The life and legacy of composer Arturo Buzzi-Peccia form a sort of puzzling dichotomy: his songs are fairly popular today and have been widely performed and recorded for years, but relatively little is known about his life. Moreover, what has been written about him has not necessarily been accurate: even the year of his birth has been erroneously given as 1856 in certain reference works, and the pronunciation of his name (Bootsee-Petcha) has often been botched. But despite the obscurity that has surrounded his name over the years, his songs continue to thrive, with at least one achieving the kind of popularity better known composers envy: singers from the distant past like Enrico Caruso, Mario Lanza, and John McCormack regularly performed Buzzi-Peccia's mega-hit Lolita (Spanish Serenade), as have modern artists like Roberto Alagna and the Three Tenors, who sang it during one of their acclaimed broadcast concerts. Buzzi-Peccia produced a fairly large output of songs, operas, piano works, and other vocal compositions. He was also quite active as a vocal teacher.
Buzzi-Peccia was born in Italy on October 13, 1854. He was apparently educated in his homeland and by the 1890s was a prominent figure on the music scene. Indeed, Lolita was written in 1892 and was quickly gaining popularity. Buzzi-Peccia's opera Forza d'amore was sufficiently well-crafted to impress the managers at the Turin Royal Theater (Teatro Regio di Torino) to premiere it there on March 6, 1897, with an apparently reluctant Arturo Toscanini leading the proceedings.
In the early 1900s, Buzzi-Peccia relocated to the United States. Living in New York from at least 1906, he took on a range of prominent vocal students, including Alma Gluck and Dorothy Park Benjamin Caruso, wife of Enrico Caruso and a poet of some note.
Buzzi-Peccia made musical settings for several of her poems and, not surprisingly, Caruso was quite willing to perform them in concert. The iconic tenor had been familiar with Buzzi-Peccia's work even before he met his wife, and as early as 1908 Caruso recorded Lolita. Buzzi-Peccia continued to produce songs and others works during his American years, including the 1915 collection Four French Songs. Lolita remained his most popular work, but another song, "Mal d'amore," gained considerable currency from the popular 1933 film My Song Goes Round the World, wherein singer/actor Joseph Schmidt sang it to considerable acclaim. Buzzi-Peccia died in the United States on August 29, 1943.