Arturo Toscanini

A Composer So Well-Loved, They Played His Own Music At His Funeral

When beloved Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi died in 1901, the country mourned and an estimated 300,000 thousand attended his funeral. As part of the ceremony, the great Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini lead an orchestra and 830 singers through Verdi’s greatest hits.

Playbill for the world premiere of Turandot
La Scala, Milan, 25 April 1926
Milan: Montorfano & Valcarenghi, 1926
101.6 x 73.7 cm
James Fuld Collection

Puccini began work on Turandot in 1920 and had completed all but the final duet between Calaf and the princess when he left for Brussels early in November 1924 for radium treatments for throat cancer. Though he brought his sketches for the final scene with him, he died of cardiac arrest on the 29th, leaving the work unfinished. Using Puccini’s sketches, composer Franco Alfano devised an ending in time for the premiere. Toscanini, however, who was conducting, put down his baton where Puccini’s music ended, saying, “Here the opera ends because at this point the Maestro died."


Toscanini FORZA Overture

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957), one of the most acclaimed conductors of the 19th and 20th century, and the Wagner expert of his time. He also was a dissident against the fascist regime of Mussolini (“If I were capable of killing a man, I would kill Mussolini.”) in Italy and he boycotted the Nazi misuse of Wagner and Bayreuth. 

Giacomo Puccini with Arturo Toscanini. On this day, November the 29th, 1924 Puccini died of cancer in a Brussels Hospital. He left unfinished the opera Turandot, which was completed in 1926 by Franco Alfano. Turandot was premiered at La Scala, Milan, in 1926, but the conductor, Toscanini, stopped the music at Puccini’s last written note.