Giuseppe Verdi

Verdi! Verdi!

While Verdi was cheered by Italian patriots at every performance, their applause was perhaps not entirely attributable to a love of opera. By a curious coincidence, the composer's surname was an acronym of the phrase dearest to the heart of every Italian nationalist after 1861: "Vittorio Emmanuele, Re d'Italia!"


Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

Giuseppe Verdi once received a letter from a fan who complained that his opera Aida had not evoked a significant emotional response. The man demanded a refund for all of his expenses. Verdi graciously agreed to pay up - but only after the man had promised (in writing) never to listen to another one of his operas.


Barrel Organs

One summer Verdi rented a sizable cottage at a fashionable Italian resort.  One day, a visitor called and was surprised to find the composer occupying a single room.
"Why don't you use the rest of the house?" he asked - whereupon Verdi ushered him through the other rooms, each of which was packed floor to ceiling with barrel organs (ninety-five in all).
"They were all churning out my operas," Verdi explained. "Rigoletto - Il Trovatore - and all the others. It was clearly impossible for me to work under such conditions, so I have hired the organs from their owners. It will cost me about fifteen hundred lire for the summer, but that is not too large a price to pay for peace."


Great Critic

A Great Critic visited Verdi as he was putting the finishing touches on Il Travatore.
"What do you think of this?" Verdi asked him, playing the Anvil Chorus.
"Trash," announced the Great Critic, for he loved only the finest things.
"Now try this," said Verdi, offering the Miserere.
"What rubbish!" the Great Critic observed, for his nuanced sensibility could accept only the most profound art.
"One last test," said Verdi. He presented the tenor's aria, 'Di quella pira'.
"It's beastly," noted the Great Critic, for anything less than nobility made him shudder.
Verdi rose from the piano and embraced the Great Critic in momentous joy.
"What is the meaning of this?" asked the Great Critic.
"My dear friend," Verdi told him, "I have been writing a popular opera - an opera for the public, not for purists and classicists and solemn judges, like you. If you liked this music, no one else would. But your distaste assures me of success. In three months, Il Trovatore will be sung, whistled, and played all over Italy!"

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