VERDI: Overtures / Preludes / Ballet Music
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Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Overtures, Preludesand Ballet Music
Giuseppe Verdi is a figure of the greatest importance in the developmentof Italian opera, his own career coinciding with the rise of Italiannationalism and the consciousness of national unity. He was of humble familyand 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 inMilan, an institution that he failed to enter, embarking instead, with Barezzi'ssupport, on private lessons in Milan with Vincenzo Lavigna, an opera composerand former maestro al cembalo at La Scala.
In 1836 Verdi was appointed municipal music director of Busseto, thenearest town to his native village of Le Roncole. He married in the same yearthe daughter of Antonio Barezzi and set about completing his first opera,Rocester. Three years later the couple settled in Milan, where Verdi was ableto devote himself to the composition of opera, an early period of his careerthat brought success and failure, as well as tragedy in the death of his twochildren, followed, in 1840, by the death of his wife.
Verdi's first operas, Oberto in 1839 and Un giorno di regno in1840, were followed by the signal success of Nabucco at La Scala in1842. Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, presumably based on the earlier Rocester,had been given fourteen performances, reasonable encouragement for a youngcomposer, but Un giorno di regno was a disaster. The years immediatelyfollowing 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 courseof 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 hehad transformed in 1847, followed forty years later by Otello. Recurrentplans for King Lear were never to be realised, nor Verdi's declaredambition to turn into opera the other major works of Shakespeare.
Verdi's contemporary popularity was primarily due to his great musicalgifts. Nevertheless his association with the ideals of nationalism made himsomething of a hero to the idealists of the Risorgimento, his very name takenas 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 requestof Count Cavour, but spent his later life at Busseto, marrying in 1859 thesinger Giuseppina Strepponi, who had befriended him at the time of his firstopera, Oberto, and with whom he had already been living for twelve years.