Edgar failed, which may have led to Puccini’s decision to write his own libretto for his next opera, Manon Lescaut. He said that “no fool of a librettist” would spoil it. Ricordi persuaded him to accept Leoncavallo as his librettist, but Puccini soon asked Ricordi to remove him from the project. Four other librettists were then involved with the opera, due mainly to Puccini constantly changing his mind about the structure of the piece. It was almost by accident that the final two, Illica and Giacosa, came together to complete the opera. They remained with Puccini for his next three operas and probably his greatest successes: La Bohème, Tosca and Madama Butterfly.
The world première of La Bohème took place in Turin in 1896 at Teatro Regio and was conducted by the young Arturo Toscanini. The initial audience response was subdued, and critical responses were polarized. Despite this, the opera quickly became popular throughout Italy.
Puccini collaborated with several librettists on his works, including Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. His most famous operas include: Manon Lescaut (1893), La Bohème (1896), Tosca (1900), Madama Butterfly (1904), La fanciulla del West (1810), Il Trittico—a collection of three one-act operas: Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi (1918) and Turandot (1926) – unfinished at the time of Puccini’s death and later completed by Franco Alfano, one of Puccini’s protégés.
Puccini was somewhat reclusive. He preferred his home in the country to hectic city life and enjoyed hunting and long walks through the countryside. He was a lifelong smoker, particularly of cigars, and in 1924 was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent surgery, which left him no longer able to speak. He died of a heart attack four days later in 1924 in Brussels.