Il M.o Mario Medici con Elia Ehrenburg

Verdi’s Life
Chronology of Verdi’s Life
Essential bibliography

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901)
Pierluigi Petrobelli

Born at Le Roncole, near Busseto (Parma), 9 (or 10) October 1813, the son of an innkeeper and a yarn spinner, Giuseppe Verdi demonstrated a distinct talent for music from childhood, as we learn from an inscription left on his spinet in 1821 by the harpsichord-builder Cavaletti, who repaired it without charge “in light of the favorable disposition of the young Giuseppe Verdi to learn to play this instrument”. The primary source of his cultural and humanistic formation was the extensive (and still surviving) library of the Scuola dei Gesuiti in Busseto.

Verdi learned the basic principles of composition and orchestration from Ferdinando Provesi, who conducted the local orchestra; but his musical personality was forged in Milan. Too old for admission when he applied to the Milan conservatory, he was nonetheless able to study contrapuntal technique for three years privately with Vincenzo Lavigna, rehearsal keyboardist for the Teatro alla Scala, and the various theatres about town provided ample exposure to contemporary opera. The cultural climate of Austrian-dominated Milan also brought him into contact with the classical Viennese repertory, particularly string quartets. His contacts with the aristocratic and theatrical circles of the city would have a significant impact upon the destiny of the young composer, who decided to dedicate his efforts not to sacred music as a maestro di cappella, nor to instrumental music, but rather almost exclusively to opera.  

His first opera, originally conceived as Rocester (1837) and subsequently modified over an extended period of time to become Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, was premiered at La Scala on 17 November 1839 with a generally satisfactory reception by the public.  

The impresario of La Scala, Bartolomeo Merelli, thereupon offered Verdi a contract for two more operas: the first of these, the comic opera Un giorno di regno (Il finto Stanislao), did not survive past its premiere (5 September 1840), and only with Nabucco (9 March 1842) did Verdi’s talent for the theatre become fully manifest. He continued to use this monumental format with its emphasis on high drama for his next opera, I Lombardi alla prima crociata (La Scala, 11 February 1843), and then turned to a narrative based on emotional conflict between the protagonists for Ernani (Venice, La Fenice, 9 March 1844). This stylistic approach was one Verdi would maintain for I due Foscari (Rome, Teatro Argentina, 3 November 1844) and further refine in Alzira (Naples, San Carlo, 12 August 1845). Each of the operas in this first period is distinctive for the way some particular aspect of the musical-dramatic experience is handled. Thus in Giovanna d’Arco, based on Schiller (Milan, La Scala, 15 February 1845), the supernatural element plays a critical role in the plot, which is once again sculpted on a grandiose scale; while in Attila (Venice, La Fenice, 17 March 1846) the composer experimented with both theatrical effects and structural issues. For Macbeth (Florence, La Pergola, 14 March 1847) Verdi made his first foray into the world of Shakespeare, taking particular care to highlight the dramatic continuity among critical moments in the narrative with the music.
By the age of 34 Verdi was internationally renowned, with performances of his operas throughout the world and commissions for new titles from the principal theatres of Italy, as was the case of the premiere of Il corsaro (Trieste, Teatro Grande, 24 October 1848), which the composer, working elsewhere, could not attend.
But he did not rest on his laurels. Turning for the first time to the demands (and considerable physical resources) of grand opéra, he adapted I Lombardi to become Jérusalem for the French stage (Paris, Opéra, 26 November 1847). This experience in turn left its mark on La battaglia di Legnano (Rome, Teatro Argentina, 27 January 1849), a score alternating between individual conflicts and patriotic aspirations inspired by the outbreak of Risorgimento uprisings. In Luisa Miller (Naples, San Carlo, 8 December 1849), another libretto based on Schiller, the element of personal conflict moves into a larger arena involving different social classes, causing innocence to surrender in the end.  

The Protestant bourgeois setting of Stiffelio (Trieste, Teatro Grande, 16 November 1850) effectively highlights conflictual issues arising when personal feelings challenge obligations of the faith. Rigoletto (Venice, La Fenice, 11 March 1851) is one of Verdi’s highest artistic achievements, thanks to a seamless drama (closely following the original narrative by Hugo) perfectly balanced by the musical setting: for example, the court jester’s revenge for the wrong inflicted upon his daughter by the libertine duke backfires horribly in his hands as the natural elements erupt musically in a raging tempest. The narrative focus remains personal in La traviata (Venice, La Fenice, 6 March 1853), where the heroine, a courtesan, responds to the hypocritical conventions of the society in which she lives with a gesture of complete self-sacrifice. The antipode of these two intensely forward-moving operas followed with Il trovatore (Rome, Teatro Apollo, 19 January 1853), based on the drama by Garcia Gutiérrez. Here the motivations for the characters’ actions are continuously evasive and the dramatic momentum emanates from the music to produce an unprecedented, pure theatrical experience.

