Is there a composer who is more adored than Giuseppe Verdi? There are composers who command more respect than Verdi, but no one receives more love. To honor the recent anniversary of Verdi’s passing let’s reminisce about some of his most famous moments.
First of all I should clarify that Verdi wasn’t born in Italy. He was born (October 10, 1913) in the French Empire of a Corsican named Napoleon Bonaparte. There was no unified Italy when Verdi started showing musical promise as the organist in his village of La Rencole — about 65 miles from Milan in northern Italy — at the age of eight. The unification of Italy was to become a cause which Verdi championed. The issue was not fully settled before his death on January 27, 1901.
The prettiest part of the Verdi's greatest music
Nabucco was Verdi’s first successful opera. It is best known for the chorus of the Hebrew slaves (Va pensiero) longing for their homeland. The chorus has become synonymous with Italian nationhood and could be likened unto an American song such as God Bless America if God Bless America had been composed by one of the founding fathers.
Almost all of Verdi’s operas from his early period dealt with politics in one form or another. Some of his most popular works from this era, the 1840’s, also include Ernani, Macbeth.
The 1850’s brought Verdi international recognition and fame. From this middle period come Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata. There is something of a formulaic "oom pa pa... oom pa pa" which shows up in Verdi's music from this era, but these are three of the most popular operas ever written with La Traviata being the single most performed opera in the world.
The 1850’s concluded with Verdi’s 20th opera Un Ballo in Maschera. Over the remaining 51 years of his life he would only write five more operas, the Requiem, and Four Sacred Pieces.
Two of those five are very good operas — Don Carlo and La Forza del Destino. The remaining three are indisputable masterpieces.
First came Aida, followed by contrasting Shakespeare adaptations in Otello and Falstaff. My personal opinion is that Otello is the peak of Verdi’s operatic oeuvre. But it is his Requiem that I consider to be the greatest music Giuseppe Verdi ever wrote.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.