Puccini’s best opera?

While listening to the Met’s Tosca with Sondra Radvanovsky and Roberto Alagna tonight, and after hearing La Fanciulla del West driving home from Wilkes-Barre Saturday, I was wondering which of Puccini’s works was considered his best–critically speaking.  Which might be a different choice than your favorite, if you catch my drift.

What do you think? Which is Puccini’s best opera?

Pick one:
Le Villi (The Willis or The Fairies)
Manon Lescaut
La Bohème
Madama Butterfly (Madame Butterfly)
La Fanciulla del West (The Girl of the Golden West)
La Rondine (The Swallow)
Il Trittico (The Triptych) – Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica, Gianni Schicchi

List your choice in the comments section. (Thanks to FanPop for all the retro thumbnails.)


Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera, Classical Composers

27 Responses to Puccini’s best opera?

  1. Well I love Puccini, here is my Top 5 1Madame Butterfly 2Tosca 3Manon Lescaut 4Turandot 5La Boheme!

  2. Alfred Schreier

    As a die-hard Puccini fan, I am most impressed and awed by his ability to mix two opposing themes into one melody. An example is the Te Deum in Tosca, the quartet in act III of LaBoheme etc. Also his ability to abruptly change the situation and atmosphere as in act IV of La Boheme when Musetta interrupts the antics of the Bohemians. Everything else about Puccini is equally superb. I am not a musician, just enjoy good music

  3. Gareth

    I think Turandot used to be my favourite, followed by Tosca, Bohème and Madama Butterfly. I also liked the parts of Manon Lescaut and Il Trittico I’ve heard (especially Gianni Schicchi). I hadn’t heard La Rondine until recently, but thought it was really nice. Haven’t heard Le Villi or Edgar. But after I heard La Fanciulla del West, I fell in love with it and it became my favourite. I especially love the recoding with Renata Tebaldi and Mario del Monaco. I don’t know why, but Fanciulla is really underappreciated and relatively unperformed yet I think it’s a masterpiece. Some of Puccini’s best harmonies and orchestration are found there.

    • Gale

      I think I need to list to Fanciulla more. I’m still (too?) enamored with Butterfly and Tosca. Thanks for stopping.

  4. For me the most beautiful piece of music ever written is the love duet from act 1 of MADAME BUTTERFLY. The first time i ever heard it was in a film called “Tonight We Sing” and i was about 15 and i became a Puccini fan from then on.
    My favourite complete opera is La Boheme

  5. Chris

    I honestly never thought any Puccini opera could displace Turandot as my favorite but then I finally heard La Fanciulla del West and I knew Turnadot had some real competition.

    I will always love Turandot, but the unthinkable happened … Fanciulla has become my favorite. I decided to listen to all 12 of Puccini’s operas this past month … I highly recommend that to all Puccini fans.

    Anyway, here’s my top three: 1) Fanciulla; 2) Turandot and 3) Il Tabarro. My least favorite was Le Villi, but I still enjoyed it. Edgar was much better than I thought it would be.

    I also discovered a new favorite aria: Ma come puoi lasciami, which is the very ending of La Rondine … absolutely heartbreaking.

  6. Chris Zobin

    Ultimately, we all know that this is very subjective. But for sheer brilliance and complexity there is nothing comparable to Turandot. And when you consider that the maestro died while composing the most devastating piece (the Death of Liu in the final act) … which, in essence, becomes his defacto requiem … I just don’t think any other opera of his can match that kind of personal heartbreak. The pain he felt, not being able to finish this opera is unimaginable and fits so perfectly with Liu’s story. Puccini’s music is an absolute gift to humanity and he saved his best for last like any great artist would. Let’s all give the master his proper respect and accept, willingly and completely, that his final opera is his masterpiece.

  7. Annasopranna

    Though I think all of his works are wonderful, for me the best of Puccini is TOSCA- the orchestration is fabulous, the gritty reality of human passion is hard to match. The Te Deum scene is among the most compelling scenes in all opera.
    My next choice is TURANDOT.

  8. An exhilarating outpouring of opinion and expertise–everyone.

    Lucy, grazie mille for that link to the Berio ending! I think I’ll put that out as its own post tomorrow.

  9. I think I have to be predictable and say Tosca, as there are so many things to love about it. Scarpia is (maybe perversely) one of my favourite characters in any opera, and his Te Deum and then the whole of Act II really do it for me. Obviously, The Callas/Gobbi combination is legendary, but I think Terfel’s Scarpia is now getting definitive. He’s amazing in the role.
    I also have a soft spot for Fanciulla and Manon- especially where Domingo is involved. Ch’ella mi creda is such a perfect aria….. so hard to choose!

  10. For the music — La Butterfly. For the drama — Manon. For its history — Turandot; I wish I could hear Berio’s ending.

  11. amzenon

    Tosca is the best for me.
    Great drama and great music.
    And Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi.

  12. La Bohème for structure and coherence, to my mind: capturing different moods while holding the drama together. For thrilling musical and dramatic complexity and experimentation: Fanciulla. …And that being said, Tosca is my favorite (yes yes yes to what Ruthann says about the Callas/di Stefano/Gobbi recording.)

  13. Bill Styles

    Love them all, but my pick is “La Fanciulla.”

  14. Ruthann Turekian Drewitz

    Tosca! Love them all but Tosca is in my mind the best. With Callas and Gobbi – the ultimate!

  15. La Toya, I haven’t yet seen Turandot. This year, I hope.
    Well, Thania, I think you’ve hit on part of the challenge in answering this question, that you like certain parts of many operas with Puccini. I’m finding that myself. It doesn’t happen with, say, films. One doesn’t say, “Oh I liked the rising action of XYZ film, but I prefer the climax of another.” But you’ve really nailed it. Because of the way they are structured, the more familiar you are with operas, the more you look at them in pieces.

  16. thania

    PS: I meant Madame butterfly Atto II ….

  17. thania

    Since I dont know very well, Le villi, Edgar, La rodine and Il Trittico, I tell you about the rest!
    Turandot all, La boheme Atto I, Manon Lescaut Atto IV, Tosca Atto II, Madame butterfly Atto III,
    Hi hi hi, what a popurrí ……., Sorry cant decide ☻ ♪ ♪♪

  18. lah

    Ah, I dunno. Now that you’ve listed them all like that I don’t which one is his BEST. My favorite is Turandot, so I guess that’s the best one haha.