Verdi, Giuseppe

Since the fall of Napoleon Lombardy had been under the control of the Austrians. Verdi's operas breathed patriotism, and as a result he was the idol of his countrymen. The authorities watched his librettos closely and many had to be cut down and changed. Following Ernani, he was in great demand, and during the next few years he wrote many operas. In 1844 I Due Foscari was produced in Rome, and the next year Giovanni d'Arco came out in Milan, the overture of which alone survives. Later in the year Alzira was given at La Scala and was a failure. In 1848 Attila was produced in Venice and it was more fortunate. It, with Ernani, gave him European fame. Attila was followed the next year by Macbeth, and, had the libretto been better, this might have been a masterpiece. The music was the best he had written up to that time. It was given at the Pergola of Florence and was only moderately successful, owing to the lack of a tenor part During the same year he was engaged to write an opera by Lumley, of Her Majesty's Theatre, London. I Masnadieri, based upon Schiller's Robbers, was produced there with the idol of London, Jenny Lind, in the leading part. The English differed much in temperament from the Italians; Verdi's defects were seen, and the opera was a failure. Lumley wished him to remain and succeed Costa as conductor; but, owing partly to his failure and because he was under contract to write two operas for the publisher, Lucca, he started upon his homeward journey. Arriving in Paris, where I Lombardi was being rehearsed in a revised version, he remained until after its production in November under the title of Jerusalem. Retiring to Passy he wrote two operas, II Corsaro and La Battaglia di Legnano. Both were failures. After the production of the latter Verdi returned to Paris, but the terrible outbreak of cholera forced him to leave hurriedly. While in Paris he had written his opera, Luisa Miller, which was given successfully in Naples in 1849. Near the close of the following year his next work, Stiffelio, was performed at Trieste, and its failure seems to have been complete. When, seven years later, it was altered and given under the title of Arnoldo, it was fairly successful. During this year he married Signora Strepponi, the beautiful singer, who had helped many of his operas to be successful. He had now composed sixteen operas, of which Ernani, I Lombardi, and Luisa Miller alone survive.   He had endeared himself to the Italian people by the spirit of patriotism embodied in his works. The Austrian police would not allow a conspiracy to bp acted upon the stage, and many of his plots had to be changed. In 1851 Verdi's   second period began. This year Rigoletto, founded on Victor Hugo's Le Roi s'amuse and composed in forty days, was performed at Venice. It was an immediate success and was soon given in all parts of Europe. This production marks an era in the history of Italian Opera in that the aria takes the place of the declamatory monologue. The next two operas appeared within a few months of each other, after the lapse of nearly two years, II Trovatore in Rome, and La raviata in Venice. The former scored a success, but the latter failed, owing to a peculiar circumstance. The role of Violetta was taken by Signora Donatello, who was a very large woman, and when, in the third act, the doctor pronounced her dying of consumption, the audience was convulsed with laughter. Later it was successful and became one of the most frequently performed of Verdi's works. These three operas were the best and the last of the Italian Opera School as developed through Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti. Before this time Verdi's popularity had been chiefly confined to Italy; it now spread, even to France and England. One result was an invitation to write an opera for the Paris Imperial Academy of Music. Going to Paris he composed Les Vepres Siciliennes, which was produced in 1855 and was a great triumph. During this year he made a flying trip to London, where II Trovatore was being performed. Returning to Italy, Simon Boccanegra was composed, but proved a failure when produced in Venice in 1857. Verdi's next work was Un Ballo in Maschera, given in Rome, and is one of the greatest successes of his career. Some of the music has a lightness, grace and brilliancy not found before this time in his works. A commission from the Imperial Opera House at St. Petersburg brought forth La Forza del Destino in 1862. The same year occurred the World's Fair, in London, and four of the most famous composers were commissioned to write odes for the inauguration. Sterndale Bennett represented England; Auber, France; Meyerbeer, Germany, and Verdi, Italy. His production was the cantata, Inno delle Nazioni. The finale is on a grand scale and combined English, French and Italian national airs. Verdi was one of thirteen Italian composers who combined to write a requiem in memory of Rossini. For the second French Exhibition, in 1867, he composed Don Carlos. The Khedive of Egypt, wishing to enhance the glory of his theatre, specially requested a work from Verdi, who responded with Aida. It was performed in 1871 and was his most brilliant and original opera up to that time. Three years later he composed the splendid requiem on the death of Manzoni, to whom he had been strongly attached. Aside from operas, Verdi had composed a string quartet, a Pater Noster for two sopranos, contralto, tenor and bass, and an Ave Maria for soprano and strings. After the requiem Verdi retired for many years to the quiet life of his villa, Sant' Agato, near Busseto, where he devoted himself to his garden and farm. He was fond of animals, particularly horses. He was charitable, giving to the needy, and when the people of Busseto wanted a theatre he gave 10,000 francs toward it. He was kind to young musicians, but seldom talked of himself or his works.