Torre del Lago Puccini, home of the Puccini Festival, is situated 4 kilometres from the magnificent beaches of Viareggio on the Tuscan Riviera, and 18 kilometres from the ancient city of Lucca . The Festival welcomes about 40,000 spectators every year to its open-air theatre, just a stone's throw from the Villa Puccini, where the composer lived, worked and is buried.
The Puccini Festival at Torre del Lago was created in 1930, in accordance with the Maestro's wishes. Giovacchino Forzano, the librettist and first stage director for Turandot, loved to remember what Puccini had told him before leaving for the Brussels clinic, where he died shortly afterwards. "I always go out walking in front of my house, and then in my boat I go hunting snipes...But once I would like to go out and listen to an opera of mine in the open air..." The first Puccini opera performed at Torre del Lago was La Bohème, organized in 1930 by Forzano and Pietro Mascagni. In his student days, Mascagni had shared bohemian lodgings with Puccini in Milan. Mascagni, himself a composer, musician and director, went on to write several operas, of which Cavalleria Rusticana is the best known. Forzano was also the author of the librettos of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, as well as being a highly successful theatre and film director. The staging of La Bohème, conducted by Mascagni on an open-air stage in front of the Villa Puccini in the summer of 1930 marked the inauguration of the Carro di Tespi Lirico, a state-sponsored travelling opera company, destined over the following years to take quality opera to every corner of Italy.
The company returned to Torre del Lago in 1931 with Madama Butterfly and La Bohème. During the remainder of the '30's, only one season was presented, in 1937, featuring last century's arguably most famous Puccinian heroine, Licia Albanese. 1949 saw the presentation of a production from Rome of La Fanciulla del West. In the post-war years, the Puccini Festival grew increasingly important, and in 1966, transferred to the site of the present theatre, conceived to seat 4,000 spectators. Since 1971, the Puccini Festival has continued without interruption, and throughout its history, has presented the greatest operatic artists of the 20th century.
2004 saw the commencement of construction of a new outdoor theatre, situated next to the existing theatre. The new theatre will improve the points of public access, the backstage facilities, and will embrace state-of-the-art technology to upgrade the acoustics, always challenging in an outdoor environment. The plans also include a second, enclosed auditorium to seat 600, and a museum to house and display many of the Maestro's personal belongings, original scores, notes, and letters, as well as an art collection built from work that commemorates the great composer.
For its 51st edition in Summer 2005 the Puccini Festival opened with La Fanciulla del West in a very new staging designed by U.S. painter Nall, who created also the costumes. On stage Daniela Dessì, Fabio Armiliato and Lucio Gallo, director Ivan Stefanutti;
the romantic Bohème created by Jean-Michel Folon;
the oniric Turandot by Pietro Cascella; Madama Butterfly, fruit of the cooperation between Festival Puccini and Seoul International Opera Theatre.
The 2006 Puccini Festival proposed a very interesting programme which from June to October 2006 offered our audience seven unmissable appointments with Maestro Puccini’s music. Within the events implemented in cooperation with the National Committee for 2004-2008 Puccini Celebrations, on June 18th an extraordinary opera concert of La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Maestro Niksa Bareza will be held as Puccini Festival’s avant premiere in the great open-air theatre of Torre del Lago.
On July 21st 2006 the 52nd edition of Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago presented by the new staging of Tosca within Sculpting the Opera project sets and costumes by Igor Mitoraj, director Mario Corradi, with Norma Fantini, conducted by Maestro Alberto Veronesi. Then on schedule two very successful productions by Puccini Festival, Turandot (sets by Pietro Cascella, costumes by Cordelia von den Steinen, director Daniele De Plano) and the charming La Bohème directed by Maurizio Scaparro with sets by the unforgettable poet and friend Jean Michel Folon, who died a few months ago and to whom a special tribute will be dedicated.
2006 Puccini Festival will be remembered for this unusual tribute to Japanese culture and music. In addition to the special international co-production between Fondazione Festival Pucciniano and Sakai City Opera, on stage on August 17th and 20th, with great Italian and Japanese artists, a staging of the Puccini’s masterpiece by which the Japanese director Kuriyama has presented styles and environments of the Farthest East country.
On August 3rd and 9th for the first time in Europe Puccini Festival presented Junior Butterfly. The heart-rending story of Madama Butterfly comes back to life in the opera Junior Butterfly by Japanese composer Shigeaki Saegusa on the libretto by Masahiko Shimada. It tells the story of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton’s son with the background of Nagasaki nuclear tragedy in 1945.