Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Viva Verdi! 100 Years Later ; from 'Aida' to 'Otello,' Composer Giuseppe Verdi's Music Still Inspires

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Viva Verdi! 100 Years Later ; from 'Aida' to 'Otello,' Composer Giuseppe Verdi's Music Still Inspires

Article excerpt

When asked why the composer Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) should be celebrated 100 years after his death, British critic and scholar Andrew Porter pauses for a moment, then quotes the Italian poet Gabriele d'Annunzio on Verdi: "He wept and loved for all of us."

Anyone who cares for opera, and many who don't, find Verdi's music of life-changing importance. A proud nationalist at a time when Italy was divided into different states governed by France or Austria, Verdi wrote noble music that summed up his compatriots' aspirations. The chorus "Va, Pensiero," from the biblical opera "Nabucco," transcended its stage subject of Jewish slaves languishing in Babylonia, to signify the longing for liberation of all enslaved people.

No classical composer in Italy, and few elsewhere, have spoken for the soul of a people as Verdi did. In operas like "Aida," "La Traviata," "Otello," "Falstaff," "Un Ballo in Maschera," and "Don Carlos," he created a precious (and to date unmatched) musical legacy.

With such a list of hits, the Parma-born Verdi attracts unexpected fans, like the early music conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt, who ranks him with Mozart and Monteverdi among the top three composers "who fully and totally understood opera." Deeply romantic, but without any murky mysticism, Verdi's works have the immediate enthusiasm of a passionate cry. They do not keep you waiting for thrills.

Tenor Placido Domingo, who has succeeded in as many Verdi roles as anyone now performing, told the British Press: "Verdi gets to the point. He has a phenomenal duet in 'Un Ballo in Maschera;' it is divine and it lasts six or seven minutes and that's it. Or in 'Otello,' seven or eight minutes, bang, that's it."

Moreover, the thrills come not just at stagy or melodramatic moments: a group of guests leaving a Parisian party in "La Traviata" is whipped into a demonic frenzy that expresses a profound truth about the frantic horror of social life.

This and countless other details of genius made conductor Arturo Toscanini, who knew Verdi personally, state that in the operas, he admired "not only the melodic richness, but also the effective and sure musical and dramatic power. …

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