Giuseppe Verdi

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Giuseppe Verdi, photograph by Giacomo Brogi
Signature of Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi ( born October 9 or October 10, 1813 in Le Roncole , Taro department , French Empire ; †  January 27, 1901 in Milan ) was an Italian composer of the Romantic period , best known for his operas , including Rigoletto , Otello and Falstaff , became famous.


Verdi's birthplace in Roncole Verdi
Margherita Barezzi, Verdi's first wife

It is not entirely clear whether Giuseppe Verdi was born on October 9th or 10th. On October 11, the baptismal register stated that he had been born the previous evening ( infantem natum heri vespere hora octava ). Verdi himself considered October 9th his birthday. Since the days used to be counted from sunset to sunset, this interpretation of the entry in the baptismal book is also possible. Verdi was born into humble circumstances (his father Carlo was an innkeeper and small farmer) in the town of Le Roncole in the Duchy of Parma (today Roncole Verdi). In the birth register, Verdi's first names were Frenchized and he was entered as "Joseph Fortunin François Verdi".

Verdi's exceptional talent was noticed early on, and he received musical instruction from the organist in nearby Busseto . In 1823, with the support of a music-loving patron , the merchant Antonio Barezzi in Busseto, he was admitted to the local high school. He soon deputized for the village organist in the church. After being rejected by the Milan Conservatory , which is now named after him, in 1832, he became a private student - again with Barezzi's support - of Vincenzo Lavigna , a student of Giovanni Paisiello .

In 1834 he became organist and in 1835 music director in Busseto. In May 1836 he married Barezzi's daughter Margherita. The marriage produced two children, both of whom died when they were two years old: the daughter Virginia Maria Luigia (March 26, 1837 – August 12, 1838) and the son Icilio Romano (July 11, 1838 – October 22 1839). During these years, Verdi not only studied counterpoint and the basics of opera design intensively , but also dealt with politics and literature.

In 1838 Verdi went to Milan again. After a lost, unperformed debut titled Rocester or Lord Hamilton , his opera Oberto conte di San Bonifacio was successfully performed at La Scala in Milan in November 1839 . In June 1840, Verdi's wife Margherita died of encephalitis at the age of 26, while Verdi was working on his next work, the comic opera Un giorno di regno (1840). The performance was booed. Verdi, deeply mourning the death of his wife and children, decided, depressed, to give up composing.

After more than a year, however, Bartolomeo Merelli , the director of La Scala, was able to persuade him to write another work: Nabucodonosor (1842; later called Nabucco ). This opera proved to be a sensational success and Verdi was also internationally recognized as the "leading Italian opera composer". The Abigaille of the premiere, Giuseppina Strepponi (baptismal name: Clelia Maria Josepha, 1815–1897), later became Verdi's partner and second wife. Since the publication of the first Verdi biographies in the last third of the 19th century, it has been claimed that the Italian people suffering under foreign rule identified themselves with the striving for freedom expressed in this opera by the Jews held in Babylonian captivity . The well-known chorus Va pensiero, sull'ali dorate (“climb, thought, on golden wings”) was a kind of Italian national anthem , a protest against tyranny and political despotism. However, there is no evidence for this.

Over the next six years, Verdi wrote several operas in quick succession to earn a living, first I Lombardi alla prima crociata ("The Lombards on the First Crusade", 1843) and Ernani (1844). These two operas turned out to be great successes. Of the next works, however, only Macbeth (1847) and Luisa Miller (1849) made it into the standard repertoire of the major opera houses. During this time he toiled - in his own words - like a galley slave and seriously endangered his health. His declared goal was to earn enough money so that he could retire early as a gentleman to a country estate - preferably in Sant'Agata near Roncole .

Giuseppe Verdi around 1850

La battaglia di Legnano (“The Battle of Legnano”, 1849) was Verdi's fiery response to the Risorgimento , the Italian unity movement that followed the revolutionary year of 1848 ; This jealousy drama is set against the historical background of the League of Lombard Cities' victory over Frederick Barbarossa .

