Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Verdi – Page 2

Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Life and Operas of Verdi: Otello

During the first half of his professional life, Giuseppe Verdi worked like a proverbial dog. (An odd idiom, “worked like a dog”. Yes, I suppose some dogs do work, but most of them spend the bulk of their time sleeping, eating, scratching themselves and licking their privates. If the latter is what is really meant by “working like a dog”, well then, the idiom takes on a whole new meaning, doesn’t it? With that possibility in mind, permit me to restart this post, sans the canine reference.) During the first half of his professional life, Giuseppe Verdi worked REALLY HARD. In the fourteen years between 1839 (when he completed his first opera, “Oberto”) and 1853 (when he completed “La Traviata”), Verdi composed and oversaw the casting, staging, and premieres of eighteen operas. (A nineteenth opera – Jérusalem, produced in 1847 – was in actuality an adaptation and translation into French of an earlier opera entitled “I Lombardi alla prima crociata”.) Verdi himself referred to the period between 1839 and 1853 as constituting his “galley slave years” because to his mind (and to ours), he worked like a slave: 18-20 hours a day, almost every day, always under deadline, harried endlessly […]

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Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Life and Operas of Verdi: Rigoletto

Giuseppe Verdi’s first opera, “Oberto”, was produced at Milan’s famed Teatro alla Scala in 1839 when Verdi was 26 years old. Oberto’s modest success was completely obscured by the domestic disasters Verdi suffered between 1838 and 1840 when, in the span of 22 months, he lost both his small children and he beloved wife Margherita to disease. Paralyzed by grief, Verdi swore he’d never compose again. But compose he did: egged on, cajoled, wheedled and finally browbeaten by Bartolomeo Merelli – the director of La Scala – Verdi completed his second opera “Un giorno di regno” (“King for a Day”) and composed his third opera, “Nabucco”, about which I blogged on September 20. (Bartolomeo Merelli was an astute businessman, but in his actions towards Verdi, he was also a GREAT AND BRILLIANT man. Merelli’s love for and belief in Verdi very probably kept Verdi alive, and his intransigence towards Verdi the artist kept Verdi composing at a time when he would most likely have quit forever. That would have been a disaster of such magnitude that its mere contemplation loosens my bladder. So please, three cheers for Bartolomeo Merelli who was, in fact, one of music history’s indispensible men.) (While […]

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Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Life and Operas of Verdi: Nabucco

We understand a “eureka moment” as being a revelatory, paradigm-shifting realization that has the power to change EVERYTHING. The word “eureka” comes from the ancient Greek word εὕρηκα, which means “I have found it!” The ancient Greco-dude credited with coining the exclamation “eureka!” was the mathematician, astronomer, physicist, engineer, inventor and Jeopardy!-freak Archimedes (circa 287 BCE – circa 212 BCE). Archimedes purportedly shrieked “EUREKA” when, having stepped into his bath and noticed that the water level rose, he realized that the volume of water he displaced was equal to the volume of his body that was submerged in the water. A nanosecond (or two) later, he then realized that he had solved what had long been considered an unsolvable problem: how to accurately measure the volume of an irregular object. According to legend, Archimedes was so excited by his “eureka moment” that he jumped out of the tub and ran naked through the streets of his native city of Syracuse, there on the southeastern coast of Sicily. We suspect he would have thought twice about doing so had he made his discovery during a winter’s evening in Medicine Hat, Alberta. I trust we’ve all had a “eureka moment”. Mine occurred […]

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Celebrating Verdi’s 200th — Life and Operas of Verdi: Macbeth

Speaking of facial hair (which I did in my previous post), I would issue a challenge to all the techies out there. I would dearly love to have an app that allowed me to actually “see” what someone looked like – clean shaven – beneath his beard. Now, I completely understand that a full beard is considered a sign of piety by some religious sects and as a symbol of male virility -“plumage” on full display – for various cultures. Nevertheless, as a card-carrying “face-man” (as opposed to a “breast-man” or a “leg-man”), I would assert that full beards cover up, and even disguise, that most special and revealing part of the human body: the face. Depending upon how they are counted, there are anywhere from 19 to 43 muscles in the human face, the subtle interplay of which collectively are capable of an almost infinite degree of expressive nuance. (Yes, there are exceptions to this. For example, given the range of emotional expression displayed by the actor Chuck Norris, we can correctly conclude that it is possible to have but a single facial muscle.) However many facial muscles one possesses, a full beard will mask much of the expression […]

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Let The Party Begin – 200th Birthday Celebrations for Verdi and Wagner

Let the party begin! We are about to embark on the greatest one-two birthday punch in the history of opera. Tomorrow – May 22 – marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Wilhelm Richard Wagner. 151 days later – on October 10 – we will celebrate the 200th birthday of Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi, aka “Joe Green, the Italian opera Machine”. Of course, the musical festivities have been going on for many months already; we can hardly turn over an operatic rock anywhere on the planet and not find a Wagner or Verdi festival or a Ring Cycle underneath. The opera season notwithstanding, the popular media is poised to jump on the Wagner-Verdi bandwagon, and we should thus gird our loins in anticipation of the onslaught of information and misinformation, facts and opinions-parading-as-facts, articles and books, radio shows, recordings and documentaries, all timed to coincide with the birthdays. Among those documentaries is an hour-long radio show created by the venerable WQXR in New York entitled “Clash of the Titans: An Exploration of Verdi & Wagner.” Created by Jeff Spurgeon and Aaron Cohen, the show seeks to compare and contrast the lives and music of Wagner and Verdi. It is […]

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