Les Vêpres siciliennes (Paris, Opéra, 13 June 1855) was Verdi’s first encounter with the exigencies of setting an original French text, for a grand opéra that once again juxtaposed matters of personal conflict with the aspirations and sentiments of an entire populace. After the translation of Il trovatore into Le trouvère and the impoverished transformation (primarily for reasons of censorship) of Stiffelio into Aroldo, he took a new experimental approach to political themes and struggles with Simon Boccanegra (Venice, La Fenice, 12 March 1857); while in Un ballo in maschera (Rome, Apollo, 17 February 1859)the central conflict takes place within each of the principal characters, suggested by the constant use of symmetry for dramatic situations and disguises, and sustained by continuous variations of a rhythmic cell that serves as a basic structural component of the entire score. Analogous experimentation is present in La forza del destino (St. Petersburg, Imperial Theatre, 10 November 1862), where yet again the improbable adventures and ordeals of the individual characters stand out against a general backdrop of collective indifference.  
Verdi returned to the French stage for the revision of Macbeth (Paris, Théâtre Lyrique, 21 April 1865) and the composition of Don Carlos (Paris, Opéra, 11 March 1867), adapting the monumental parameters of grand opéra to serve his most dramaturgically complex work. Personal conflicts -- whether interior or between individuals -- are interconnected in a vortex surrounding the contrast between the liberal political position of the Marchese di Posa and the intransigence of Filippo, both in turn subject to the ecclesiastical authority of the Grande Inquisitore.  

An elected member of the first parliament of unified Italy and the composer -- by Cavour’s direct request -- of an Inno delle nazioni for the inauguration of the London World Exposition of 1862, Verdi grew increasingly concerned over the lack of national pride among the populace, continually citing exemplary figures in the young nation’s cultural heritage. When Rossini died (13 November 1868) he proposed a Messa da Requiem as a series of contributions from Italian composers in homage to the greatest representative of their art (1869), and when he revised La forza del destino he added an overture whose structure emulates that of Rossini’s Guillaume Tell.  

The creation of Aida (Cairo, Opera Theatre, 24 December 1871), commissioned by Ismail Pascià to become a “national” Egyptian opera, was a highly original Italian interpretation of the theatrical and dramaturgical parameters of grand opéra. Here again conflict between power and the individual results in the complete destruction of the latter in a kaleidoscopic alternation of stylistic, musical, and scenic images.  

Confronted with the dissemination of northern European instrumental music in Italy, Verdi responded by composing a string quartet (Naples, 1 April 1873) to demonstrate that he could fight the “enemy” with its own weapons. To commemorate the death of Alessandro Manzoni he also determined to compose a complete Messa da Requiem alone, recuperating the text setting and the structural alternation of textures from his concluding contribution to the Requiem for Rossini. But this Requiem, while yet another patriotic credo glorifying Manzoni as a contemporary literary giant and emulating Palestrina as the historical model for several key moments in the score, remains a solitary, totally subjective contemplation of the mystery of death, full of troubled frustration for what he felt to be an improbable life beyond.  

Following a somewhat extended period of apparent creative inactivity, Verdi undertook a radical revision of Simon Boccanegra (1880-1881), turning to Arrigo Boito for their first significant collaboration, and he transformed Don Carlos from a five-act French grand opéra into an Italian one (Milan, La Scala, 10 January 1884).  

In Otello (Milan, La Scala, 5 February 1887) Verdi brought the dramatic focus back to the individual (Otello) who struggles and surrenders in his interior battle between the absolute forces of good (Desdemona) and evil (Jago). Notwithstanding the continuous flow of the musical and dramatic discourse, Otello still contains certain static moments that betray their relationship to the closed forms of the past; but in Falstaff, Verdi’s last opera, the action arises from sheer intellectual inspiration matched with an equally subtle and refined game of musical symmetry.  

The parabola of Verdi’s artistic career concluded with three sacred pieces: Stabat Mater and Te Deum for chorus and large orchestra, Laudi alla Vergine Maria (taken from the last canto of Dante’s Divine Comedy) for four solo female voices. To these he eventually added a previously composed Ave Maria for a cappella chorus. As in the Requiem, his desire to transcend life on earth alternated with his fundamentally pessimistic view of reality, the only perspective Verdi truly held. “My most beautiful work”, in his words, was the Casa di Riposo he founded as a retirement home in Milan for elderly musicians.  

Verdi’s death on 27 January 1901 brought an epoch of Italian history to a close. Yet his funeral apotheosis only marked the beginning of the growing success his music would enjoy, thriving more than ever in theatres throughout the world today.

© Copyright 2001 by Pierluigi Petrobelli

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Chronology of Verdi’s Life
Marisa Di Gregorio Casati

1813Born 9 or 10 October (the date is uncertain) in Le Roncole, a small community within the greater city limits of Busseto under the jurisdiction of the French-controlled Duchy of Parma. His father, Carlo, is a local innkeeper with a small general store, while his mother, Luigia Uttini, a native of Saliceto di Cadeo in the Duchy of Piacenza, spins wool.

