Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Arrigo Boito

Music History Monday: The Opera that Almost Wasn’t

On this day 131 years ago – February 5, 1887 – Giuseppe Verdi’s 25th and penultimate opera, Otello, received its premiere at the Teatro alla Scala (“La Scala”) in Milan. The premiere was the single greatest triumph in Verdi’s sensational career. But it was a premiere – and an opera – that almost didn’t happen. Verdi was born in 1813. He was a tough, no-nonsense man who had a tough life: he lost his wife and two young children to disease during a terrible 20-month span in 1839 and 1840. He battled through his grief to compose an opera called A King for a Day that was booed of the stage. He battled through his rage over that fiasco to compose his third opera, entitled Nabucco, which was a smash hit. He never looked back. No one ever worked harder than Giuseppe Verdi. In the 14 years between 1839 and 1853, he composed nineteen operas. Verdi called these his “galley slave years” because he worked like one: 16 to 18 hours a day, always under deadline, endlessly harried by librettists, producers, singers, critics and conductors. According to Verdi, he hated the whole stinkin’ trip, and as early as 1845 – […]

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