Giuseppe Verdi: His Life and Works

Giuseppe Verdi: His Life and Works

Giuseppe Verdi: His Life and Works

Giuseppe Verdi: His Life and Works

Excerpt

The origin and above all the length of this book demand a few words of explanation. The origin is simple enough. Some five years ago I was lucky enough to hear several performances of Verdi operas at La Scala under Toscanini, and these performances brought with them a conviction that the importance attached to Verdi by conventional musical opinion in England was miserably inadequate. I was not unprepared for this. Nobody who had the good fortune at Cambridge to come under the influence of Professor Dent, most large-minded and stimulating of teachers, was likely to consider the composer of" Il Trovatore" a mere purveyor of tunes. Performances, usually indifferent, of the operas in England and Germany had already given me great pleasure; a few, in Italy, greater pleasure still. But in Milan I was carried away by a new enthusiasm, a sudden realisation that this music contained vital and poetical elements distinct from those of any other music even when presented by the same conductor in the same conditions. Elements, it should be explained, not necessarily better but different and capable, moreover, of awakening a particularly responsive echo in me.

Needless to say, with the exception of one or two individuals who had already arrived at much the same conclusions, nobody believed that my enthusiasm was justified in regard to the superlative excellence either of the operas themselves or of their interpretation. Lip service might be paid to the merits of "Otello" and "Falstaff"; otherwise there was the same dreary repetition of the nonsense--for it is nonsense--about the "guitar-like orchestra" in "La Traviata" or "Rigoletto;" "Aida" was "flashy" or "empty"; "Il Trovatore" just "absurd." Operas like "La Forza del Destino" or "Don Carlo" remained mere names, remembered, if at all, by some isolated numbers associated with famous singers. The essential unity of Verdi's output, its unfailing dramatic significance even when expressed in simple melodies, above all the unswerving artistic integrity of it all were not so much denied as ignored.

Nor was the case helped by the fact that a musician of . . .

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