Giuseppe Verdi: the great life of the Swan of Busseto
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Giuseppe Verdi

Artists - Le Roncole, 1813 10/10/1813 - Milan, 1901 27/01/1901


Giuseppe Verdi is one of the most famous composers and conductors of all time. He composed thirty-two works, religious pieces, including the Messa di Requiem, chamber music for strings, operas and choral compositions.

Born into a humble family, he began his career in Busseto, in the province of Parma. He came to Milan to attend the Conservatory, but he was not admitted. Nevertheless, he stayed in the city and crafted a unique relationship with Milan's public. During his entire time in Milan, Verdi was the guest of many aristocratic families as well as the publishers Lucca and Ricordi, with whom he developed a close friendship.

After his wife’s death and the failure of one of his less successful compositions, Un giorno di regno, in 1840, he decided to abandon his musical career. He went to Merelli, the conductor at La Scala, to break off his contract. But Merelli believed a great deal in his talent and refused to let him go. After several attempts, however, he finally agreed to release Verdi from his commitments, as long as he promised that he would come back if he ever changed his mind. The composer then left the city and returned to the town of his birth.

Yet he soon grew tired of the quiet life there and decided to return to Milan, where he convinced Merelli himself to set a new opera to music. It was thanks to Nabucco that Verdi continued his career with great success. His fame and popularity grew to such an extent that he was made a Senator of the Kingdom of Italy.

In 1873, Verdi was crushed at the news of Alessandro Manzoni’s death. On the occasion he wrote to Ricordi: “I am deeply pained by the death of our Great One. But I will not be going to Milan tomorrow, because I would not have the heart to witness his funeral. I will visit his grave soon enough, alone and unseen, and perhaps (after further reflection, and after gathering my strength) I will propose something to honor his memory.” And sure enough, he composed the Messa di Requiem to dedicate to the great writer.

The “years of silence,” a period in which the composer seems to have lost all creative inspiration, were followed by his last full operas, two veritable masterpieces: Otello and Falstaff. A few years before his death he founded a rest home for musicians in Milan, situated in Piazza Buonarroti.

Anecdotes and curiosities

Verdi preserved his application for admission to Milan’s Conservatory – dated June 22nd, 1832 – all his life, bound in a folder on which he wrote in his own hand: “Rejected!” Much later, in 1900, when Guido Baccelli, the education minister, asked Verdi for his permission to name the Conservatory after him, he received a polite but firm refusal. Verdi’s comment: “They did not want me in my youth, they will not have me in my old age!”

He had a rough character - he often liked to remember his farming origins - and also tended to be a bit of a misanthrope; he made sure his little dog was buried in the garden of the Villa Sant’Agata (in Le Roncole, still today visited daily by tourists and enthusiasts) with a plaque that says: “In memory of a true friend”.

Related places

Teatro dei Filodrammatici:

Lavigna allowed him to take part in the rehearsals of an amateur orchestra, for which he sat in as harpsichordist in the regular musician’s absence, performing Joseph Haydn’s The Creation during a fund-raising concert in 1834;

La Scala Theater:

Giuseppe Verdi’s first opera, Oberto conte di San Bonifacio was performed here thanks to Giuseppina Strepponi, who introduced him and managed to convince Bartolomeo Merelli. Un Giorno di Regno premiered here, and Nabucco was also performed here;

Church of San Marco:

On May 22nd, 1874, the Messa di Requiem was performed. It was composed by Verdi in honor of Alessandro Manzoni who had passed away the year before. This event had a deep impact on the life of the Maestro, bringing on the “years of silence”, during which creative inspiration seems to have completely deserted Verdi;

Piazza Buonarroti, 29:

The rest home for musicians that was founded by Verdi;

Hotel Et de Milan in Via Manzoni, 29:

Verdi stayed here several times – the most significant was in 1887, on the opening night of Otello. On January 27th,

1901, the Maestro died at the Hôtel Milan in Milan:

During his entire “Milan” period, Verdi was the guest of many different aristocratic Milanese families and the publishers Ricordi and Lucca. Like many other musicians, he spent a great deal of time in the literary salons and cafés of Milan. The most famous were those of the Princess Cristina Belgiojoso Trivulzio, the Countess Clara Maffei (1834, in Via dei Tre Monasteri, now located in Via Monte di Pietà), whose close friendship with Verdi lasted his whole life through correspondence by letter (with her husband, the famous poet Andrea Maffei, too), the Countess Appiani Marignan, Emilia Morosini and her daughter Giuseppina andthe future Countess Negroni Prati. He also frequented

Caffè Martini in Piazza della Scala;

Verdi also often frequented Villa Maffei in Clusone, in the territory of Bergamo. A bronze bust, in the vicinity of the villa, today commemorates the presence of the maestro;

In January 1901, three days before the death of Verdi, Via Manzoni (where he was staying in a hotel) was covered in straw so that the carriages would not disturb the maestro who was in agony;

Barezzi House;

Saletti House in Via S. Marta, 19;

Dupuy House in S. Paolo district.

House in the Porta Ticinese district;

House in the S. Simone district (today Cesare Correnti);

Retirement home for musicians, Piazza Buonarroti, 29.

Sources and documents

Garibaldi Franco Temistocle, Giuseppe Verdi nella vita e nell’arte, Firenze: Bemporad, 1904.

Marchesi Gustavo, Pasi Mario, Verdi, Parma: G.D.P. Editrice, 1993.

Pougin Arthur, Vita aneddotica di Verdi, Firenze: Passigli Editori, 2001.

Sabba Marsilio, La vita di Giuseppe Verdi: artistica, aneddotica, popolare, Milano: Soc. Editrice Milanese, 1913.

Toye Francis, Giuseppe Verdi: la sua vita e le sue opere, Milano: Longanesi, 1950.

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