The Operas of Giuseppe Verdi
F 2017


The story of Italian opera from 1839-1900 is the story of Giuseppe Verdi.  Born in 1813 during one of the most exciting periods in Italian operatic history, he reaches his maturity in the 1840's, when opera in Italy was becoming decidedly bleak.  Rossini had retired, Bellini was dead and Donizetti was dying.  Over the next 50 years, Verdi, through the composition of nearly 30 operas, revitalized Italian music.

Even more than composing these operas he was a major force for those endeavoring to constitute a country that had been divided up by the European superpowers as an aftermath of the Napoleonic wars.  During the mid 1840's and after the Italian operatic public chanted   " Viva Verdi", they  were celebrating him, his music, and the idea of unified Italy. " Viva Verdi", was also the acronym of 'Vittorio Emanuele, Re d"Italia"-Victor Emanuele King of Italy.

Though the Verdi family was very poor, his musical talent quickly flourished; by the time he was 12 he had been appointed organist at San Michele and quickly undertook formal musical studies.  By 1839 Verdi submitted his first opera, Oberto, to the La Scala management and it became a moderate success.  His second opera, a comedy, Un Giorno di Regno was a failure.  However, his 3rd opera Nabucco, a biblical tale wth a political message that the long-suffering Italian people easily identified, secured Verdi's fame throughout Italy.  

His next 12 operas, most of them tragic and nearly all rooted in historical fact, struck the Italian nation to make Verdi the pre-eminent composer of opera.

We will ponder the man, his musical dramas, and his patriotism.

Weekly Topics

1.  Italian opera in the early 19th century, the early  life of Verdi,  and his first 2 operas.

2.   His 3rd opera Nabucco with the famous chorus "Va pensiero", and the beginning of the unification movement known as"Risorgimento".

3.   The next 6 operas from 1843-1846.  I Lombardi, Ernani, I due Foscari, Giovanna d'Arco, Alzira, and Attila.

4.   Macbeth, I Masnadieri, Jerusalem, the operas of 1847.

5.   The 4 operas written in 1848-1850.  Il Corasro, La battaglia di legnano, Luisa Miller and Stiffelio.

6.   The middle period operas, Rigoletto, Il trovatore, and La Traviata.  Censorship of Verdi opera's.

7.   Operas of the middle 1850's, Les vepres siciliani, Simon Boccanegra, and Aroldo.

8.   Un ballo in maschera, and La forza del destino.

9.   The revised Macbeth and Don Carlo.

10.  Aida

11. The Requiem Mass and Verdi's orchestral works.

12. Otello 

13. Falstaff

14. Verdi's life from 1843- 1901.




Plotkin, Fred, Opera 101, Hyperion, 1994.

Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane, Verdi; a Biography, Oxford University Press, 1996.

Osborne, Charles, Letters of Giuseppe Verdi, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

Osborne, Charles, The complete operas of Verdi, A DA CAPO Paperback, January 1955.