Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Life and Operas of Verdi

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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Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Falstaff

I trust we all raised a glass last Thursday on the 10th of October in honor of Giuseppe Verdi’s 200th birthday. Now, I am aware that with the exception of “belated birthday cards” (“I really crapped up, I’m embarrassed to say; but I had better things to do than remember your day”), we generally do not continue to celebrate birthdays after the date has passed. But 200th birthdays should – rightly – be considered an exception, and thus October of this year has been unofficially designated as “Giuseppe Verdi Appreciation Month”. In Italy in particular, the celebration goes on, with Verdi festivals and opera performances up and down the peninsula. With this in mind, I will be on my way to Italy in just a few hours where I will lead an opera tour organized by Arte & Travel in and around Verdi’s home province of Parma. Among other treats, we will attend performances of “Don Carlo” at La Scala (in Milan); “Nabucco” in Bologna, and “I Masnadieri” (“The Bandits”) at the Teatro Reggio in Parma. This, my friends, is pretty much as good as it gets, and I am most aware of how fabulously lucky I am to be […]

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