Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)
“In art, as in love, we must first be honest”, Giuseppe Verdi, Italian composer.
Giuseppe Verdi had virtually the same life span as Queen Victoria and was certainly as much king of the world of Italian opera as was Victoria Queen of England or Empress of India.
Italy’s great operatic composer, Verdi was born into a poor family. His natural ability became apparent at an early age and he was always transfixed by music. By the time he was an altar boy in the local church, he was completely absorbed by the sounds of the humble church organ.
He owed his musical education to a wealthy merchant from Busseto and, when rejected by the Milan Conservatoire, he returned to Busseto in 1836, where he completed his first opera “Rocester”. This has since been lost but his reputation soon became established with “Nabucco” in 1842.
Verdi visited London in 1846/47 but this left him with mixed feelings. Pleading “pressure of work” he refused to meet Queen Victoria and this backfired on him when she observed in her diary that his music for “I Masnardieri” was very inferior and unexciting’.
Giuseppe Verdi, an undoubted genius in the history of music and a key figure in the development of opera, created some of the most enduring masterpieces ever written. His most famous operas are “Rigoletto” (1851), “Il Trovatore” (1853), “La Traviata” (1853), “Simon Boccanegra” (1857), “A Masked Ball” (1859), “The Force of Destiny” (for the St. Petersburg Theatre, 1861) and “La Forza del Destino” (1862).
Verdi composed the opera “Don Carlos” for the Paris Opera in 1867. He was then specially commissioned by the Egyptian government to create the opera “Aida” for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1871.
His later masterpieces, both from Shakespeare, are “Otello” (1887) and “Falstaff” (1893).
Verdi had a dislike of the limelight. He was simply not interested in pomp and glory. His only pleasure he gained from the public was the success of his operas. He was a genuinely committed musician, deriving pleasure from the enjoyment of his music rather than from public renown.
Verdi’s farm at Sant’Agata was his refuge from the rigours of his career as a composer – there he could live the life of a country gentleman in the company of those he loved.