I write Opera

Discover Verdi’s operas through the consultation of four sections: “Opera describes itself” a RAI (Italian national television) film which introduces the viewer to the historical and political background of Verdi’s life time with an overview and a description of each opera’s plot: “Documents” enables the viewer to access librettos, literary sources, original manuscripts and editions for voice and pianoforte; “Productions” contains sketches, images, lists of technical necessities, posters, fliers, staging instructions; “Historical recordings” presents a listing of the musical works held in the record archives for the National Institute for Verdi Studies and at the Central Institute for Audiovisual Documents and Cultural Heritage (ICBSA).

From the first production of Oberto conte di San Bonifacio to that of his last masterpiece, Falstaff, for over fifty years Verdi’s production has been luminous banner weaving its way through the tumultuous history of eighteenth century Italy. The radical transformations of operatic language (bewitched by musical creations from beyond the Alps) for which Verdi’s denigrators accused him of being an imitator (Bizet’s comments about Don Carlos remains famous: “Verdi is no longer Italian: he wants to become a Wagner”) may be seen in counterpoint to the armed revolutions in act.  In reply the great composer continued to remain faithful to his personal convictions, founded upon an extremely original elaboration of traditional stylistic elements The Emilian composer – with as much freedom as he needed – continued to respect the basic formulae and closed numbers used in Italian opera, but completely overthrew its spirit, introducing a passionate and emotionally involved vocalism, far removed from the stately classicism of the Belcanto season, and his librettos used free verse to exalt the dramatic spirit of his music.

A new language was alimented thanks to ideas arriving, above all, from French grand-opéra, and input which included new forms of scenography designed to capture and amaze the audience. In some of his letters Verdi proudly vindicated his own ideas for style, which he had fought to win and then defended, as in this letter of the 16th July 1875 written to his friend Opprandino Arrivabene: “There are those who want to be melodic like Bellini, others who want to be experts in harmony like Meyerbeer. I don’t want to be one or the other and prefer that when young composers start to write they don’t think about being melodic, harmonic, realistic, idealistic, futuristic, or any of the other strange things that lead to this kind of pedantic stupidity. Melody and harmony are a means in the hands of the artist that allow music to be created, and if a day arrives in which no-one talks about melody, harmony, German or Italian schools, nor of the past or the future etc etc etc then perhaps the Reign of Art will begin.”