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ClassicsOnline Home » VERDI: Overtures / Preludes / Ballet Music
Giuseppe Verdi (1813
and Ballet Music
Giuseppe Verdi is a figure of the greatest importance in the development
of Italian opera, his own career coinciding with the rise of Italian
nationalism and the consciousness of national unity. He was of humble family
and owed his early musical training to the generosity of a rich music-lover,
Antonio Barezzi, who arranged to pay for his training at the Conservatory in
Milan, an institution that he failed to enter, embarking instead, with Barezzi's
support, on private lessons in Milan with Vincenzo Lavigna, an opera composer
and former maestro al cembalo at La Scala.
In 1836 Verdi was appointed municipal music director of Busseto, the
nearest town to his native village of Le Roncole. He married in the same year
the daughter of Antonio Barezzi and set about completing his first opera,
Rocester. Three years later the couple settled in Milan, where Verdi was able
to devote himself to the composition of opera, an early period of his career
that brought success and failure, as well as tragedy in the death of his two
children, followed, in 1840, by the death of his wife.
Verdi's first operas, Oberto in 1839 and Un giorno di regno in
1840, were followed by the signal success of Nabucco at La Scala in
1842. Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, presumably based on the earlier Rocester,
had been given fourteen performances, reasonable encouragement for a young
composer, but Un giorno di regno was a disaster. The years immediately
following Nabucco brought the successful I Lombardi and Ernani,
both of them with an overt patriotic relevance.
With these operas Verdi had established himself, and during the course
of a long career he was to write more than score more stage works, culminating,
in 1893, with Falstaff, a final return to Shakespeare, whose Macbeth he
had transformed in 1847, followed forty years later by Otello. Recurrent
plans for King Lear were never to be realised, nor Verdi's declared
ambition to turn into opera the other major works of Shakespeare.
Verdi's contemporary popularity was primarily due to his great musical
gifts. Nevertheless his association with the ideals of nationalism made him
something of a hero to the idealists of the Risorgimento, his very name taken
as an acrostic for Vittorio Emanuele, Re d'Italia, a fortunate coincidence.
From 1861 to 1865 he was a member of the new Italian parliament, at the request
of Count Cavour, but spent his later life at Busseto, marrying in 1859 the
singer Giuseppina Strepponi, who had befriended him at the time of his first
opera, Oberto, and with whom he had already been living for twelve years.
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VERDI: Overtures / Preludes / Ballet Music