Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi: The Swan from Busseto

Giuseppe Verdi

Born in the Duchy of Parma in Le Roncole, Verdi moved to Busseto in 1824 and began his musical career under the tutelage of Ferdinando Provesi. He composed an overture for Gioacchino Rossini's II Barbiere di Silviglia (The Barber of Seville,) after which he moved to Milan. But Verdi was not accepted at the conservatory there and so studied under Vincenzo Lavigna. After marrying Lavigna's daughter, who he loved deeply, and completing his studies, he accepted the position of municipal music director of Busseto in 1836.

Riccordi, the leading European musical director purchased Verdi's copyrights in 1838. This business continued for the rest of his life, passing through several generations of Riccordi's family. Verdi gave up his position of musical director in 1839, and returned to Milan to produce his opera, Oberto Contie di San Boniface. The opera opened on November 17, 1839 in Milan's La Scala. Even though production was modest, Verdi was contracted to further operatic works.

Verdi's first attempt at a comedy was Un Giorno de Regno, which was a failure. It was written shortly after his beloved wife and child died, and when Verdi was in deep mourning. It was a failure, but Verdi didn't give up hope.

Verdi's first great success was in 1842 with Nabucco, which was based on the ancient Jews' exile from their homeland. The story touched a chord in the composer's heart and served to inspire other great works, as well as to give Verdi a great yearning to see Italy united and freed from oppression.

On February 11, 1843, I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata premiered in Milan and was a great success. Ernani triumphed in Venice later the same year. In 1844, Attila and Giovanna d' Arco enforced Verdi's fame.

Verdi didn't find La Scala's reviews of his scripts sufficient and asked Ricordi not to allow any productions of his operas to take place in Milan. His operas, Attila, Alzira an McBeth premiered elsewhere in Italy. I Masndieri premiered in London, England.

Rigoletto was a success in 1851 in Venice and in 1853; Verdi again triumphed when II Trovatore premiered in Rome. However, La Traviata was a fiasco when critics condemned the subjects that depicted free love, rape and suicide, though the Italian public loved the opera.

By this time Verdi was a very wealthy man and he used a portion of his riches to buy and estate in Brusseto. He returned to the place where his music career began and helped to establish the Kingdom of Italy. He was elected to the position of Deputy in the first parliament of the new nation.

In 1862, La Forza del Destino premiered in St. Petersburg. Later in the year Don Carlos was presented in Paris. The following year, Aida was performed at La Scala to a packed house. Verdi had composed the opera for Egyptian Khedive for the opening of a new opera house.

Verdi and Ricordi editors had a falling out over irregularities concerning a large sum of money, though a few years later Ricordi encouraged Verdi in the composing of Otello, which premiered in 1887. After revising several works, Falstaff premiered and was very successful.

In 1901, Verdi constructed Casa di Riposo, a retirement villa for poor artists in Milan. It was here that he died shortly after it was established. More than 250,000 people attended his funeral, mourning the death of one of the greatest composers in Italian history. Verdi is interred in the Famedio at the Cimitero Monumental in Milan. He left a great legacy to the people of Italy in the form of his music. The Asteroid 3975 Verdi was named in his honor.

by Mary M. Alward