1817 He begins to study Italian, Latin, and music with don Pietro Baistrocchi, organist in the Chiesa delle Roncole. Three years later his father gives him a used spinet and he begins to substitute as organist for Pietro Baistrocchi.

1823 In November he enters school in Busseto to study “elementary and advanced grammar” with don Pietro Seletti.

1825 He begins to study music with maestro di cappella Ferdinando Provesi.

1828 He writes instrumental music for the Società Filarmonica of Busseto, of which the founder and president, Antonio Barezzi, would be his future father-in-law.

1829 On 24 October he applies unsuccessfully for the position of organist in the community of Soragna.

1831 On 14 March he takes up residence in the home of Antonio Barezzi, providing voice and piano instruction for Barezzi’s daughter Margherita. In May Carlo Verdi seeks financial assistance for his son from the Monte di Pietà of Busseto, so that he might “obtain further professional training in the art of music”. In December a request is submitted to the Duchess Maria Luigia that she might intercede with the Monte di Pietà in his behalf.

1832 On 13 February the Monte di Pietà grants Giuseppe Verdi a scholarship (including a contribution from Antonio Barezzi) of 300 lire/year for four years. In June Verdi leaves for Milan, where he finds hospitality with another former citizen from Busseto, Giuseppe Seletti. He is denied admission to the Milan Conservatory and in August begins to study privately with Vincenzo Lavigna, resident rehearsal keyboardist at the Teatro alla Scala.

1833 On 26 July Ferdinndo Provesi dies, and on 10 August his beloved sister Francesca Giuseppa also dies. In December he applies unsuccessfully from Milan for the position left vacant by Provesi, which is assigned to Giovanni Ferrari of Guastalla.

1834 On 11 April he is at the keyboard for a performance of Haydn’s Creation at the Teatro dei Filodrammatici in Milan. The performance is repeated at the Casino dei Nobili. It is probably in this period that he first meets Andrea Maffei, a member of the Filodrammatici. On 14 November Verdi hears Paganini perform in Parma in a concert at which the Duchess Maria Luigia is also present.

1835 On 15 July Lavigna signs a document stating that Verdi, “having studied conterpoint [...] and meritoriously completed training, is therefore “qualified to pursue this profession in equal standing with any certified Maestro di Cappella”. On 11 October Verdi applies for the position of maestro di cappella at the Duomo of Monza. He also begins negotiations with Pietro Massini, director of the academy for amateurs of the Teatro di Filodrammatici, for an opera (Rocester) to be performed there.

1836 On 27-28 February he passes the examination to become conductor and director of the Società Filarmonica of Busseto. On 4 May he marries Margherita Barezzi and they spend their honeymoon in Milan. He begins the composition of Rocester and writes the musical setting to an ode by Manzoni, “Il cinque maggio”. In November he composes a Tantum ergo for tenor and orchestra.  

1837 On 26 May his daughter Virginia is born. On 8 October he leads the Filarmonica members in a performance of his Messa at the Croce Santo Spirito church in Busseto. He directs various other performances at the Società Filarmonica.  

1838 On 11 July his son Icilio is born; on 12 August his daughter Virginia dies. His Sei romanze for voice and piano (“Non t’accostare all’urna”; “More”; “Elisa lo stanco poeta”; “In solitaria stanza”; “Nell’orror di notte oscura”; “Perduta ho la pace”; “Deh, pietoso, o Addolorata”) is published by G. Canti of Milan. On 28 October he resigns as maestro di musica in Busseto.  

1839 On 6 February he moves with his family from Busseto to Milan. In April he meets Giuseppina Strepponi and plays for her his opera Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, which would premiere at La Scala on 17 November. The impresario Barolomeo Merelli offers Verdi a contract for three new operas in two years, and Giovanni Ricordi agrees to publish Oberto. On 22 October Verdi’s son Icilio dies. Canti publishes his two romanzas “L’esule” and “La seduzione” and the nocturne “Guarda che bianca luna!”  

1840 Troubled by illness, he begins to compose Un giorno di regno. On 18 June his wife Margherita dies of encephalitis. He returns to Busseto, but in July he is back in Milan. On 5 September his new opera buffa Un giorno di regno is premiered but does not survive past its first performance.  

1841 At the end of January he begins to orchestrate Nabucodonosor, which he would finish in October.  

1842 On 9 March the La Scala premiere of Nabucodonosor (Nabucco), libretto by Temistocle Solera, is a success. In May Verdi writes the romanza “Chi i bei dì m’adduce ancora” for Sofia de’ Medici. In September he encounters Rossini in Bologna and would later observe: “He received me with the utmost courtesy and seemed to be sincere. [...] When I consider the fact that Rossini is a living worldwide success, I would as soon kill myself and all the imbeciles with me. Oh, what a glorious thing it is to be Rossini!” In the fall Nabucco is revived at La Scala, to such an enthusiastic reception that it remains in production for 57 evenings. (Verdi begins to frequent aristocratic Milanese social circles with more regularity.)  

