The Man

Giuseppe Verdi was born the 10th of October in Roncole, a village near Busseto in the land of Parma. His family was poor, innkeepers and farmers.

Verdi’s first teacher was the priest of Roncole Pietro Biastrocchi. In 1823 Ferdinando Provesi was the early tutor of Verdi. Provesi was the master of music at the cathedral in Busseto and the director of the school of music. Soon the ability of the young Verdi appeared and he replaced his master in the direction of the Local Philharmonic Society.

In 1831 Antonio Barezzi opened his house to Verdi; his help was very important for the young musician, in fact Barezzi, as a music lover, supported Verdi economically.

As the result of a scholarship granted by the Monte di Pietà in Busseto, Verdi attempted to enter in the Conservatory in Milano. He was unfortunately rejected. Not willing to give up, the young Verdi took lessons by Vincenzo Lavigna who instructed him in counterpoint. Meanwhile Verdi had the chance to attend operatic performances as well as concerts.

In1836 Verdi became the town of Busseto maestro di musica, he married Margherita Barezzi and worked at his first opera, the Roncester, hoping to performance it in Parma.

At the beginning of 1839 Verdi left Busseto to move to Milano.

In November the opera Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio produced by La Scala in Milano was a great success. One year later Verdi was devastated by the loss of two children and his wife, and by the total flop of his opera Un giorno di regno staged in September 1840. However the performance of Nabucco in March 9th 1842 made him famous. In 1843 the composer was gifted by another success with  I Lombardi alla prima crociata. During the following ten years Verdi has created his greatest masterpieces and imposed himself in many Italian theatres. In this time Verdi attended many important salons in Milano. Verdi’s style was inflected by his great personality and capabilities. The melodies lines were usually drafted with fixed forms, stanzas with internal stressed rhythm and patterns of distinctive drama. For the success of an operatic event he has always perpetuated an overwhelming attention in the execution and about the scenic appearances.


In 1842 he began an affair with Giuseppina Strepponi, who was the first Abigaille in Nabucco. Within the same year Verdi attempted for the first time, with Macbeth, a Shakespeare’s play. Between 1851 and 1853 with the pieces Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata he became most famous although his great sense of privacy arose. He in fact moved to the countryside of Sant’Agata where he departed only during the winter to go to Genova. None of his political success seemed to distract him from his private lodging in Sant’Agata. Nor the fact that in 1861 he became member of the new parliament ( in 1863 he abounded his position).

Verdi’s approach of his work changed: he slowed down and increased the care for each new opera. In1855 in Paris he presented Les vêpres siciliennes, in 1857 in Venezia Simon Boccanegra, in 1859 in Roma Un ballo in maschera. Foreigners theatres commissioned Verdi’s operas: in San Petersburg for the Imperial Theatre was performed La forza del destino (1862), in Cairo Aida (1871), while some other theatres in Paris staged Macbeth (1865) and Don Carlos (1867).


For Rossini’s death in 1868 Verdi composed a section for a requiem mass, proposing other Italian contemporaries to continue with other sections. The requiem completed was cancelled and the idea engaged to honour Manzoni’s death. In 1874, one year later the loss of the great author Manzoni, the Messa requiem was first performed at the cathedral of San Marco in Milano. In 1881 Arrigo Boito revised for Verdi the libretto of Simon Boccanegra performeced at La Scala. The relationship blossomed with the two Shakespearian operas  Otello in 1887 and Falstaff in 1893. In 1892 Verdi appeared for the last time at La Scala to conduct Mosè in the occasion of the bicentenary from Rossin’s birth. Verdi lodged for his last winters in a room at the first floor of the Hôtel et de Milan.

In 1898 the last four works Verdi composed were the Quattro pezzi sacri. He had a stroke in January 21rst and he died on the 27th after few days of agony. A large assemble assisted, after the funeral in  Cimitero Monumentale of Milano, the transfer of his remains to the Chapel Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, like the dictates of his will. To date Verdi’s remains still rest in the Chapel.

(Claudio Toscani e Raffaella Valsecchi)