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"Of all composers, past and present, I am the least learned. I mean that in all seriousness, and by learning I do not mean knowledge of music." - Verdi, 1869
Born October 10, 1813, Giuseppe Verdi dominated the musical scene in Italy for over half a century. From humble beginnings, Verdi was born at Le Roncole, a village in the Duchy of Parma, which was part of Napolean’s Kingdom of Italy.
In 1823 he moved to nearby Busseto to study music under Provesi at the ‘Ginnasio’. In 1832, he failed admission into the Milan Conservatory due to “insufficient talent”. He returned to Busseto in 1836 and married Margherita Barezzi whose father was a locally-known organist and an early benefactor to Verdi. They had a daughter and son. Both children, along with their mother, died of separate illnesses by 1840. Pressured to write a comedie, Verdi composed Un giorno di regno which received a sour welcome.
Verdi felt he had nothing left to give as a composer. Merelli, the administrator of La Scala, approached him with a libretto from Nabucco. This single gesture saved Verdi’s career and Nabucco became his first masterpiece. What followed was a half-century of 29 operas, many of which the censors felt compelled to alter due to political implications.
Rigoletto (1851) marks the pinnacle of Verdi’s career and is regarded as a work of genius reflecting his style from past works but transcending them with an increased focus on drama over vocalism.
In August 1859, he married long-time companion Giuseppina Strepponi, whom he met twenty years earlier. They had a solid marriage in spite of complications during the 1870’s. During this time Verdi had a seven-year affair with the soprano, Teresa Stolz. Verdi died in 1901 in Milan following a stroke. Although he requested no music or singing at his funeral, crowds of people gathered on the streets to mourn his passing. They sang ‘Va, pensiero’.
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