Stiffelio (1850), which deals with the adultery of a Protestant pastor's wife, was followed by Rigoletto ( 1851), Il trovatore ("The Troubadour", 1853) and La traviata (1853). This so -called trilogia popolare ("popular trilogy") is regarded as a high point in Verdi's work and marks the breakthrough of a music-aesthetic conception that first announced itself in the realism of Macbeth . The works consolidated Verdi's international fame and are still among the most popular operas in the world today.

He set high standards when choosing his literary models, a sign that his private studies in the 1930s had borne fruit. Victor Hugo supplied him with the templates for Ernani and Rigoletto , Shakespeare for Macbeth , Lord Byron for I due Foscari (“The Two Foscari”) and Il corsaro (“The Corsair”), Voltaire for Alzira and Friedrich Schiller for Giovanna d' Arco the drama The Maid of Orléans , I masnadieri (“The Robbers”) after the play of the same name and finally Luisa Miller after Intrigue and Love . Shakespeare's King Lear also occupied him several times in the years that followed, without Re Lear ever being composed .

After Verdi met the singer Giuseppina Strepponi (the Abigaille in the premiere of Nabucco ) again in Paris in 1847 on the occasion of the performance of Jérusalem (a revision of the Lombardi ) , they fell in love and soon moved in together. This connection met with considerable resistance, especially in Busseto. It was not until 1859 that Verdi and Strepponi decided to marry.

Giuseppe Verdi (circa 1870)
Giuseppe Verdi (Portrait of Giovanni Boldini , 1886)
Verdi's second wife Giuseppina Strepponi two years before her death
Giuseppe Verdi, postcard with dedication (1893)

After the unification of Italy, he was persuaded by Count Cavour to run for the Chamber of Deputies in 1861, but soon resigned. Verdi was now an international celebrity, working for the Paris Opera (where he challenged Giacomo Meyerbeer with Les vêpres siciliennes in 1855 ), the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg and the World Exhibition in London, where Verdi's Inno delle nazioni ('Hymn of the Nations ’) was premiered to a text by the young Arrigo Boito . Operas composed during these years include Simon Boccanegra (1857), Aroldo (1857) as a new version of Stiffelio , Un ballo in maschera ("A Masked Ball", 1859), La forza del destino ("The Force of Destiny", 1862) and Don Carlos (1867). Here his mastery of the melody and the musical design of the characters, the newly won freedom in recitatives and arias and a stronger emphasis on the role of the orchestra than in his early work are evident. The depth in the characterization - especially the female roles - is probably due to his relationship with Giuseppina Strepponi, who unconditionally stood by this undoubtedly difficult man at all times. During these times, Verdi repeatedly had difficulties with the censors, who considered an attack on a king ( Rigoletto, masked ball ) to be dangerous and forced extensive changes in the dramaturgy. While the opera Les vêpres siciliennes ("The Sicilian Vespers"), which was composed for Paris, was only a moderate success in Italy due to censorship, he was able to outperform his rival Meyerbeer with Don Carlos . After that he withdrew from composing. However, in 1869 he revised the opera La forza del destino , written for the audience in St. Petersburg, for Italian stages. He had consistently invested his fees in his Sant'Agata estate and was now financially independent.

In November 1869, the Cairo Opera House was inaugurated with Verdi's Rigoletto and a few days later the Suez Canal opened. The Egyptian Viceroy Ismail Pasha wanted a new opera by Verdi for his opera house for the following season. But it was not until June 1870 that Verdi agreed and composed Aida (which he therefore did not create for the opening of either the Cairo Opera House or the Suez Canal). The premiere took place in Cairo in 1871. It was a roaring success, because the opera was a piece of work. Verdi gave his librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni a detailed “script” and even influenced the metering used. In 1873, on the first anniversary of the death of the writer and friend Alessandro Manzoni , he composed his most important work outside of the stage, the Messa da Requiem . He had previously written the String Quartet in E minor .

Thereafter, disappointed by the lack of significant social progress in Italy, Verdi considered himself a reindeer and devoted considerable time and energy to expanding and improving his estate at Sant'Agata. "I'll still be Maestro Verdi until midnight, then I'll become a farmer again." Verdi finally withdrew to his Sant'Agata estate and devoted himself to the management of the estate. At the same time, he worked to improve the infrastructure in his area. He saw that many of his neighbors were emigrating into an uncertain future; he tried to prevent that. On his initiative, roads were built and repaired, ditches dammed, forests reforested, farmhouses built, even a small hospital was donated. Verdi rarely left the estate, but then only to conduct concerts and operas. During this phase he also established the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti , a retirement home for former musicians in Milan ( see below ). In 1874 Verdi was appointed Senator of the Kingdom of Italy.

