Today we look at one of the Romantic period’s most influential composers of opera. He wrote classics such as Rigoletto, Nabucco, La Traviata and Aida. Giuseppe Verdi, born on this day in 1813
Born in Le Roncole, a tiny village near Busetto, his family moved to Busetto when Verdi was a child. This allowed him to access a better education due to the large library attached to the local Jesuit school. It was here in Busetto that Verdi also started receiving composition lessons. When he was 20, he moved to Milan to continue his studies, taking private lessons in counterpoint while attending opera performances and attending concerts of, specifically, German music.
His first opera, Oberto, performed at La Scala in 1839, achieved moderate success, enough so that the director of La Scala asked Verdi to write two more. Un giorno di regno was a flop, and Verdi was on the verge of giving up completely. But La Scala’s impresario, Bartolomeo Merelli, convinced him to complete Nabucco. It’s opening performance in 1842 made Verdi famous. In the decade following 1843, Verdi wrote 14 operas in total, including I Lombardi and Macbeth.
In 1851, Verdi created one of his greatest masterpieces, Rigoletto. This opera would see the creation of his original idea of music drama as a cocktail of heterogeneous elements, embodying cultural and social complexity, and beginning from a complex mix of comedy and tragedy. Following this opera would be two more large operas that would define Verdi’s middle period – Il Travotore and La Traviata, both premiered in 1853.
I leave you with 3 well known arias, and a complete performance. First, from Nabucco, “Va, Pensiero” (or Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves). Then from Rigoletto, “La Donna e mobile” and from La Traviata, “Libiamo Ne’ Lieti Calici”. We then have a complete performance of Verdi’s Requiem, performed by the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus.
What’s your favourite Verdi opera or aria? What operas of his have you seen? Any memorable performances? Let me know in the comments, or write a blog linking back here, and I’ll link to you below.