Superstars: Verdi and Puccini

Giuseppe Verdi, photograph by Pietro Tempestini, 1899
Giacomo Puccini on the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, 1910
Giuseppe Verdi and Francesco Tamagno, who created the role of Otello, photograph by Pietro Tempestini, 1899
Giacomo Puccini with his wife Elvira and the son Antonio, in the garden of his villa at Torre del Lago villa, early 20th century
Letter from Giacomo Puccini to Tito II Ricordi, 19 January 1907
Tosca by Giacomo Puccini, cover of the libretto for the world premiere, 1900
La bohème by Giacomo Puccini, autograph score, 1896
Special issue of the periodical Illustrazione Italiana, dedicated to the premiere of Otello by Giuseppe Verdi, 1887

While Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti (with Verdi and Puccini "The Big Five" of Italian opera) are initially the most important composers in Ricordi’s portfolio, alongside such then-popular authors as Vaccaj and Mercadante, Giuseppe Verdi’s entry into the opera world opens a new chapter in the history of opera and of the publisher, starting in 1839. The “Verdi era” extends beyond the time of Giovanni and Tito I up through the time of Giulio Ricordi, and is undoubtedly the most important part of the publishing company’s history. The archive has autographs of 23 out of his 28 operas, libretti, letters, the costume and set designs of numerous premieres, and an almost complete documentation of signed contracts.

Ricordi’s archives contain autograph scores of all of Puccini's works (except for La Rondine) as well as documents relating to the staging of the world premieres: drawings, sketches, lists of tools and props, printed and manuscript libretti, posters and photographs, in addition to a priceless collection of Puccini’s letters to the Ricordi directors.

For both composers, Ricordi's role extends far beyond that of a publisher. Especially publisher-impressario and mastermind Giulio Ricordi, director from 1888 onwards and “kingmaker” of the Italian music scene of the time, was known for selflessly caring for his authors once he had made up his mind about someone. He promoted the aging Verdi alongside young Giacomo Puccini, whose rise to world fame he significantly precipitated and shaped, and was thus not only publisher, but manager and friend to both his superstars.