However, his publisher Giulio Ricordi was not satisfied with what he had achieved; he arranged a collaboration with the now famous writer and composer Arrigo Boito . So it came about that Verdi wrote his most mature operas at the age of over 70. As a test, Boito revised – successfully – the libretto by Simon Boccanegra (the opera is still performed in this version today). After long delays, Otello (“Othello”) was written in 1887 to a libretto by Boito based on Shakespeare's tragedy . 1893 followed as the last opera Falstaff , whose libretto Boito had also written based on Shakespeare's template. It premiered at La Scala in Milan and is considered by many to be the most important comic opera of all. Its resounding success compensated in some ways for the fiasco that Verdi had experienced half a century earlier with Un giorno di regno at the same house. He composed two other sacred choral works, the Te Deum (1895) and Stabat mater (1897), which were premiered in 1898 as Quattro pezzi sacri ('Four Sacred Pieces') along with an earlier Ave Maria and the Laudi alla Vergine Maria .

In 1897 his wife died after a long illness. On January 21, 1901, around 12 noon, shortly after the doctor's visit, Verdi suffered a hemorrhage in the area of ​​the internal capsule , which led to paralysis of the right side of the body. After a severe agony, Verdi died in the early morning of January 27, 1901.


As an opera composer, Verdi is Richard Wagner's greatest opponent . Both were born in the same year and created opera concepts side by side, which arose from number opera, took different paths via developing parlando styles and shaped the operatic culture of the 19th century. More than 100 years later, their works still belong to the core of the repertoire of major opera houses.

Verdi continued the achievements of Gioachino Rossini , Vincenzo Bellini , Saverio Mercadante and Gaetano Donizetti , transformed what had been achieved and ushered in a period of constant searching, ultimately of dramaturgical perfection and refinement. In his first operas he still stayed in the tradition of bel canto , which cultivated the elegance of the singers' voices at the expense of characterization and drama and was about to lose itself in repetitions. But step by step, Verdi broke away from this concept and designed his works as true dramas, action and reaction in gripping, extraordinary situations - portrayed by personalities who characterized his music in a new way. So it's understandable that he was always interested in works by Shakespeare and Schiller - playwrights of particular importance.

His operas are not intended to implement a program with symbolic content; the focus is on the purely human in tragedy and humor. The latter led to classification in the drawer called "realism". In contrast to Wagner's works, the orchestra - albeit often magnificent and refined - mostly recedes into the background. The melody - simpler than in its predecessors - is the bearer of dramatic expression.

After breaking away from his predecessors, he initially strove for the grand opéra in Meyerbeer's sense, which he overcame again with emotional intensity and psychologizing characterization. The fool Rigoletto making a fool of himself; the witchy Lady Macbeth; the indomitable Fiesco in Simon Boccanegra ; next to the self-sacrificing Violetta in La traviata the self-destructive Amneris, next to the passionate Leonora des Troubadours the tormented Leonora of the Force of Destiny , Othellos Desdemona and finally the king in Don Carlos : these are roles in which musical presentation and depth of feeling are rarely found in other roles successfully unite to form a theatrical total work of art.

Verdi was the reformer of Italian opera. His Requiem (1874) is very close to the opera compositions. This also applies to his long-unnoticed art songs .

In 1864 he was accepted as a non-resident member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts and in 1887 he was awarded the Order Pour le Mérite .

The Italian state has awarded Verdi's birthplace in Le Roncole, which now houses a museum, along with the birthplaces of Giacomo Puccini and Gioachino Rossini , with the European Heritage Label . He is also the namesake for the Verdi Inlet , an inlet on the coast of the Antarctic Alexander I Island , and for the Verdi Ice Shelf therein .

A bronze statue depicting Giuseppe Verdi, created by Sicilian sculptor Pasquale Civiletti , has stood in New York City since October 12, 1906 .

