A big broad man, with a frank open countenance, dark kindly eyes of a lazy lustrous depth, and a shy retiring manner. Such is Giacomo Puccini, who is operatically the man of the moment. It was behind the scenes during the autumn season of opera at Covent Garden in 1905 that I had the privilege of first meeting and talking with him, and about the last thing I could extract from him was anything about his music. While his reserve comes off like a mask when he is left to follow his own bent in conversation, one can readily understand why he adheres, and always has done, to his rule of never conducting his own works. One thing struck me as peculiarly characteristic about his nature and personality. The success of Madama Butterfly—for that was the work in progress on the stage as we passed out by way of the "wings" to the front of the house—was at the moment the talk of the town. Puccini was full, not of the success of his opera, but of the achievements of the artists who were interpreting it. "Isn't Madame So-and-so fine?" "Doesn't Signor So-and-so conduct admirably?" "Isn't it beautifully put on?" The composer was content and happy to sink into the background and think, in the triumph, of all he owed to those who were carrying out his ideas. He has a quiet sense of fun, too. "Let us step quietly," he said—as we came into the range of the scene that was being enacted—"like butterflies." I have called Puccini the operatic man of the moment. It is not difficult to account for his popularity. His whole-souled devotion to this one form of musical art, in which he has certainly achieved much, has by some been pointed to as defining his limits. Apart from a few early string quartets, which mean nothing more than the usual preliminary studies of a gifted student, Puccini has written absolutely nothing but operas since he started. In this respect his music has a certain well-defined natural characteristic that gives him—if it be necessary in these days to fit any particular composer into his own special niche—a distinct place in the history of the progress and development of the art and science of music making.