Giuseppe Verdi

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Giuseppe Verdi, photography by Giacomo Brogi
Signature of Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi (born October 9 or October 10, 1813 in Le Roncole , Département Taro , French Empire ; †  January 27, 1901 in Milan ) was an Italian composer of the Romantic era , who was mainly known for his operas , including Rigoletto , Otello and Falstaff , who 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 October 10th. The baptismal register entered on October 11th that he was born the previous evening ( infantem natum heri vespere hora octava ). Verdi himself saw October 9th as his birthday. Since the days from sunset to sunset were previously calculated, this interpretation of the entry in the baptismal register is also possible. Verdi was born into a simple family (his father Carlo was an innkeeper and smallholder) in Le Roncole (in the Duchy of Parma ). In the birth register, Verdi's first names were Frenchized, and so Verdi was entered as "Joseph Fortunin François Verdi".

Verdi's extraordinary talent was noticed early on, and he received musical lessons from the organist in nearby Busseto . In 1823 he was admitted to the local grammar school with the support of a music patron , the businessman Antonio Barezzi in Busseto. Soon he represented the village organist in the church. After the Conservatory of Milan, now named after him, rejected him in 1832, he became a private student of Vincenzo Lavigna , a student of Giovanni Paisiello - again with Barezzi's support .

In 1834 he became organist and in 1835 music director in Busseto. In May 1836 he married Barezzi's daughter Margherita. The marriage resulted in two children, both of whom died in their second year of life: the daughter Virginia Maria Luigia (born 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 missing, not listed first work under the title 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 whistled. Verdi, who deeply mourned the death of his wife and children, decided, depressed, to give up composing.

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

In the six years that followed, Verdi wrote several operas in quick succession for 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 raise enough funds so that he could retire to an estate as a gentleman at an early age - preferably in Sant'Agata near Roncole .

Giuseppe Verdi around 1850

La battaglia di Legnano ("The Battle of Legnano", 1849) was Verdi's ardent response to the Risorgimento , the unity movement of the Italians thatfollowedthe revolutionary year of 1848 ; This jealous drama takes place against the historical background of the victory of the League of Lombard Cities over Friedrich Barbarossa .

Rigoletto (1851), Il trovatore ("The Troubadour", 1853) and La traviata (1853) followed the Stiffelio (1850), which addresses the adultery of a Protestant pastor's wife . This so-called trilogia popolare (“popular trilogy”) is considered to be a high point in Verdi's work and marks the breakthrough of a music-aesthetic concept that was first announced in the realism of Macbeth . The works consolidated Verdi's international fame and are still among the most popular operas around the world.

He set high standards in the choice of his literary models, a sign that his private studies had borne fruit in the 1930s. Victor Hugo gave him 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 by the drama The Maid of Orléans , I masnadieri ("The Robbers") based on the play of the same name and finally Luisa Miller based on Cabal and Love . Shakespeare's King Lear also occupied him several times in the following years, without the Re Lear being composed .

After Verdi met the singer Giuseppina Strepponi (the Abigaille in the premiere of Nabucco ) in Paris 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 (ca.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 had now become internationally famous and worked 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 Peoples “) Was premiered on a text by the young Arrigo Boito . The 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 power of fate”, 1862) and Don Carlos (1867). This shows his mastery in melody and in the musical design of the characters, the newfound freedom in recitatives and arias and a stronger emphasis on the role of the orchestra than in his early work. The depth in the characterization - especially of the female roles - is probably due to his relationship with Giuseppina Strepponi, who was unconditionally at the side of this undoubtedly difficult man at all times. During these times, Verdi repeatedly had difficulties with censorship, which viewed an attack on a king ( Rigoletto, masked ball ) as dangerous and forced extensive changes in the dramaturgy. While the opera Les vêpres siciliennes (“The Sicilian Vespers”), composed for Paris, was only a moderate success in Italy because of the censorship interventions, he was able to outstrip his rival Meyerbeer with Don Carlos . After that, he initially withdrew from composing. However, in 1869 he revised the opera La forza del destino, which was 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 the Suez Canal opened a few days later . The Egyptian viceroy Ismail Pasha wanted a new Verdi opera for his opera house for the following season. But it was not until June 1870 that Verdi agreed and composed the Aida (which he created neither for the opening of the Cairo Opera House nor for that of the Suez Canal). The world premiere took place in Cairo in 1871. It was a resounding success because the opera was a piece of work. Verdi had given his librettist Antonio Ghislanzoni a detailed "script" and even influenced the meter measures 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 . Before that he wrote the string quartet in E minor .

Afterwards, Verdi - disappointed in the lack of any radical social progress in Italy - considered himself a reindeer and invested considerable time and energy in the expansion and improvement of his estate in Sant'Agata. “I'll still be Maestro Verdi until midnight, then I'll be a farmer again.” Verdi finally retired to his Sant'Agata estate and devoted himself to managing the estate. At the same time, he campaigned for the improvement of 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, and even a small hospital was donated. Verdi rarely left the estate, then only to conduct concerts and operas. During this phase he also built 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.

His publisher Giulio Ricordi, however, did not want to be satisfied with what he had achieved; he arranged a collaboration with Arrigo Boito, who has since become famous as a writer and composer . 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 . The last opera followed in 1893, Falstaff , whose libretto was also written by Boito based on Shakespeare's. It was premiered at La Scala in Milan and is considered by many to be the most important comic opera of all. Their resounding success was, in a way, a compensation for the fiasco that Verdi had experienced half a century earlier with Un giorno di regno at the same house. He also composed two sacred choral works, the Te Deum (1895) and Stabat mater (1897), which were premiered in 1898 as Quattro pezzi sacri ("Four sacred pieces") together 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 noon, shortly after the doctor's visit, Verdi suffered bleeding 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 and at the same time equal opponent . Both were born in the same year and created opera concepts side by side that arose from number opera, took different paths via developing Parlando styles and shaped the opera culture of the 19th century. More than 100 years later, her works are still at the core of the repertoire of major opera houses.

