How Italy mourned the loss of a national symbol
|Giuseppe Verdi, photographed|
in about 1870
The prolific composer who had dominated the world of opera for a large part of the 19th century was initially buried privately at Milan’s Cimitero Monumentale.
But a month later Verdi’s body was moved to its final resting place in the crypt of a rest home for retired musicians that he had helped establish in Milan.
An estimated crowd of 300,000 people are reported to have turned out to bid Verdi farewell and ‘Va, pensiero’, a chorus from his 1842 opera Nabucco, was performed by a choir conducted by Arturo Toscanini.
Verdi meant a great deal to the Italian people because his composition, ‘Va, pensiero’ had been the unofficial anthem for supporters of the Risorgimento movement, which had sought the unification of Italy.
In his early operas Verdi had demonstrated sympathy with the cause of the Risorgimento and people had come to associate him with the movement’s ideals.
Listen to Verdi's 'Va, pensiero' performed at the Arena in Verona
But as he became older and more prosperous he had chosen to withdraw from public life and had established himself on a country estate just outside Busetto, the town of his birth, near Parma in Emilia-Romana.
Verdi surprised the world of music with a triumphant final phase when he composed his Requiem in 1874, Otello in 1887 and Falstaff in 1893.
But the composer was reported to have been very upset by the assassination of King Umberto 1 in 1900 and started to write a poem about the monarch that was never completed.
In January, 1901 Verdi suffered a stroke. Despite receiving dedicated medical care at his hotel he died a few days later.
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|The statue of Giuseppe Verdi|
in his home town of Busseto
Photo: VivaVerdi (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Busseto, the home town of Verdi, is in the province of Parma in Emilia Romagna. Verdi was born in the nearby village of Le Roncole in 1813 but moved into the town in 1824. You can visit the churches of Santa Maria degli Angeli and San Michele Arcangelo where Verdi played the organ. Villa Verdi, the country house where he lived with singer Giuseppina Strepponi, is just outside the town in the nearby village of Sant’Agata.