1843 On 11 February I Lombardi alla prima crociata, libretto by Solera, is premiered successfully at La Scala. On 20 March Verdi is in Vienna to conduct the first three performances of Nabucco there. He receives a commission from the Teatro La Fenice in Venice to write an opera for the 1843-44 Carnival season. On 20 September the theatre’s secretary Guglielmo Brenna sends him the outline of Ernani, for which Francesco Maria Piave would be the librettist. Verdi composes the romanza “Cupo è il sepolcro e mutolo” for Lodovico Belgioioso.  

1844 On 9 March the premiere of Ernani at La Fenice is a resounding success: “The public has received me with all manner of consideration and the other evening they accompanied me home with a band” (letter to Antonio Barezzi, 17 March 1844). In April he begins to teach Emanuele Muzio, who would remain his only student. On 8 May he purchases the Plugaro estate in Le Roncole. In September he completes I due Foscari, libretto by Piave, which is premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome on 3 November. Upon his return from Rome he begins work on Giovanna d’Arco and composes the romanza “È la vita un mar d’affanni”.  

1845 On 15 February Giovanna d’Arco, libretto by Solera, is premiered at La Scala. In May Francesco Lucca publishes the collection of Sei romanze for voice and piano (“Il tramonto”; “La zingara”; “Ad una stella”; “Lo spazzacamino”; “Il mistero”; “Brindisi”). On 20 June Verdi leaves Milan for Naples, where Alzira, libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, is premiered on 12 August at the Teatro San Carlo with modest success. Upon his return to Milan Verdi receives the libretto for Attila from Solera, and he begins its composition immediately. In September-October he purchases the Dordoni Cavalli mansion in Busseto. In Milan in October he meets an impresario from London, Benjamin Lumley, and the Parisian publisher Léon Escudier, who acquires the French rights for his operas. In December he leaves for Venice, where he becomes seriously ill with gastric fever.  
1846 On 11 January Giuseppina Strepponi retires from the stage after her last performance in Nabucco (Modena), after which she establishes her home in Paris and supports herself by giving voice lessons. On 17 March Attila is a resounding success for its premiere at La Fenice. In April Verdi passes a long period of rest in Milan to recuperate his health, and in July he travels to Recoaro with Andrea Maffei, who agrees to write the libretto for I masnadieri. In October he begins work on Macbeth, libretto by Piave.  

1847 On 18 February Verdi arrives in Florence with Muzio. On 14 March Macbeth is successfully premiered at the Teatro La Pergola, after which he returns to Milan and begins work on I masnadieri. Again accompanied by Muzio, he departs on 26 May for London, where on 22 July I masnadieri is successfully premiered at Her Majesty’s Theatre. While in London he meets Giuseppe Mazzini. On 27 July he leaves London for Paris, where Jérusalem (a reelaboration of I Lombardi according to the criteria for grand opéra) is premiered at the Opéra on 26 November. Luca publishes the romanza “Il poveretto” for voice and piano.  

1848 In January Verdi completes Il corsaro. In April he encounters Mazzini again in Milan and accepts his request for a new national anthem. On 25 May he purchases the estate of Sant’Agata, including the edifice that would become his villa. He returns to Paris and takes up residence with Giuseppina Strepponi. In September he composes the hymn “Suona la tromba” for male voices, text by Goffredo Mameli. The premiere of Il corsaro obtains a polite reception on 25 October at the Teatro Grande in Trieste (Verdi is still in Paris). In November the composer asks Cammarano to make several changes to his libretto La battaglia di Legnano, which is destined for Rome specifying that there must be “well-defined personalities, passion, movement, a great deal of sentimentality, and above all a monumental and spectacular setting without which I do not believe success in a large theatre is possible” (letter dated 23 November). On 20 December Verdi leaves Paris for Rome.  

1849 On 27 January La battaglia di Legnano is premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome in a climate of fervent national feeling, Mazzini and Garibaldi present; the audience calls for a repeat of the entire fourth act. In the beginning of February Verdi returns to Paris. On 3 May Cammarano sends him a proposed outline for Eloisa Miller. At the end of the summer the composer moves to Busseto; Giuseppina joins him in September, thus rendering their relationship public. On 3 October Verdi and Muzio leave for Naples, where Luisa Miller is premiered on 8 December at San Carlo. In mid-December he returns to Busseto.  

1850 During January-February Verdi considers the possibility of using Shakespeare’s King Lear as the basis for an opera Re Lear, asking Cammarano to provide the draft of a libretto. In mid-June Piave arrives in Busseto to work on the librettos of Stiffelio and La maledizione (Rigoletto). On 16 November Stiffelio is premiered at the Teatro Grande in Trieste, in a version mutilated by censorship intervention. While in Trieste Verdi composes the romanza “Fiorellin che sorgi appena” for voice and piano. Once back in Busseto he turns to the libretto of Rigoletto, refusing categorically to modify the text to appease the censors.  

