by Rino Alessi
When he was born, Giuseppe Verdi had one of the most common names in 19th-century Italy. But thirty-two wonderful operas would forever associate his name with some of the best – and most often performed – music in the world. His popular name is now unmistakable as a symbol of our country’s artistic excellence. The “swan of Busseto” was born at 8 pm on October 10, 1813, in Roncole, a village only a few kilometers from Busseto, in the province of Parma. His theater production was an unfailing success with the public, and has traveled across the decades in Italian and international culture. His operas premiered between November 1839 (Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio) and February 1893 (Falstaff); these first and last works of his were both presented at La Scala, and both published by Ricordi – to add another two trademarks of “made in Italy” musical excellence to this story. They were immediately popular with the greatest Italian theaters, while abroad, and especially in the first twenty years after Verdi’s death (Milan, 1901), his enemies multiplied: many Europeans were fans of Wagner, Debussy, Strauss, of symphonic and chamber music, and despised melodrama. Verdi, and the extreme feelings brought out by his operas, is of course the epitome of melodrama.
Today Aida, the first title in this beautiful collection of vintage music scores published by Ricordi, is immediately associated with two of Italy’s most prestigious stages: La Scala and the Verona Arena. Aida opened the Arena’s one-hundredth season this year – which also marks the bicentenary of Verdi’s birth – and will be one of the highlights of the 2013/2014 Paris National Opera season, at the Opéra Bastille. La Traviata, set in Paris, will instead open the season at La Scala, on December 7. Don Carlo has recently been performed at the Salzburg Festival, where Damiano Michieletto’s new staging of Falstaff also ran. Today, the spotlight is on directors, and many of them are proving their talent. In Venice, Lorenzo Mariani has staged Il trovatore at La Fenice, where Robert Carsen’s La Traviata was just performed, while going to see Otello in the courtyard of the Doge’s Palace has become something of a new tradition. Rigoletto is one of the most popular operas throughout Italy, and Macbeth – more frequent than ever in this year of Verdi celebrations – will soon run in Klagenfurt, Austria, in Cesare Lievi’s staging. Last – only because it is said to be cursed and bring bad luck – La forza del destino was recently performed at the Opéra Royal de Wallonie in Liège, cradle of the Italian repertoire in the French-speaking region of Belgium.