About this Recording
8.554077 - VERDI: Overtures / Preludes / Ballet Music

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 -1901)
Overtures, Preludes and Ballet Music

Giuseppe Verdi is a figure of the greatest importance in the development of Italian opera, his own career coinciding with the rise of Italian nationalism and the consciousness of national unity. He was of humble family and owed his early musical training to the generosity of a rich music-lover, Antonio Barezzi, who arranged to pay for his training at the Conservatory in Milan, an institution that he failed to enter, embarking instead, with Barezzi's support, on private lessons in Milan with Vincenzo Lavigna, an opera composer and former maestro al cembalo at La Scala.

In 1836 Verdi was appointed municipal music director of Busseto, the nearest town to his native village of Le Roncole. He married in the same year the daughter of Antonio Barezzi and set about completing his first opera, Rocester. Three years later the couple settled in Milan, where Verdi was able to devote himself to the composition of opera, an early period of his career that brought success and failure, as well as tragedy in the death of his two children, followed, in 1840, by the death of his wife.

Verdi's first operas, Oberto in 1839 and Un giorno di regno in 1840, were followed by the signal success of Nabucco at La Scala in 1842. Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, presumably based on the earlier Rocester, had been given fourteen performances, reasonable encouragement for a young composer, but Un giorno di regno was a disaster. The years immediately following Nabucco brought the successful I Lombardi and Ernani, both of them with an overt patriotic relevance.

With these operas Verdi had established himself, and during the course of a long career he was to write more than score more stage works, culminating, in 1893, with Falstaff, a final return to Shakespeare, whose Macbeth he had transformed in 1847, followed forty years later by Otello. Recurrent plans for King Lear were never to be realised, nor Verdi's declared ambition to turn into opera the other major works of Shakespeare.

Verdi's contemporary popularity was primarily due to his great musical gifts. Nevertheless his association with the ideals of nationalism made him something of a hero to the idealists of the Risorgimento, his very name taken as an acrostic for Vittorio Emanuele, Re d'Italia, a fortunate coincidence. From 1861 to 1865 he was a member of the new Italian parliament, at the request of Count Cavour, but spent his later life at Busseto, marrying in 1859 the singer Giuseppina Strepponi, who had befriended him at the time of his first opera, Oberto, and with whom he had already been living for twelve years.

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