Giuseppe Verdi

Francesco Izzo

in Music

ISBN: 9780199757824
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:
Giuseppe Verdi

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Giuseppe Verdi (b. 1813–d. 1901) was the leading opera composer of 19th-century Italy. During his long and sensationally successful career, many of his operas became permanent fixtures in the repertories of the world’s principal opera houses; Rigoletto, La traviata, Il trovatore, Aida, and Otello are only some of the works by Verdi whose popularity remains undiminished to the present day. His style changed considerably from the early works, which drew significantly on the conventions and formal procedures established during the early part of the century in the operas of Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and their contemporaries. By the mid-1840s, he was broadly regarded as the leading Italian composer of his time. His authorial voice developed remarkably during his long career, from the rousing choruses and forceful vocal lines of the early operas to the increasing formal freedom and rich psychological nuances of his middle-period works, and finally to the highly individual works of his late years. As his prestige and influence grew, in the mid-19th century Verdi vigorously asserted his authority on numerous fronts, pressuring librettists, singers, impresarios, and publishers to ensure that his artistic intentions were understood and realized and that his rights were adequately protected. He took the lead in selecting the subject matter for many of his operas and in shaping his librettos through intense epistolary exchanges with the poets who worked for him. The sources he chose included plays by Shakespeare, Schiller, Hugo, Dumas, and Gutiérrez. An eminently public figure in Italian society and culture, he became an icon of the Italian national movement known as the Risorgimento; during the first two decades of his career, his operas were often subjected to censorship, and significant compromises had to be reached to make them performable (including changes of title, locale, time, and character names). In the wake of the unification of Italy, he came to be regarded as a national hero and was invited to serve as a member of the first Italian parliament. The success of countless opera singers from the mid-19th century to the present day is closely associated with Verdi’s music, and their role in the dissemination and enduring success of his operas has been essential. Important textual research and the ongoing publication of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi (Verdi 1983–, cited under Sources and Editions), which aims to publish Verdi’s entire opus in critical edition, have sparked renewed interest in some of his lesser-known works, with recent productions of Giovanna d’Arco and I due Foscari at the Verdi Festival in Parma (in 2008 and 2009, respectively) and Attila at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, conducted by Riccardo Muti in 2010.

Article.  14493 words. 

Subjects: Music ; Applied Music ; Ethnomusicology ; Music Theory and Analysis ; Musicology and Music History ; Music Education and Pedagogy

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