Verdi built on the achievements of Gioachino Rossini , Vincenzo Bellini , Saverio Mercadante and Gaetano Donizetti , transformed what had been achieved and ushered in a period of constant search, finally of dramaturgical completion and refinement. In his first operas he stayed in the tradition of bel canto , which cultivated the elegance of the singers' voices at the expense of characterization and drama and was in the process of getting lost in repetitions. But, step by step, Verdi broke away from this concept and designed his works as true dramas, actions and reactions in gripping, extraordinary situations - presented by personalities who characterized his music in a new way. So it is understandable that he was repeatedly occupied with works by Shakespeare and Schiller - playwrights of special standing.

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 the classification in the drawer called "Realism". In contrast to Wagner's works, the orchestra mostly takes a back seat, albeit often splendid and sophisticated. The melody - simpler than that of its predecessors - is the bearer of the dramatic expression.

After breaking away from his predecessors, he initially strived for the grand opéra in the sense of Meyerbeer, which he himself overcame with emotional intensity and psychological characterization. Rigoletto the fool who makes a fool of himself; the witch-like 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 power of fate , Othellos Desdemona and finally the king in Don Carlos : these are roles in which musical presentation and emotional depth are otherwise hardly achieved way into a theatrical total work of art.

Verdi was the reformer of the Italian opera. His Requiem (1874) is very close to the opera compositions. This also applies to his art songs, which were ignored for a long time .

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

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

Verdi on the Italian 1000 lire banknote issued between 1969 and 1983

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



title libretto premiere place 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 The libretto may have been adapted 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 New version 1865
I masnadieri Andrea Maffei July 22, 1847 London, Queen's Theater
Jerusalem Alphonse Royer and Gustave Vaëz November 26, 1847 Paris, Académie Royale de Musique Makeover by 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 November 16, 1850 Trieste, Teatro Grande New version 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 vêpres siciliennes Eugène Scribe and Charles Duveyrier June 13, 1855 Paris, Théatre Impérial de L'Opéra
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 Makeover by 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 Great Theater revised version 1869
Macbeth April 21, 1865 Paris, Théâtre-Lyrique second version, textual new version in Italian, premiered in French translation
Don Carlos Joseph Méry and Camille du Locle March 11, 1867 Paris, Opéra 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
Otello Arrigo Boito February 5, 1887 Milan, Teatro alla Scala
Falstaff Arrigo Boito February 9, 1893 Milan, Teatro alla Scala

Highlighted in gray: 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 Exiled”) for voice and piano, 1839
  • La seduzione (“The Seduction”) for voice and piano, 1839
  • Notturno , vocal trio, 1839
  • Album with six romances for a voice and piano, 1845
  • Il poveretto (“The Beggar”), Romance for voice and piano, 1847
  • La preghiera del poeta , 1858
  • Il Brigidin , 1863
  • Stornello for a voice and piano, 1869
  • String quartet in E minor , 1873
  • Pietà Signor , 1894


  • Suona la tromba ("The trumpet sounds"), 1848
  • Inno delle nazioni (“Hymn of the Nations”), cantata for the London World's Fair for a high soloist, choir and orchestra, 1862
  • Notre ensemble (“Our Teamwork”), 1865


Operadis recorded a total of 2327 recordings between 1907 and 2009. 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 that 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 the Casa di Riposo in Milan

The “Casa Verdi” in Milan (Italian name: La Casa di Riposo per Musicisti , on the Piazza Buonarroti) is the old people's home founded by Verdi for around 60 singers or musicians. It is still in operation today and was the location of the 1984 documentary Il Bacio di Tosca by Daniel Schmid . When asked what, in his opinion, was his best work, 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.


Italian patriots visited Verdi's operas because they interpreted its name in a cabalistic way as an abbreviation ( initial word ) of Vittorio Emanuele Re D'Italia (King Victor Emanuel ).



  • 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, reduced by the first part. ISBN 978-3-15-019024-1 .
  • Veronika Beci : Verdi. A composer's life . Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2000, ISBN 3-538-07111-X .
  • Joachim Campe: Verdi: a biography (plus CD). WBG (Wiss. Buchges.), Darmstadt 2012, ISBN 978-3-534-23557-5 .
  • Ingrid Czaika: Early Verdi motifs. Characterization methods in the early operas. LIT-Verlag, Münster 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 jun., Stuttgart 2000, ISBN 3-15-018077-5 .
  • Hans Gal: Giuseppe Verdi. Fischer Taschenbuch-Verlag, Frankfurt a. M. 1982, ISBN 3-596-25601-1 .
  • Anselm Gerhard , Uwe Schweikert (ed.): 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 examination of literary drama: a contribution to determining the scenic structure of the opera . (= Berlin Studies in Musicology, Volume 15), Merseburger, 1968. 523 pp.
  • Michael Jahn : Verdi and Wagner in Vienna . The apple, Vienna 2012ff.
  • Arkadi Junold: The grand opera with Verdi, Wagner, Berlioz and Tschaikowsky. 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: Immaginari verdiani. Opera, media e industria culturale nell'Italia del XX secolo. BMG / Ricordi, Milan 2004.
  • John Rosselli: Giuseppe Verdi: Genius of the 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 its 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 in 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. d. 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 publishing house for music, Leipzig 1982.


Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Julian Budden: Verdi - life and work. Philipp Reclam jun., 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. ^ Karl Heinz Wocker: Queen Victoria , Heine Biographie, Munich 1978, ISBN 3-453-55072-2 , p. 272.