1851 On 2 January Verdi proposes the subject of Il trovatore to Cammarano, and on 26 January Piave informs Verdi that the censors have approved Rigoletto. In February the composer leaves for Venice, where Rigoletto receives a triumphant premiere on 11 March. Upon returning to Busseto he transfers his residence to Sant’Agata. On 28 June his mother dies. On 10 December he and Giuseppina depart for Paris.  

1852 In February he signs a contract with the Opéra. While in Paris he possibly sees the stage version of La Dame aux camélias (adapted by Alexandre Dumas fils from his novel) at the Théâtre de Vaudeville. On 18 March he returns to Sant’Agata and signs a contract with La Fenice. On 17 July Cammarano dies in Naples, leaving the libretto for Il trovatore to be completed by Emmanuele Bardare. In December Verdi begins the composition of La traviata and finishes that of Il trovatore. On 24 December he arrives in Rome.  

1853 On 19 January Il trovatore scores a triumphant success at the Teatro Apollo in Rome. Back again at Sant’Agata, Verdi works rapidly to finish La traviata, which is premiered at La Fenice in Venice on 6 March to a cold public reception. On 10 March he returns to Sant’Agata. On 15 October he departs for Paris.  

1854 In March Verdi is in London and then goes to Paris. On 6 May La traviata is revived at the Teatro di San Benedetto in Venice, this time to enthusiastic applause. In October rehearsals begin at the Paris Opéra for Les Vêpres siciliennes, but they are suspended when the soprano, Sofia Cruvelli, elopes with her fiancé to the Azure Coast. On 26 December Il trovatore receives its first performance at the Théâtre Italien.  

1855 On 13 June Les Vêpres siciliennes is premiered at the Théâtre de l’Opéra and remains on the Parisian stage for more than forty repeat performances. The opera is produced in Italian on 26 December in Parma as Giovanna de Guzman. At the end of December Verdi returns to Italy.  

1856 At the end of March Piave arrives at Sant’Agata to work on changes to the libretto of Stiffelio (the future Aroldo). At the end of June Verdi and Giuseppina travel to Venice for the summer spa season. On 31 July they leave for Paris, where they are the guests of Napoleon III at the royal villa in Compiègne in October.  

1857 On 12 January Le Trouvère is premiered at the Opéra in Paris. The following day Verdi and Giuseppina leave Paris for Sant’Agata, where the composer finishes Simon Boccanegra. On 12 March Boccanegra meets with a tepid reception for its premiere at La Fenice in Venice. In May Verdi is in Reggio Emilia for the revival of Boccanegra at the Teatro Municipale on 10 June. During the summer he completes the transformation of Stiffelio into Aroldo, which is premiered on 16 August at the Teatro Nuovo in Rimini under the baton of Angelo Mariani. On 20 August Verdi returns to Sant’Agata, where he takes up the composition of Una vendetta in domino (Un ballo in maschera).  

1858 On 5 January Verdi and Giuseppina leave for Naples, but unresolvable differences with the censors force the composer to rescind his contract with the Teatro San Carlo and offer the Una vendetta in domino to the impresario Jacovacci in Rome. On 23 April the couple leaves Naples for Sant’Agata. During June-July they take the waters at the thermal baths of Tabiano. In September the libretto of Un vendetta in domino, now called Un ballo in maschera, is approved by the censors in Rome. On 20 October they leave again for Naples and a revival of Simon Boccanegra at San Carlo on 28 November.  

1859 On 15 January Verdi and Giuseppina arrive in Rome, where Un ballo in maschera is premiered to an enthusiastic audience on 17 February at the Teatro Apollo. On 20 March they return to Sant’Agata. In July they pass a brief period at the baths of Tabiano, and on 29 August they are married in Collonges-sous-Salève (in the Haute-Savoie region of France), officiated by the abbot Mermillod. Shortly thereafter Verdi is elected to represent Busseto as part of a delegation from the former Duchy of Parma, which goes to Turin seeking annexation (decided by popular vote) to the Kingdom of Sardinia. While there he meets Cavour at his estate in Luri.  

1860 In January the Verdis are at their winter residence in Genoa. In March they return to Sant’Agata, and in July they are again at Tabiano. Verdi devotes himself largely to the renovation of the villa at Sant’Agata. In December the tenor Enrico Tamberlick, acting as intermediary for the direction of the Imperial Theatres of St. Petersburg, petitions Verdi to compose an opera.  

1861 Verdi is elected deputy to the first Italian parliament, representing Borgo San Donnino (Fidenza). During one of the sessions of the House he composes the romanza “Il brigidin” for voice and piano. At the end of November he and Giuseppina leave for St. Petersburg for the premiere of La forza del destino, but the soprano La Grois falls ill and the premiere is postponed to the following year.  

