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Today Is The 200th Anniversary Of The Birth Of Giuseppe Verdi

   The great Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi was born 200 years ago today , to humbe parents in a small town in northern Italy near  Parma .  He grew up to become the foremost  Italian opera composer of his day , a national hero in Italy , and many of his 26 operas are beloved fixtures of  the operatic repertoire all over the world .  When he died a venerated  old man   in Milan  in 1901 , his  funeral  was  a national  event  attended by thousands . 

   Everyone  knows  the  so-called  "Anvil chorus " and  "La Donna e Mobile ", even  people who have never been inside an opera house , but these are only a couple of the greatest hits from his operas .  Verdi's operas  are stirring, melodious ,  full of action and  vivid characters such as  the  bitter , hunchbacked  court jester Rigoletto ,  Violetta , the doomed consumptive  Parisian  courtesan  in La Traviata ,  Azucena , the  Spanish gypsy woman who is consumed with lust for vengance , Aida , the  Ethiopian  handmaid to the daughter of the Egyptian Pharaoh who is desperately in love with her betrothed, the commander of the Egyptian  army but cannot hve him ,  the  fat ,  drunken English rogue Falstaff ,  and  others ,

     So it's no wonder these operas have  been so popular  at opera houses everywhere since the mid  19th century .  Verdi gave   audiences  what  they wanted , and more .  And they still speak to us today .  He was a practical man of the theater  who used the conventions of Italian  opera  as  a   tool for realizing his genius , but ws never afraid to  be innovative .  In this , he was vastly different from his  great  German  contemporary  Richard Wagner, born in the same year ,  1813 in Leipzig ,  who was  a visionary  and revolutionary  whose  musical  goals were sometimes  extravagant,impractical   and quixotic  , and who  caused  so miuch  controversy both in his day and long after .  They are apples and oranges .  Both  towering figures in the history of opera .

   Many of the  greatest  opera singers  of the 19th and 20th centuries  have  achieved world  renown  singing the operas of Verdi , as well as recording them .  Maria Callas,  Enrico Caruso , Rosa Ponselle,  Renata Tebaldi , Renata Scotto ,  Luciano Pavarotti ,  Placido Domingo , Tito Gobbi ,  Mario Del Monaco ,  Sherrill Milnes ,  Nicolai Ghiaurov ,  Richard Tucker ,  Zinka Milanov ,  Leontyne Price ,  to name  only   handful .

    And they  have been  conducted  by such legendary  maestros  as  Arturo Toscanini , who knew him personally  and learned from him , Tullio Serafin , Victor De Sabata ,  Claudio Abbado , Carlo Maria Giulini,  Riccardo Muti  ,  as well as non-italian conductors  Herbert von Karajan , Sir Georg Solti ,  James Levine , and others  .  

    Verdi's most popular   operas  include  his final two masterpieces  Otello , based on the Shakespeare  play  Othello ,  Falstaff , based  on Shakespeare's Merry Wives Of Windsor , the earlier  Aida  ,  set in ancient Egypt ,  Il Trovatore  , set in medieval  Spain ,  Rigoletto ,  La  Traviata (the woman who strayed ) ,  Don Carlo ,  the story of the 16th century  Spanish  king Philip and his rebellious  son Carlos ,  Un Bllo in Maschera ( a masked ball ) , story of  the assssination of  the  Swedish king  Gustaf ,  and Macbeth , also based on  the Shakespeare play .

     The early  operas  of  Verdi  are not  performed nearly as often , but  they are sometimes  revived , and include  Nabucco ,  story of the Babylonian  captivity of the Jews under king Nebachudnezzar  (Nabucco is the Italian form of the name ) , Attila  ,   somewhat  fictionalized  story of  the  king of the Huns  ,  etc .  The Italians pronounce Attila  with the accent on the first syllable .

     Among Verdi's  non-operatic  works  are the beloved  Requiem  , a setting of the Roman Catholic mass for the dead  , which he wrote  despite the fact that he was an agnostic  . Many other composers , including Mozart and Berlioz  , have written settings of the requiem , but Verdi's is perhaps the most popular .  It has been  described  as a somewhat  operatic  version of  sacred music , but  no one seems to object to this !   The Requiem was written  around  1870 to honor  the death  of the  once famous  Italian  novelist  Alessndro Manzoni , whom Verdi and so many other Italians revered . 

    If you are new to  Verdi's operas  , there are an enormous number of complete  recordings of them  to choose from . You might start with  Rigoletto,La Traviata , Il Trovatore , and Aida  ,  and  the recordings by such great  singers as Pavarotti , Callas, Renata Scotto , Tito Gobbi , Leontyne Price ,  Robert Merrill  etc  on such  presitigious record labels  as Decca  ,EMI, R.C.A.,  and Deutsche Grammophon , with such great conductors as Carlo Maria Giulini, Clauido Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Sir Georg Solti nd Herbert von  Karajan .

    There are also numerous  live  performances on DVD from the Metropolitan opera, La Scala ,Milan ,  the Royal opera in London , etc .  You'll soon learn why  Verdi's operas are so popular  !



Posted: Oct 09 2013, 04:30 PM by the horn | with no comments
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