Music with Ease > 19th Century Italian Opera > LIfe of Verdi (2)
Italian opera composer
Verdi ranks as the greatest Italian composer of opera.
There is a marked distinction between his career and those of Bellini and Donizetti. The two earlier composers, after reaching a certain point of development, failed to advance. No later opera by Bellini equals "La Sonnambula"; none other by Donizetti ranks with "Lucia di Lammermoor."
But Verdi, despite the great success of "Ernani," showed seven years later, with "Rigoletto," an amazing progress in dramatic expression and skill in ensemble work. "Il Trovatore" and "La Traviata" were other works of the period ushered in by "Il Rigoletto." Eighteen years later the composer, then fifty-eight years old, gave evidence of another and even more notable advance by producing "Aida, a work, which marks the beginning of a new period in Italian opera. Still not satisfied Verdi brought forward "Otello" (1887) and "Falstaff" (1893), scores, which more nearly resemble music-drama than opera.
Thus the steady forging ahead of Verdi, the unhalting development of his genius, is the really great feature of his career. In fact no Italian composer since Verdi has caught up with "Falstaff," which may be as profitably studied as "Le Nozze di Figaro," "Il Barbiere di Siviglia," "Die Meistersinger," and "Der Rosencavalier." Insert "Falstaff" in this list, in its proper place between "Meistersinger" and "Rosencavalier," and you have the succession of great operas conceived in the divine spirit of comedy, from 1786 to 1911.
In my article on "Un Ballo in Maschera," the political use made of the letters of Verdis name is pointed out.
Verdi was born at Roncole, near Busseto, October 9, 1813. He died at Rome, January 27, 1901. There remains to be said that, at eighteen, he was refused admission to the Milan Conservatory "on the score of lack of musical talent."
What fools these mortals be!