1862 For the London International Exhibition Verdi sets a text by the young Arrigo Boito, the Inno delle Nazioni, for tenor, chorus, and orchestra, which is performed at Her Majesty’s Theatre on 24 May. At the end of August Verdi and Giuseppina leave again for St. Petersburg, where La forza del destino is premiered on 10 November, obtaining an excellent public reception notwithstanding the hostility of Russian cultural circles. On 9 December they leave Russia for Paris.  

1863 On 6 January Verdi and Giuseppina arrive in Madrid for a production of La forza del destino, which takes place at the Teatro Real on 21 February. While in Spain they visit Andalusia. In March they are again in Paris, where Le Vêpres siciliennes is revived at the Opéra on 20 July. In August they return to Sant’Agata.  

1864 Verdi’s parliamentary responsibilities take him frequently to Turin. In November he begins his revision of Macbeth, asking Piave for new verses for the libretto to be translated into French.  

1865 Verdi and Giuseppina pass the remaining winter months in Genoa, with the composer making frequent trips to Turin. On 21 April the new French version of Macbeth receives polite applause for its premiere at the Théâtre Lyrique. In September Verdi decides to retire as deputy and in November he leaves for Paris, where he visits Rossini and signs a new contract with the Opéra.  

1866 In March he returns to Italy and begins work on Don Carlos. In July he and Giuseppina lease an apartment in Genoa (Palazzo Sauli), destined to become their habitual winter retreat. On 24 July they are in Paris for rehearsals of the new opera. From 19 August to 12 September they go to the thermal baths in Cauterets, in the Pyrenees Mountains.  

1867 On 14 January Verdi’s father Carlo dies in Busseto (he was born in Le Roncole on 18 August 1875). On 11 March, after postponements, cuts, and last-minute changes, Don Carlos is premiered at the Thèâtre de l’Opéra in Paris. They return to Italy, and in May Giuseppina visits Clara Maffei and Alessandro Manzoni in Milan. Also in May, Verdi and Giuseppina decide to adopt his second-cousin Filomena (whom they would later name Maria). On 21 July Antonio Barezzi dies in Busseto. On 27 October Angelo Mariani conducts the first Italian performance of Don Carlos in Bologna.  

1868 Clara Maffei arranges for Verdi to meet Alessandro Manzoni on 30 June. On 13 November Gioacchino Rossini dies, and Verdi proposes that the foremost Italian composers of the day write a collaborative Messa in his memory. In December he is at work in Genoa, revising La forza del destino.  

1869 On 27 February the new version of La Forza del destino is warmly received at La Scala. In August Verdi composes a “Libera me, Domine” for the Messa per Rossini, but disagreements arise with Mariani (who is engaged in the commemorative celebrations for Rossini in Pesaro) regarding performance in the basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, and on 4 November the special Milanese selection committee definitively abandons the project. In December Ricordi publishes a collection of songs including a stornello by Verdi, the proceeds going to the family of Piave, who had been striken by serious paralysis. At the end of December Camille Du Locle, the librettist of Don Carlos, visits Sant’Agata and proposes that Verdi write an opera for the festivities planned around the opening of the Suez Canal.  

1870 In mid-May Du Locle sends Verdi a scenario of Aida, based on a synopsis written by the Egyptologist Auguste Mariette. In July the composer invites Antonio Ghislanzoni to Sant’Agata to discuss a libretto. On 9 August Verdi begins the composition of the opera, working closely through the remainder of the summer with Ghislanzoni. In December he is in Genoa, where he declines the position of director of the Conservatory of Naples that had been offered to him by the Minister of Public Education, Cesare Correnti, following the death of Saverio Mercadante.  

1871 In February Verdi meets with Minister Correnti to discuss a plan to reform the Italian conservatory system. In September, after completing work on Aida, he goes to Milan to meet with scenographer Girolamo Magnani for the staging of the opera at La Scala and to propose a reorganization of the theatre’s orchestra. On 9 November he is in Bologna for a performance of Wagner’s Lohengrin conducted by Mariani, annotating a copy of the vocal score with his opinions and impressions. On 24 December Aida is premiered at the Royal Opera House in Cairo, Giovanni Bottesini conducting (Verdi does not attend).  

1872 On 8 February the European premiere of Aida at La Scala (with the composer present) is a great success. Verdi is present for its performance at the Teatro Regio in Parma on 20 April. In August Verdi and Giuseppina are in Tabiano, and in November they arrive in Naples for a revival of Don Carlo at San Carlo on 2 December.  

1873 Verdi remains in Naples for the rehearsals of Aida, which is scheduled for 30 March. He writes the Quartetto in E minor for strings, which he has performed privately in his apartment at the Albergo delle Crocelle. In April he is back at Sant’Agata. When Alessandro Manzoni dies on 22 May, Verdi returns to the idea of a commemorative Messa da requiem.  