Verdi on the Italian 1000 lira banknote , issued between 1969 and 1983

Giuseppe Verdi was depicted on two Italian 1000 lira banknotes issued by the Banca d'Italia between 1962 and 1969 and between 1969 and 1983.



title libretto premiere location comment
Oberto conte di San Bonifacio Antonio Piazza and Temistocle Solera November 17, 1839 Milan, Teatro alla Scala
Un giorno di regno , ossia Il finto Stanislao Felice Romani September 5, 1840 Milan, Teatro alla Scala Adaptation of the libretto possibly by Temistocle Solera
Nabucco Temistocle Solera March 9, 1842 Milan, Teatro alla Scala
I Lombardi alla prima crociata Temistocle Solera February 11, 1843 Milan, Teatro alla Scala
Ernani Francesco Maria Piave March 9, 1844 Venice, Teatro La Fenice
I due Foscari Francesco Maria Piave November 3, 1844 Rome, Teatro Argentina
Giovanna d'Arco Temistocle Solera February 15, 1845 Milan, Teatro alla Scala
Alzira Salvadore Cammarano August 12, 1845 Naples, Teatro San Carlo
Attila Temistocle Solera and Francesco Maria Piave March 17, 1846 Venice, Teatro La Fenice
Macbeth Francesco Maria Piave , additions by Andrea Maffei March 14, 1847 Florence, Teatro della Pergola Revised 1865
I masnadieri Andrea Maffei July 22, 1847 London, Queen's Theatre
Jerusalem Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaez Nov. 26, 1847 Paris, Academie Royale de Musique Adaptation of Lombardi
Il corsaro Francesco Maria Piave October 25, 1848 Trieste, Teatro Grande
La battaglia di Legnano Salvadore Cammarano January 27, 1849 Rome, Teatro Argentina
Luisa Miller Salvadore Cammarano December 8, 1849 Naples, Teatro San Carlo
Stiffelio Francesco Maria Piave Nov. 16, 1850 Trieste, Teatro Grande Recast as Aroldo 1857
Rigoletto Francesco Maria Piave March 11, 1851 Venice, Teatro La Fenice
Il trovatore Salvadore Cammarano January 19, 1853 Rome, Teatro Apollo
La traviata Francesco Maria Piave March 6, 1853 Venice, Teatro La Fenice
Les vepres siciliennes Eugene Scribe and Charles Duveyrier June 13, 1855 Paris, Theater Imperial de L'Opera
Simon Boccanegra Francesco Maria Piave , makeover by Arrigo Boito March 12, 1857 Venice, Teatro La Fenice second version 1881
Aroldo August 16, 1857 Rimini , Teatro Nuovo Reworking of Stiffelio
Un ballo in maschera Antonio Somma February 17, 1859 Rome, Teatro Apollo
La forza del destino Francesco Maria Piave November 10, 1862 Saint Petersburg , Imperial Grand Theater revised version 1869
Macbeth April 21, 1865 Paris, Theater Lyrique second version, textual revision in Italian, premiered in French translation
Don Carlos Joseph Mery and Camille du Locle March 11, 1867 Paris, Opera French version in five acts
La forza del destino Antonio Ghislanzoni February 27, 1869 Milan, Teatro alla Scala revised version
Aida Antonio Ghislanzoni December 24, 1871 Cairo, Khedivial Opera House
Simon Boccanegra Arrigo Boito March 24, 1881 Milan, Teatro alla Scala second version
Don Carlos Revision of the libretto and new text fragments by Camille du Locle , Italian translation by Achille de Lauzières and Angelo Zanardini January 10, 1884 Milan, Teatro alla Scala Version in four acts
Othello Arrigo Boito February 5, 1887 Milan, Teatro alla Scala
Falstaff Arrigo Boito February 9, 1893 Milan, Teatro alla Scala

