Giuseppe Verdi 'King of Italian Opera' | Sunday Observer

Giuseppe Verdi 'King of Italian Opera'

22 September, 2019
Italy celebrating Verdi Bicentennial
Italy celebrating Verdi Bicentennial

Giuseppe Verdi reigned as the ‘King of Italian Opera' for 50 years. He and German composer Richard Wagner were considered as the greatest opera composers in the 19th century though their styles were greatly different.

Giussepe Verdi was born in Le Roncole, a small village near Busseto in the valley of the Po river in Northern Italy on October 10, 1833. His father, Carlo Giussep Verdi was an innkeeper who owned a small farm and his mother Luigia Uttini was a weaver. The family was poor.

Giuseppe Verdi

Young Giuseppe showed an early talent for music and started learning it around the age of four. Later his father bought him a spinet which he kept all his life. At the age of nine Giuseppe was quite often substituting for the village organist.

Antonio Barazzi befriended young Verdi and sent him to Milan to study music. However, when at the age of 19 he tried to enter the Music Conservatory at Milan he was rejected as he had no formal training on the piano. Verdi then went onto study music privately with Vincenzo Lavagna and learnt much about opera, literature and politics.

Soon Verdi was composing music for Busseto’s amateur orchestra.

In 1839, he composed Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio. It was performed at the La Scala Opera House in Milan. This opera was not one of Verdi’s best creations but it helped him to become well known. He was asked to compose three more operas for La Scala. Sadly, Verdi’s next opera, Un giorno di regno was a failure and was hissed and booed. He also suffered a great personal tragedy at this time, the deaths of his wife Margherita, (Antonio Barazzi’s daughter) and his two children.

In 1842, Verdi composed Nabucco one of his greatest operas and this made him world famous.

La traviata - The Atlanta Opera
The music of Aida

Italy, at this time was not the single country that we know today. It was a collection of small states each with its own ruler and there was much political unrest in the country. Italians wanted a unified, independent state without Austrian and Papal dominance. Verdi often wrote operas with long choruses which were about people fighting for freedom. Va Pensiero or the Hebrew slaves chorus from Nabucco is a good example of this.

Italians chanted this and other Verdi choruses in the streets with the words changed to suit the Italian political situation. Thus, Verdi’s music influenced and inspired Italians in their struggle for freedom.

He married his second wife Giuseppina Strepponi in 1859. She was the person who sang the part of Abigaille in his opera Nabucco.

Verdi composed many operas and even in his old age he collaborated with composer/novelist Arrigo Boite and composed Otello and Falstaff both of which were based on Shakespeare plays. Falstaff is a comedic adaptation of the Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry the IV.

Giuseppe Verdi composed more than 25 operas which are loved even today. He is regarded as one of the greatest composers in history. Nabucco, Rigoletto, Il Trovotare and La Traviata are among his best and greatly loved work.