote. My analysis reveals why Puccini's final unfinished project was ahead of its time and stands apart from works by other composers of his era.

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Giacomo Puccini: Writing Until the Last Breath
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