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He turned lusty, blood-and-guts drama into glorious song: Verdi, today’s Composer Birthday

He turned lusty, blood-and-guts drama into glorious song: Verdi, today’s Composer Birthday featured image

An inferno … this pic will make sense in a moment. 

October 10 is the birthday of Joe Green (otherwise known as “Giuseppe Verdi”).

Giuseppe Fortunino Frencesco Verdi was THE Italian opera guy, writing intensely lyrical and robust opera music. A direct contemporary of Richard Wagner (THE German opera guy), the two composers couldn’t have been more different. While Wagner worshipped ancient legends and theories, Verdi had strong intuition for powerful melodies that conveyed feelings. Verdi gave the people what they wanted: great songs that were fun to sing, and as Verdi’s abilities expanded and developed, he brought his fan base with him.

In Italy, opera was the people’s art, and the pop music of its day. The public wanted soap opera: tear-jerking melodrama, bloodshed, intrigue, and lust -think “Game of Thrones” sung in brilliant, lyrical song form. Verdi’s death had the effect on the nation as if a hockey legend passed away in Canada. When his body was laid in its final resting place, a chorus of over 800 singers performed a passage from one of his operas, “Nabucco”, conducted by the most famous conductor at the time, Arturo Toscanini (who is still famous). A crowd of 300,000 turned out.

Tenor Joseph Calleja sings O Inferno from Verdis’ “Simon Boccanegra” (hence the fire-laden photo above). With lines like “I feel a raging jealous blaze up in my heart” and “All his blood could not quench its flames” and “If he had a thousand lives and I could end them all with one blow” you know it’s impassioned and drama-laden as only the Italians can do with their opera. I’d explain the plot to you but it’s pretty twisted and complicated – kind of how I feel during a James Bond movie – I never am quite sure what’s going on, so I just sit back and take in all the suspenseful drama. That’s what you can do with Verdi.

Giuseppe Verdi was born October 13, 1813 near the town of Busseto, and died January 27, 1901, in Milan.


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