27 January 2016

Giuseppe Verdi – composer

 How Italy mourned the loss of a national symbol

Giuseppe Verdi, photographed in about 1870
Giuseppe Verdi, photographed
in about 1870
Opera composer Giuseppe Verdi died on this day at the age of 87 in his suite at the Grand Hotel et de Milan in 1901.

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.

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 Busseto, the town of his birth, near Parma in Emilia-Romagna.

Verdi surprised the world of music with a triumphant final phase of his career when he composed his Requiem in 1874, Otello in 1887 and Falstaff in 1893.

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.

Read more:

Verdi's Il trovatore first staged, 19 January 1853

Death of conductor Arturo Toscanini, 16 January 1957

Travel tip:

The Grand Hotel et de Milan in Via Manzoni in Milan is now part of the Leading Hotels of the World Group. It was designed in the 18th century but has been renovated and improved many times over the years. Close to La Scala, the Galleria and Duomo, it was in an ideal position for important visitors to Milan such as Verdi, Caruso and Maria Callas.

The statue of Giuseppe Verdi in his home town of Busseto
The statue of Giuseppe Verdi
in his home town of Busseto
Photo: VivaVerdi (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Travel tip:

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.


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