Today marks the 200th birthday of the great Italian opera composer, Giuseppe Verdi. Verdi wrote dramatically powerful operas such as Aida, Otello, Un Ballo in Maschera and Rigoletto.
Here is the Overture to La forza del destino performed by Riccardo Muti and the Vienna Philharmonic. What moods and dramatic situations are suggested by the music? How does Verdi convey these emotions?
The greatness of Verdi is a simple thing. Solitary by nature, he found a way of speaking to limitless crowds, and his method was to sink himself completely into his characters. He never composed music for music’s sake; every phrase helps to tell a story. The most astounding scenes in his work are those in which all the voices come together in a visceral mass— like a human wave that could carry anything before it. The voices at the end of Simon Boccanegra, crying out in grief; the voices at the end of Un ballo, overcome by the spiritual magnificence of a dying man; and, of course, the voices of “Va pensiero,” remembering, in a unison line, the destruction of Jerusalem. In the modern world, we seldom find ourselves in the grip of a single emotion, and this is what Verdi restores to us— the sense of belonging. -Alex Ross, Listen to This
Here is a great performance of Verdi’s Requiem by Semyon Bychkov and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. Conductor Riccardo Muti has some interesting things to say about this piece here.
Learn more about Verdi and his music here.