Verdi is one of the most important Italian composers of all times, but he is also an awesome character that evokes feelings of sympathy and admiration every time I review his work and life.
Verdi, The Great Composer
It is safe to say that Verdi started low. He came from a city in Italy in which opera, music, and cultural events weren’t at all very common. Nevertheless, he managed, with great timing and some help from his family, to fulfill the empty space in Italian music at the moment. I really don´t know what is it about the power of the Italian when it comes to opera, but they have always been the greatest composers of drama. I love all the great creators, especially Mozart , but I guess the big difference between Germans and Russians with French and overall Italian is the sensitivity and the overall feeling of depth and humanity they have, maybe it comes from their shared Latin blood. The thing between these last two is that in the exact moment that French go minimalistic and delicate, the Italians show off and go all the way to the top.
But let´s go back to Verdi. He started low and went in a non-stop crescendo from his early work: Nabucco to his later Aida. His style and the strength of his arrangements grew exponentially. The initial “noisy” and sometimes “cluttered” style developed into a lush strength that supported big dramatic shifts in his plays. He was always very visceral and very good when handling those baritone lows that create the big momentums, but the choruses and the way he resolved tension got much better with time.
He got some of the subtlety that was more characteristic of French composers and was able to combine it with the visceral power of his big dramas.
Besides this great capability for powerful dramatic creations, he got to the world of opera and music in a moment that the big Italian masters were dead (Bellini), retired (Rossini) or looking for other territories like Vienna and Paris (Donizetti). This paved a road that could have been way more difficult in his early, less polished version. He got lucky that the timing was correct to be able to expose his work to larger audiences and learn from all those around him to eventually be a complete master himself.
I invite you to go from Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio (1839), all the way to Falstaff (1893) to hear it for yourselves, just how much he learnt and applied. It´s a humbling lesson for one´s life to see a big master like him taking advice and polishing some already amazing pieces of work.
No doubt that it would be enough for any mortal to be in love with Verdi just because of the artistic work he was able to accomplish during his life, but the human side to him is unbelievable too. The fact that he could perform and compose after such a tragic life is breath-taking and astonishing. The thing that gets me the most about him is his strength. It is obvious throughout his compositions, but the integrity he managed to keep all his life in spite of all the terrible things that happened is something beyond imaginable.
- He founded the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti which is basically a retirement home for opera singers and musicians in general who have fallen in disgrace. Imagine how many of the big names could have ended their lives there composing.
- In 1840 storm came upon his life, his young wife at the moment, Margherita Barezzi died along with his two infant children Virginia and Icillio. He was into a big depression while presenting his next opera: Ungiorno di regno(King for a Day) that was booed off the stage and not accepted by the Italian community. But despite this scenario he followed a bright career and eventually married again to have more children.
- He lived 87 years in a moment of humanity in which the life expectation was incredibly short compared to today´s.
- His legacy in the combination of first-class drama and theatrical arts with music and opera is uncanny in my opinion and will last forever in the work of many artists to come.
Verdi, the musician and the man, the stubborn “Bear of Busseto” is a true artist in the sense deepest of meanings.