1874 On 22 May, the first anniversary of Manzoni’s death, Verdi’s Messa da requiem is performed in the church of San Marco in Milan; it would be performed again at La Scala on 25 May, and at the Opéra Comique in Paris on 9 June. In Genoa Verdi changes his winter residence to Palazzo Doria, one he would maintain well into old age. In November he is named senator to the Italian parliament.  

1875 In April Verdi is in Milan to work out the contractual terms with Ricordi and the singers for a European tour of the Messa da requiem (Paris, Opéra Comique, 19 April; London, Royal Albert Hall, 15 May; Vienna, Hofoperntheater, 11 June), with numerous performances in each venue. December 9: first public performance of the Quartetto in the Milan Conservatorio.  

1876 In January-February Verdi is in Genoa.On 20 March he leaves for Paris, where he conducts performances of Aida (22 April) and the Messa da requiem (30 May). On 1 June his Quartetto is performed privately at his Parisian residence in the Hôtel de Bade.

1877 On 21 May Verdi is in Cologne, where he has been invited by Ferdinand Hiller to conduct a performance of the Messa da requiem. From there he visits Holland, and in June he is in Paris. He passes the winter in Genoa.  

1878 In April he is in Paris, and at the beginning of May he is in Genoa. In October Verdi’s adopted daughter Maria is married to Alberto Carrara in the chapel at Sant’Agata. At the end of November Verdi leaves for a short trip to Paris to visit the Exposition Universelle, after which he returns to Genoa.  

1879 On 17 April Verdi and Giuseppina are at Sant’Agata. On 30 June Verdi conducts a benefit performance, for the Po River flood victims, of the Messa da requiem at La Scala. While in Milan he receives a visit from Arrigo Boito, who presents the composer several days later with a sketch of Otello. Verdi finds it “excellent” and eventually purchases Boito’s finished libretto. That winter in Genoa he composes the Pater noster for chorus.  
1880 On 22 March Verdi conducts a triumphant performance in French of Aida at the Opéra. On 18 April he is present for the first performance of the Pater noster and the Ave Maria for soprano and strings at La Scala; the city of Milan makes him an honorary citizen. At Sant’Agata he attends to the reorganization of his lands and renovation of the estate’s farmhouses while working on Otello. In December he puts Otello aside to concentrate on the revision of Simon Boccanegra.  

1881 In February Verdi and Giuseppina leave Sant’Agata for Milan, where the revised Simon Boccanegra is premiered on 24 March at La Scala. That summer the composer resumes work on Otello. They pass the winter months in Genoa.  

1882 Verdi begins the project of reducing Don Carlos from five acts to four for its premiere in Italian. That summer he and Giuseppina, accompanied by Teresa Stolz, make their first trip to the spas of Montecatini, taking rooms at the Locanda Maggiore.  

1883 He continues to work on the four-act Don Carlo. That summer he returns to Montecatini, and at the end of December he is in Milan for the first rehearsals of the opera.  

1884 On 10 January Don Carlo (in four acts) is premiered at La Scala. Verdi and Giuseppina leave soon after for Genoa. In February the composer endorses an official tuning standard “for the entire musical world”. In March he resumes work on Otello. After a short trip to Turin to visit the International Exhibition, Verdi and Giuseppina go to Montecatini. By mid-July they are back at Sant’Agata, where they receive a visit from Boito and Giuseppe Giacosa the following month.  

1885 There are frequent meetings with Boito to discuss Otello. July is spent at Montecatini, the winter months in Genoa.  

1886 In March Verdi and Giuseppina, accompanied by Muzio, are in Paris, where Verdi has come to audition several possible singers for Otello; particularly Victor Maurel, whom he is considering for the part of Jago. In his studio in Place Pigalle, Giovanni Boldini paints a portrait of Verdi in black, his hands resting on his knees. Unsatisfied with the result, Boldini later paints another on 9 April, this one the famous portrait of the composer wearing a top hat and scarf. In June Verdi and Giuseppina are in Montecatini. On 13 July Clarina Maffei dies and Verdi goes to Milan to pay last respects to his friend. In December he sends Ricordi the last two acts of Otello from Genoa. On 26 December a second version of the Italian Don Carlo in five acts goes on stage at the Teatro Comunale in Modena. Verdi composes the Laudi alla Vergine Maria for four treble voices.  

1887 On 1 January Verdi’s friend Opprandino Arrivabene dies in Rome. Verdi and Giuseppina leave for Milan, where the composer follows the staging preparations at La Scala for Otello. The premiere takes place on 5 February. In July they are in Montecatini, in December in Genoa.  

1888On 5 May Verdi and Giuseppina return to Sant’Agata. In July they are in Montecatini. In response to Giovanni Mariotti (a historian who at the time was the mayor of Parma, responsible for the local school of music’s promotion to conservatory status), Verdi proposes Arrigo Boito (who declines) and Giovanni Bottesini (who accepts) as the first director of the Conservatory of Parma. The newly constructed hospital in Villanova d’Arda, which was financed entirely by Verdi, is inaugurated on 6 November. As the fiftieth anniversary of the premiere of Oberto drew near, the Milanese paper “La perseveranza” proposed an “Artistic Jubilee celebration” to honour Verdi. He passes the winter in Genoa.  

