In an 1879 letter to his friend Clarina Maffei, Verdi expressed his distaste for réclames (marketing and puffery) and wrote that he wasn’t one for idle compliments. He also mocked the self-importance and pretensions of various musical capitals:
La Scala is the greatest theatre in the world.
In Naples: The San Carlo is the greatest theatre in the world.
In the past, they said in Venice: La Fenice is the greatest theatre in the world.
In Saint Petersburg: The greatest theatre in the world.
In Vienna: The greatest theatre in the world (and this I would endorse)
In Paris, then, the Opéra is the greatest theatre of two or three worlds!
In the 1870s, Verdi took the Manzoni Requiem on tour to various European capitals, and he raved about the Vienna Philharmonic. His admiration for the orchestra is documented by that rather surprising parenthetical admission in his letter to Maffei and in other correspondence.
The Aida clip at the start of this post is a promotional video. Still, it is interesting because Maestro Nikolaus Harnoncourt knows of what he speaks and rightly comments on Verdi’s admiration for the Wiener Philharmoniker.
The following clip, instead, features the Ballo prelude played by the orchestra of the Wiener Staatsoper under Claudio Abbado. Sadly, most of the excerpts from the remarkable 1990 Salzburg Ballo, including one that I posted here, have been removed from YouTube. I find that the Viennese players have the ideal tone for this music: warm, elegant, humane.
A good weekend to all!