The world will celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) in 2013. Verdi’s critical fortunes waned and waxed even in his lifetime, but since the days of Ernani (1844) and Rigoletto (1851), his works have roused furore wherever opera is performed.
John Rosselli wrote of Verdi’s towering artistic stature:
He built to last. In drama the only parallel is Shakespeare. Verdi is Shakespearean in his direct line to many levels of audience, his protean range, his inwardness with the human, his ups and downs; above all in his stageworthiness over time.
In La giovinezza di Verdi (1974), Massimo Mila wrote of the immense changes that took place during the composer’s long and eventful lifetime:
Verdi was born in an era in which the only known means of terrestrial locomotion was the horse-drawn carriage. When he died, a web of railways criss-crossed the Earth, and Agnelli had founded FIAT two years earlier. Two years after Verdi’s death, the Wright brothers made the first powered flight. When Verdi was born, candles and oil lamps were the only known means of illumination. When he died, the use of gaslight was widespread. Verdi was born in a divided Italy, when Europe was intent on squelching Napoléon’s armies and the ideals of liberté, égalité, and fraternité. When Verdi died, the third and final monarch* of the Kingdom of Italy reigned, and socialism was spreading in Europe…
In June 1920, pondering the reasons why Giolitti, a wily and experienced politician, had suffered a setback at the hands of the emerging fascist movement, Mario Missiroli opined that “no man, however great, can interpret two eras, much less represent them.” In all likelihood, though, Verdi gives the lie to that statement.
*A fourth monarch reigned for thirty-three days in 1946.
A man profoundly rooted in his place and time, Verdi was attached to his land and engaged in communal life as both a voice of the Risorgimento and a tireless benefactor. He came of age in a world utterly foreign to our own. Yet all over the globe, his music continues to touch hearts, stir, and astonish—so much so that John Harbison, one of today’s most distinguished composers, has called Falstaff (1893), Verdi’s final opera, “the first opera of the twenty-first century.”
Verdi Duecento will explore and celebrate the legacy of this remarkable artist.
Marion Lignana Rosenberg is an award-winning writer, blogger, and translator. At WHRB in Cambridge, MA, she produced what likely remains the most comprehensive broadcast ever of Verdi’s music, including many then-unpublished compositions.
Marion wrote her master’s thesis in Florence on Francesco Maria Piave’s librettos for Verdi and has published extensively on opera and the performing arts. Please read a more complete profile of Marion or contact her.
Heartfelt thanks to Julianne Chatelain and Rob Landry for their spiritual, technical, material, and other help; al dottor Alessandro Duranti, “lo mio maestro e ’l mio autore”; to Artour Parmakian and Anna Proger, my wise and patient web design mentors; and to the brilliant creators of the header fonts: Gyom Séguin for Inked G-d, Manfred Klein for Ugly Qua, and Billy Argel for Acid Label.