Violin History & Timeline
The Roots of Famous Violinists
Verdi was the master of Italian opera. He integrated political
interests, lyric melodies, and dramatic intensity into his music and
operatic themes. Verdi, the son of a peasant innkeeper, was born on
October 10, 1813. As a child he illustrated a tremendous love for music,
however, he was not considered particularly talented. A local organist
gave Verdi his initial lessons in music, after which Verdi’s father
sent him to Busseto to further his musical abilities. Twelve-year-old
Verdi lived with a friend of his family, and soon became acquainted with
Antonio Barezzi, the president of the Busseto Philharmonic Society.
Barezzi encouraged Verdi’s talent, offering the young boy a job, and
enabling him to take music lessons from Ferdinando Provesi, the director
of a local Philharmonic Society. Verdi began to compose pieces, and
progressed in his musical studies. At the age of fifteen he wrote an
orchestral overture that was performed in a local theater. The people of
Busseto were so entranced by Verdi’s music that they pooled together
enough money to send him to Milan to study at the Conservatory.
Unfortunately, the Milan Conservatory rejected Verdi,
finding that he lacked musical talent. Nonetheless, Verdi continued
studying music by taking private lessons from Vincenzo Lavigna, a
composer and musician. Verdi made his debut when he was called on to
replace an absent director at a performance of Haydn’s The
Creation. The audience was so
impressed by his abilities that Verdi was given a permanent position as
the music director.
After the death of his beloved private instructor,
Verdi decided to pursue a career as a composer, and to seek out his
childhood sweetheart, Margherita Barezzi. He soon succeeded in
presenting his first opera, Oberto, at La Scala, and won
Margherita’s hand in marriage. Verdi and Margherita had two beloved
children who both died while they were infants. During the writing of
his first operatic comedy, Verdi met with disaster. His son died, and a
few months later his wife passed away. The presentation of his new opera
was a catastrophe, and Verdi almost chose to abandon composition
However, the director of La Scala supported and
encouraged Verdi, enabling the budding composer to produce his first
masterpiece, Nabucco. A tremendous success, Nabucco catapulted
Verdi to the status of a celebrity in Italy. Foods and toys were named
after him, and he was paid an astounding amount for his next operatic
work, I Lombardi. I Lombardi led to Verdi’s first
conflict with the Austrian authorities. Attempting to maintain control
over Italy, strict censorship governed Italian operas. Verdi soon became
known as a champion of Italy’s rights, as he would infuse contemporary
political issues into his operas.
From 1844 to 1851 Verdi wrote prolifically, producing
at least ten operas. However, his finest pieces were still unwritten.
Starting with the production of Rigo/etto in 1851, Verdi became
one of the greatest operatic composers in the world. The Khedive of
Egypt commissioned the writing and production of Aida to
celebrate the opening of an opera house that commemorated the building
of the Suez Canal. Due to problems caused by the Franco-Prussian War,
the opera was delayed by two years. However, its opening was a
magnificent spectacle of beauty and brilliance. The audience’s
excitement was uncontainable, and the conductor could hardly concentrate
over the constant clapping. Verdi chose not to attend this production,
and was quite displeased by the garish manner in which the opera was
promoted and presented.
Having accumulated significant wealth, Verdi
purchased a large farm at S ant’ Agata, a town two miles from Busseto.
He revealed his inherent love for farming, and took great pride in
tending to his crops and gardens. After living with Giuseppina Strepponi
for many years, he married her in 1859. Although he did not want to
participate in politics, he served as deputy when he was elected, and
later served as a Senator when the King appointed him to the position.
For fifteen years, Verdi wrote no operas, and simply
enjoyed the pleasures of farm life. However, Sarrigo Boito, a noteworthy
composer and poet, brought him a libretto based on Shakespeare’s Othello.
Verdi was so moved by the libretto that he was driven to produce his
next opera, Otello. This work was a
raging success and led Verdi to produce dramatic operas based on
Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Henry
Following the death of his beloved Giuseppina, Verdi
moved away from his farm and into the Grand Hotel in Milan. A few years
later he suffered from a paralytic stroke, and wavered between life and
death for six full days. During this period fans and musicians lined the
streets, awaiting information about the beloved composer’s condition.
Over 28,000 people lined the streets to mourn the loss of this
magnificent man. A husband, farmer, politician, musician, and composer,
Verdi met and mastered the challenges in his life. His operas
evoke the depth of human experiences, and express the eternal potency
and beauty of music.
Note by Shanaira Udwadia (July-2001)