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Un Grande Compositore di Opere Liriche
A Great Composer of Opera
Listen to the Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti
singing La donna è mobile from Verdi's opera Rigoletto
Giuseppe Verdi was a famous composer of Italian opera in the 19th. Century. His full name was Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi and he was born on 10th. October 1813 in a village called Le Roncole near to Busseto. His father, Carlo, was the village innkeeper.
(Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi above - by artist Giovanni Boldini)
The name Giuseppe Verdi translated into English would be Joseph Green.
Giuseppe began his musical career when he was a child by playing the organ at his local church - San Michele Arcangelo. Later, he was sent to Milan for a musical education, paid for by a wealthy friend - Antonio Barezzi. His music teacher in Milan was Vincenzo Lavigna.
Later, he settled in Busseto and became a member of The Philharmonic Society - la Società Filarmonica.
In 1836, he married the daughter of the wealthy friend who had paid for his musical education in Milan. She was called Margherita Barezzi. They had two children - Virginia and Icilio.
Portrait below of Margherita Barezzi by artist Augusto Mussini
Giuseppe's first opera was completed in 1839. It was called Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio and it was performed at the famous Italian opera house of Milan - il Teatro alla Scala.
Terrible tragedy struck during this period. Between 1838 and 1840 both of his children and his young wife died through ill health, one after the other. In a two-year period he had lost his whole family.
Giuseppe continued to compose operas. Some of his most famous works are - Nabucco, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore,
La Traviata, Aida, Un Ballo in Maschera, Otello, La Forza del Destino, Falstaff.
Giuseppe married again. His second wife was Giuseppina Strepponi and she was an opera singer.
Portrait by Karly Gyurkovich
Il Risorgimento (1861) was the joining of the small Italian states in order to make one big unified country under one king - Vittorio Emanuele. Giuseppe Verdi was a great supporter of Il Risorgimento and there was a rather strange coincidence regarding Giuseppe Verdi's surname and the initials of the new Italian king's official title:
The king's title was Vittorio Emanuele Re D' Italia. The initials spell the surname of Giuseppe Verdi! This became a well-known and amusing story at the time. People used to call out 'Viva Verdi!' and the initials V.E.R.D.I. could be seen in places all over Italy.
The king wished to give Giuseppe a title of nobility but he refused to accept it, telling the king, 'I am a peasant.'
Giuseppe Verdi's final opera was based on the Shakespeare play The Merry Wives of Windsor. It is called Falstaff and it is a comedy.
Verdi became very rich and famous during his lifetime. He was known to give generously to charity and he set up a retirement home for musicians and opera singers in Milan - called Casa Verdi. This home exists today.
In 1897, his second wife died from pneumonia. A few years later, Giuseppe Verdi died after suffering a sudden stroke in January 1901. Giuseppe Verdi and his wife are both laid to rest in the courtyard of the musicians' retirement house, Casa Verdi.
Giuseppe Verdi is considered one of the greatest composers of opera. His works are performed by the most fantastic musicians and singers in all the grand opera houses of the world.
Grazie, Giuseppe Verdi!
Thank you, Giuseppe Verdi, for creating such magnificent and powerful musical work.
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