Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini was born in Lucca, Italy, in 1858. His father died when he was five years old and Giacomo was sent to study piano with his uncle Fortunato Magi, who considered him to be a poor and undisciplined student and was later educated at the Milan Conservatoire under Ponchielli and Buzzini. Puccini subsequently took the position of church organist and choir master in Lucca, but it was not until he saw a performance of Verdi’s Aida that he became inspired to be an opera composer, starting with Le Villi. His real success began with the production of Manon Lescaut in 1893 and in all Puccini wrote twelve operas, although died before he could complete the last one, Turandot. With this SACD release, Australian soprano Cheryl Barker follows up her eloquent tribute to fellow Australian Joan Hammond Pure Diva with remastered recordings of some of Puccini’s most popular and emotional arias from Manon Lescaut, Tosca (Vissi d’arte), La bohème (three arias, including Si, mi chiamano Mimi) and Madama Butterfly - one of Barker’s favourite roles - as well as arias from Le Villi, Edgar, La rondine, Suor Angelica (O mio babbino caro), Gianni Schicci and Turandot. The arias are arranged in chronological order and Cheryl Barker also includes two delightful little known treasures, the folksong-like ‘E l’uccellino’, and ‘Sole e amore’, an 1888 song whose melody Puccini later re-used in La bohème. Barker’s eloquent, vibrant performances of this much-loved music are ably supported by Richard Bonynge and the excellent State Orchestra of Victoria.