Giacomo Puccini was the only true successor to Giuseppe Verdi in Italian opera. His masterworks include Tosca, La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, La Rondine, Turandot, Manon Lescaut, and La Fancuilla Del West.
They remain among the most popular, well-recognised and often performed operas in the world, today. They were written in the verrismo style (where the drama and music is an integral marriage.)
Andrew Lloyd Webber was influenced by Puccini and some of the themes from La Fancuilla Del West are unmistakeable in his "Phantom of The Opera". He paid out an undisclosed sum to the Puccini's estate to ease any embarrassing claims of musical plaguerism.
A great lover of women, Puccini's heroines were always very feminine and always highly vulnerable. His last opera, Turandot left an incongruous contradiction- the slave girl Liu has all the qualities of the typical Puccini heroine, yet she suicides in the last act (at the very place where Puccini himself died of throat cancer) and the ice Princess Turandot sweeps on to a happy ending with the hero, the unknown Prince.
The ending of the opera was completed by a student of Puccini (Franco Alfano) but Puccini did not leave sufficient notes that indicated his final true intentions regarding the ending.
There is a myth surrounding the premiere that exists to this day. The great conductor Arturo Toscanini reportedly laid down his baton and said "this is where the pen fell from the hand of the master" and the nights peformance was brought to a close. While this is true- Toscanini did however pick up the baton again and completed the opera using the Alfano ending (which he personally disliked intensley).
In all opera houses around the world today- the two giants whose works are performed more than any other composer are Guiseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini.