Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Life and Operas of Verdi: La bell’Italia

We have a major composer birthday coming up: the great Italian opera composer Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi will be turning 200 years old on October 10, and he never sounded better. I am going to take a brief break from my jazz pianist postings in order to focus on my pal and yours, the esteemed Joe Green, the Italian opera machine.

Rather than write long, potentially stultifying blogs about this fascinating man and brilliant composer, I am going to draw on a 32-lecture course I made for The Great Courses/The Teaching Company called (not unexpectedly) “The Life and Operas of Verdi.” (I am, of course, assuming that the selected video excerpts I will draw from this course are NOT stultifying.) The approximately nine-minute excerpts I will link to this page have the reinforcing advantages of providing much more info than I can possibly provide in a blog while, hopefully, making you hungry for even more information and therefore susceptible to actually purchasing the course.

Follow the link below to the first excerpt, during which I discuss the prodigious gifts the Italians have lavished on humanity. Chief among those gifts is opera itself, and chief among the greatest composers of Italian opera was Giuseppe Verdi.

(I would offer up a gratuitous bit of biographical info, to be considered while watching the video below. I recorded this course a little over ten years ago, in January of 2003. At the time, I had a moustache: a clunky, shapeless, caterpillar-like thing that I grew back in 1974 when I was a twenty year-old junior in college. I originally grew the thing because I had a baby face and none of the freshman or sophomore girls I did my darndest to connect with believed I was anything but a freshman. The moustache, then, was originally intended to make me look older. It didn’t work; I merely looked like a freshman with a moustache.

Fast forward nearly thirty years to December, 2003. The moustache, rather suddenly, turned gray, a fact that my then twelve year-old son Samuel just LOVED to talk about. The truth be told, though, is that even the most casual glance in the mirror confirmed that the moustache I grew in 1974 in order to look older was now making me look way too old at a time that I actually wanted to look YOUNGER. So on Christmas morning of 2003 I shaved it off and saw my upper lip for the first time in nearly 30 years. I freaked out; my wife freaked out; my kids freaked out; the cat freaked out; all typical freaking behavior – as I have since discovered – when a guy shaves off long-term facial hair. But “off” it has remained, and the course “The Life and Operas of Verdi” is the final documentary evidence of its existence.)