Verdi’s Places – the young Giuseppe in Busseto

Due to the imminent departure of “Festival Verdi 2014”, in the following article we would like to propose an “overview” of Giuseppe Verdi, on his life, the places somehow related to his person, the relationship with the countries that hosted him and who loved him: Busseto, Sant’Agata, Parma.

This our “story” in most episodes is an attempt to unify all the ideas proposed in the initiative VerdiMuseum, digital and widespread museum dedicated to the Master and extraordinary example of how social media and the ability to share can go hand in hand with the culture.

Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi portrait

Source: buongiornoslovacchia.sk

Verdi was born in Roncole Verdi, a fraction of Busseto, in 1813. Visiting his birthplace you can deduct the humble circumstances in which the Verdi family lived: a dwelling bare, low and long, with doors macerated by centuries of rain, which Giuseppe’s parents used as a tavern to supplement the meager income from work in the fields.

House Museum of Giuseppe Verdi in Roncole Verdi

Source: visitparma.com

From the beginning the young “Peppino” shows a strong predisposition for music: as related by Stefano Bianchi, a member of the “27 Club”, when Verdi was a child he spent hours playing a spinet (small keyboard instrument), so that the father began to hope that could one day replace the organist of the church of the country.

Small Giuseppe Verdi's keyboard

Source: immac.it

It was precisely the parents Carlo and Luigia the first to believe in the talent of his son: we can only imagine the sacrifices made by his father to buy the spinet, and the great confidence that they placed in the child when allowed him to pursue his passion, instead of forcing him to help in the work.

Trust that Verdi did not take long to pay off: at the age of ten he began to perform at the home of Antonio Barezzi, his future father and so much passionate of music to transform the living room of his home in the Busseto Philharmonic Hall.

Barezzi house is now a museum that exhibits valuable autographs and paintings that trace the career of the Master, as well as portraits of singers and nineteenth-century posters that remember the most important seasons of opera at the Teatro Verdi in Busseto.

Source: museocasabarezzi.it

Source: museocasabarezzi.it

The Teatro Verdi is another place par excellence that remembers Verdi: opened in 1868 after 12 years of work, is the second hub (after the Regio) of the Verdi Festival and, despite being small, conveys all the charm and sacredness linked to the opera. Verdi, despite having spent ten thousand lire to build it, doesn’t ever set foot there, maybe to emphasize his impatience with Busseto and its inhabitants.

Source: ilmattinodiparma.it

Source: ilmattinodiparma.it

In Via Roma 56, under the arcades of the center of Busseto, there is Palazzo Orlandi, better known as “the palace of the scandal“. Indeed, it was the house where Verdi lived for two years, from 1849 to 1851, with Giuseppina Strepponi, when the two were still not married. Here the Maestro composed four operas, Luisa Miller, Stiffelio, Rigoletto and Il Trovatore. Some say that the decision to move to the country was born from the constant gossip around this cohabitation, disliked by right-thinking people of the small town.

Second Wife of Giuseppe Verdi

Source: martatraifiori.blogspot.com

Perhaps it was for this reason that Verdi later called Busseto a “country that has the bad habit of entanglement in the affairs of others, and disapprove of everything that does not conform to his ideas” (volipindarici.it).

In any case, the evidence tell us that he, already since 1834, was anxious to leave, but did not have enough money. Fortunately, even Barezzi immediately realized the talent of the young musician, so he decided to “invest” on him, thanks to the financial support of the rich grocer, Verdi was able to free himself from the position of music teacher in stagnant Busseto and go to Milan, where became a pupil of Vincenzo Lavigna, master conductor at La Scala.

In the Lombard capital, an unexpected event happened: Verdi tried to enter the Conservatory, but was incredibly rejected after having passed the entrance examination. Always Stefano Bianchi explains that

In truth, the Examining Board recognized in him a certain talent for musical composition, but the judgment was negative for the following reasons: already had passed the age at which usually comes in Conservatorio; was a foreigner (then Italy was not united, but divided into several states); the position of the hands on the keyboard was not correct (the default was learned by the organist of his country, not by a teacher), and finally the available places for the students were gone” (VerdiMuseum).

Ironically, today the Conservatory of Milan bears his name.

Conservatory "Giuseppe Verdi" in Milano

Source: altramilano.net

Then Verdi married Margaret, daughter of his benefactor Barezzi, by whom he had two children, but both died at the age of one year. As if that were not enough, his wife died in 1940, an event that threw Verdi into the deepest despair.

In the meantime, his work as a composer proceeded with mixed results: his first opera, “Oberto count of San Bonifacio”, cost him four years of hard work, was shown in 1939 at La Scala with good success and repeated fourteen times; the following year the manager of La Scala commissioned a comedy, “A day of the Kingdom”, which, however, was a complete failure.

In despair, without a family, back from a serious failure, Verdi pondered leaving the opera, but was persuaded by the manager of La Scala to don’t give up. Almost by accident turned his attention to a book of biblical subject, Nabucco, and began to write the music. It was his first great triumph: the work collected 64 replicates only in its first year of implementation, and only at the Scala. One of the choirs, the famous “Va pensiero” became a sort of national anthem:

At this point the road to success was leveled by Verdi, which in the following decades could devote himself to find his balance artistic and human, perpetually divided between two opposing forces: the desire to be open to new cultural influences (which led him to travel across Europe and to stay long in Paris) and the desire to stand apart in the peace and comforting monotony of rural life (symbolized by the farm of Sant’Agata).

(end of part one)

 

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