Shaded in grey: new versions and revisions

Verdi Monument in Milan

Religious music

  • Messa per Rossini , 1869 (with twelve other composers), published posthumously
  • Messa da Requiem (“Manzoni Requiem”), 1874
  • Pater noster for five-part choir, 1880
  • Ave Maria for soprano and string quartet, 1880
  • Quattro pezzi sacri (“Four Sacred Pieces”) for choir and orchestra, 1898
  • Ave Maria for four-part choir a cappella
  • Messa Solenne (Messa di Gloria) , 1833

chamber music

  • Six Romances for Voice and Piano , 1838
  • L'esule ('The Exile') for voice and piano, 1839
  • La seduzione ("The Seduction") for voice and piano, 1839
  • Nocturne , Vocal Trio, 1839
  • Album of six romances for voice and piano, 1845
  • Il poveretto ("The Beggar"), romance for voice and piano, 1847
  • La preghiera del poeta , 1858
  • Il Brigidin , 1863
  • Stornello for voice and piano, 1869
  • String Quartet in E minor , 1873
  • Pieta Signor , 1894


  • Suona la tromba (“The trumpet sounds”), 1848
  • Inno delle nazioni ("Hymn of the Nations"), cantata for the London World Exhibition for a high solo voice, choir and orchestra, 1862
  • Notre ensemble (“Our Interplay”), 1865


Between 1907 and 2009 Operadis recorded a total of 2327 recordings. These are distributed among the individual plants as follows:

"Number of recordings on LP, CD, DVD and BluRay from 1907 to 2009"


In the course of his life, Verdi wrote around 35,000 letters, personally and "always in a hurry", about two letters a day. They are characterized by unusual clarity, high temperament and a very direct tone, which does not avoid coarseness. The correspondence between Verdi and his librettist Boito alone comprises 276 letters.

The "Casa Verdi" in Milan

Verdi's tomb in the chapel of Casa di Riposo in Milan

The "Casa Verdi" in Milan (Italian name: La Casa di Riposo per Musicisti , on the Piazza Buonarroti) is the retirement home donated by Verdi for around 60 singers or musicians. It is still operational today and was the setting for the 1984 documentary Il Bacio di Tosca by Daniel Schmid . When asked what he thinks his best work is, Verdi is said to have replied: "The old people's home in Milan."

Giuseppe Verdi was buried with his wife Giuseppina Strepponi in the crypt of the old people's home.


When Giuseppe Verdi was a child he played in the House Barezzi . The instrument he played there was a piano by Anton Tomaschek. Verdi was also impressed by the pianos of Johann Fritz and played in the years 1851 (Rigoletto) to 1871 (Aida) on a Viennese fortepiano with 6 pedals by Fritz, which was in the "Villa Verdi", the composer's residence in the Italian province of Piacenza is issued. In 1857 Verdi played at the inauguration of the A.Galli Theater in Rimini on a grand piano by Joseph Danckh.


Italian patriots attended Verdi's operas because they interpreted his name in a kabbalistic way as an abbreviation ( initial word ) of Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia (King Victor Emmanuel ).


  • Richard Burnett. Giuseppe Verdi's Romance. Fortepiano by Herschker 1845.



