Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi (vâr´dē, Ital. jōōzĕp´pā vĕr´dē), 1813–1901, foremost Italian composer of opera, b. Le Roncole. Verdi, the son of an innkeeper, showed a precocious talent for the organ but was refused entrance to the Milan Conservatory as having been inadequately trained. He studied with Lavigna of La Scala, and in 1839 his first opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, was produced. His third opera, Nabucodonosor (1842, also known as Nabucco; the story of Nebuchadnezzar), was enormously successful. The next work I Lombardi alla prima Crociata (1843), concerning the First Crusade, assured Verdi's position at La Scala. Among his major successes of the next years were Ernani (1844), Rigoletto (1851), considered his first masterpiece, Il Trovatore (1853), and La Traviata (1853). These works showed him to be a master of dramatic composition and established him securely. Verdi's style was further developed in Un ballo in maschera [a masked ball] (1859) and La forza del destino [the power of destiny] (1862). In Aïda (1871) all the elements of his earlier style reach maturity, the music assuming a new dramatic importance to the story. Verdi next composed his great Requiem (1874) in memory of the writer Manzoni. Verdi greatly admired Shakespeare, on whose plays three of his operas are based—Macbeth (1847; rev. version 1865) and the masterpieces of his old age, Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893; based on The Merry Wives of Windsor), for both of which Boito was librettist. In these two late works, finished at ages 73 and 80, Verdi astonished the musical world with a power, subtlety, and brilliance that marked the culmination of Italian grand opera. Verdi was greatly honored during his lifetime. He was elected a senator and offered a marquisate, which he declined. His superbly melodic works are performed throughout the world.


See his letters, ed. by C. Osborne (1971); biographies by F. Walker (1962), G. W. Martin (1963), J. Wechsberg (1974), M. J. Phillips-Matz (1994), and J. Rosselli (2000); study of his operas by J. Budden (3 vol., 1978–81); G. Wills, Verdi's Shakespeare (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Giuseppe Verdi: Selected full-text books and articles

Giuseppe Verdi: His Life and Works By Francis Toye Alfred A. Knopf, 1931
Verdi's Aeida By Giuseppe Verdi; Ellen H. Bleiler Dover, 1962
Verdi's Falstaff in Letters and Contemporary Reviews By Giuseppe Verdi; Hans Busch Indiana University Press, 1997
A primary source is a work that is being studied, or that provides first-hand or direct evidence on a topic. Common types of primary sources include works of literature, historical documents, original philosophical writings, and religious texts.
Makers of Opera By Kathleen O'Donnell Hoover H. Bittner, 1948
Librarian's tip: Chap. 14 "Verdi"
Viva La Liberta! Politics in Opera By Anthony Arblaster Verso, 1992
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "Verdi: The Liberal Patriot"
Mimomania: Music and Gesture in Nineteenth-Century Opera By Mary Ann Smart University of California Press, 2004
Librarian's tip: Chap. Five "Uneasy Bodies: Verdi and Sublimation"
Making and Remaking Italy: The Cultivation of National Identity around the Risorgimento By Albert Russell Ascoli; Krystyna Von Henneberg Berg, 2001
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "Liberty on (and off) the Barricades: Verdi's Risorgimento Fantasies"
Opera and the Culture of Fascism By Jeremy Tambling Clarendon Press, 1996
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "Verdi and Imperialism: Otello"
Man and His Music: The Story of Musical Experience in the West By Alec Harman; Anthony Milner; Wilfrid Mellers Oxford University Press, 1962
Librarian's tip: "Verdi and Nineteenth-Century Italian Opera" begins on p. 782
Composers on Composers By John L. Holmes Greenwood Press, 1990
Librarian's tip: "Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)" begins on p. 149
Sign-Off for the Old Met: The Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts, 1950-1966 By Paul Jackson Amadeus Press, vol.1, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. Nine "Friendly Verdi," Chap. Thirteen "Verdi Renascence," and Chap. Twenty-Four "Verdi Revisited"
The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music By Jim Samson Cambridge University Press, 2002
Librarian's tip: "Verdi's 'Middle Period' (1849-1871)" begins on p. 374
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Opera By John Warrack; Ewan West Oxford University Press, 1996 (3rd edition)
Librarian's tip: "Verdi, Giuseppe" begins on p. 534
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