  • Julian Budden: Verdi - life and work. London 1985. Translation into German Ingrid Rein, Dietrich Klose, Reclam, Stuttgart 1987, (expanded, revised edition 2007) New edition 2013, abridged by the first part. ISBN 978-3-15-019024-1 .
  • Veronica Beci : Verdi. A Composer's Life . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-538-07111-X .
  • Joachim Campe: Verdi: a biography (plus CD). WBG (Wissen. Buchges.), Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-534-23557-5 .
  • Ingrid Czaika: Early Verdi motifs. Characterization methods in the early operas. LIT-Verlag, Munster 2006, ISBN 3-8258-9573-4 .
  • Tino Drenger: Love and Death in Verdi's Musical Drama. Semiotic Studies on Selected Operas. 1996, ISBN 3-88979-070-4 .
  • Markus Engelhardt (ed.): Giuseppe Verdi and his time. Laaber-Verlag, Laaber 2002, ISBN 3-89007-530-4 .
  • Rolf Fath: Reclam's Little Verdi Opera Guide. Philipp Reclam Jr., Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-15-018077-5 .
  • Hans Gal: Giuseppe Verdi. Fischer paperback publishing house, Frankfurt a. M. 1982, ISBN 3-596-25601-1 .
  • Anselm Gerhard , Uwe Schweikert (eds.): Verdi manual. Metzler, Kassel, 2nd edition 2013, ISBN 978-3-476-02377-3 and Bärenreiter, Stuttgart/Weimar, 2nd edition 2013, ISBN 978-3-7618-2057-5 .
  • Leo Karl Gerhartz : The young Giuseppe Verdi's confrontation with the literary drama: a contribution to the scenic determination of the structure of the opera . (= Berlin Studies on Musicology, Volume 15), Merseburger, 1968. 523 p.
  • Michael Jahn : Verdi and Wagner in Vienna . The Apple, Vienna 2012ff.
  • Arkadi Junold: The grand opera with Verdi, Wagner, Berlioz and Tchaikovsky. Arkadien Verlag, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-940863-31-7 .
  • Silke Leopold : Verdi – La Traviata. Henschel, Leipzig 2013, ISBN 978-3-89487-905-1 .
  • Barbara Meier : Giuseppe Verdi. Presented by. Rowohlt, Reinbek 2000, ISBN 3-499-50593-2 .
  • Georg Mondwurf: Giuseppe Verdi and the Aesthetics of Liberation. Lang, Frankfurt/M. 2002, ISBN 3-631-38400-9 .
  • Pierre Petit : Verdi. Seuil, Paris 1958, ISBN 2-02-000230-2 .
  • Ferdinand Pfohl : Verdi, In: Ferdinand Pfohl, The Modern Opera (pp. 158-189), 1894, Leipzig, Carl Reissner.
  • Claudia Polo: Imaginari verdiani. Opera, media e industria culturale nell'Italia del XX secolo. BMG/Ricordi, Milan 2004.
  • John Rosselli: Giuseppe Verdi: Genius of Opera; a biography , Munich: Beck, 2013, ISBN 978-3-406-64138-1 .
  • Christoph Schwandt : Verdi. A biography. Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 2000, (Further editions, including Frankfurt 2013 ISBN 978-3-458-35911-1 .)
  • Vincent Sheean : Orpheus at eighty. Random House, New York, 1958.
  • Christian Springer : Verdi and the interpreters of his time. Holzhausen, Vienna 2000, ISBN 3-85493-029-1 .
  • Christian Springer: Verdi studies (Verdi in Vienna / Hanslick versus Verdi / Verdi and Wagner / On the interpretation of Verdi's works / Re Lear - Shakespeare with Verdi). Edition Praesens, Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-7069-0292-3 .
  • Benedikt Stegemann: Orpheus, the sounding opera guide; Episode 3: Giuseppe Verdi, Ricordi, Munich, 2007, ISBN 978-3-938809-53-2 .
  • Winfried Wehle (ed.): Omaggio a Giuseppe Verdi. Topic no. i.e. Ztschr. Italian No. 46, Frankfurt a. M. 2001.
  • John Suchet: Verdi: The man revealed ., Pegasus Books, 2008. ISBN 978-1681777689
  • Wolfgang Marggraf : Giuseppe Verdi German publisher for music, Leipzig 1982.


web links

Commons : Giuseppe Verdi  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Julian Budden: Verdi - life and work. Philipp Reclam Jr., Stuttgart 2000, p. 10.
  2. Michael Walter in: Gerhard, Schweikert: Verdi manual. p. 314.
  3. The anti-Wagner
  4. Michael Walter in: Gerhard, Schweikert: Verdi manual. p. 315.
  5. Verdi the revolutionary? Let's separate fact from fiction
  6. Dieter Kerner: Great musicians - life and suffering. Marixverlag, Wiesbaden 2006, p. 425.
  7. Hans Busch: Verdi Boito correspondence. Fischer Verlag Frankfurt am Main 1986 ISBN 3-362-00008-8
  8. The greatest Italian soul genius. In: FAZ of April 18, 2013, page R3
  9. Joseph Kerman and Dyneley Hussey: Giuseppe Verdi . Encyclopedia Britannica, 23 Jan 2021,
  10. Casa Barezzi: where Verdi was discovered . Italian Ways. January 23, 2019.
  11. Il pianoforte di Verdi suona all'Accademia dei Musici. In: Cronache Ancona. October 28, 2017, accessed June 11, 2021 (it-IT).
  12. Karl Heinz Wocker: Queen Victoria , Heine Biography, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-453-55072-2 , p. 272.