1889 In February Verdi asks Boito to do what he can to avoid a “Jubilee celebration”. In March Verdi writes to Boito regarding an “enigmatic scale” which he would eventually harmonize to become the Ave Maria of the Quattro Pezzi Sacri. In mid-April he is at Sant’Agata, and in July there is the yearly visit to Montecatini. The idea of composing Falstaff begins to take shape. Bottesini dies, and Verdi proposes Franco Faccio as the new director of the conservatory of Parma. On 18 October he is in Milan to sign a contract for the purchase of some land outside the city gates, where he would later decide to construct a rest home for musicians, the Casa di riposo per musicisti.  

1890 On 8 March Verdi acknowledges receipt of the libretto for Falstaff from Boito. In April he learns that Faccio is seriously ill and asks Boito to replace him temporarily as director of the Conservatory of Parma. In July Verdi and Giuseppina are in Montecatini. On 14 November his friend Giuseppe Piroli dies, and on 27 November Emanuele Muzio dies. At the beginning of December they move for the winter to Genoa.  

1891 On 28 April Verdi and Giuseppina return to Sant’Agata; in July they visit Montecatini. In September Verdi supports the nomination of Giuseppe Gallignani as director of the Conservatory of Parma, in agreement with Boito. That winter he continues to work on Falstaff.  

1892 On 8 April Verdi conducts the “Preghiera” from Mosè at La Scala in commemoration of the centennial of Rossini’s birth. He passes the summer between the spas of Tabiano and Montecatini and finishes the composition of Falstaff. In October Boito and Giulio Ricordi visit Sant’Agata to discuss the staging of the opera. Verdi passes the latter part of the year in Genoa.  

1893 On 2 January Verdi and Giuseppina leave Genoa arrive in Milan, where rehearsals for Falstaff begin two days later at La Scala. The premiere on 9 February is a great success. On 2 March they depart for Genoa, and on 13 April they leave for Rome, where Falstaff is performed at the Teatro Costanzi. Verdi is received by King Umberto I and made an honorary citizen of Rome. He passes the summer between Sant’Agata and Montecatini, and in November he is in Genoa.  

1894 He completes his last two trips to Paris, for the French debut of Falstaff at the Opéra Comique on 18 April, and for Otello (with an added ballet) at the Théâtre de l’Opéra on 12 October. On 23 October he is in Genoa. In November-December he composes “Pietà Signor!” for tenor and piano, for the benefit of the earthquake victims in Sicily and Calabria.  

1895 He makes frequent visits to Milan as plans develop for the Casa di riposo. He begins the composition of the Te Deum for double chorus and orchestra. As in previous years, he passes the summer in Montecatini and the winter in Genoa.  

1896 In January Verdi is in Milan, where the construction of the Casa di riposo would often bring him in this period. He spends the summer at Sant’Agata and Montecatini, and in November he is in Genoa. Giuseppina’s declining health becomes a preoccupying concern. He composes the Stabat Mater for chorus and orchestra.  

1897 In January Verdi suffers a sudden attack of paralysis, but he recuperates quickly under the care of his daughter Maria. Giuseppina’s health improves slightly, allowing them to visit the Casa di riposo under construction in Milan. In July they are in Montecatini and in July they return to Sant’Agata. In October Verdi finishes the composition of the Pezzi sacri. Giuseppina’s health steadily deteriorates, and she dies the afternoon of 14 November at Sant’Agata. Verdi passes the Christmas holidays with his family and Boito at Sant’Agata.  

1898 On 7 April three of the four Pezzi sacri -- the Stabat Mater, Laudi alla Vergine Maria, and Te Deum --receive their first performance in Paris. Verdi is not able to attend (his physicians had prohibited him from making such an exhausting trip), but Boito is present in his stead. He passes the summer between Sant’Agata and Montecatini in the company of friends, and that winter he is in Milan.  

1899 From February to May Verdi is in Genoa; in July he is in Montecatini with Teresa Stolz; in August he is at Sant’Agata. He spends ever more time in Milan, where his habitual residence is an apartment in the Grand Hôtel et de Milan. On 16 December he signs the official founding document for the Casa di riposo. He passes the Christmas and New Year holidays with friends.  

1900 In March Verdi goes to Genoa, where Boito joins him for Easter. On 14 May he writes his last will and testament in Milan, naming Maria Carrara Verdi his universal heir and establishing legacies for the hospital of Villanova d’Arda and the Casa di riposo, this latter receiving all future profits from the copyrights of his music. In May he is at Sant’Agata, which he would leave definitively for Milan on 4 December, accompanied by Maria.  

1901 Verdi spends New Year’s Eve at the Hôtel de Milan with Boito, the poet Cesare Pascarella, Teresa Stolz, the painter Carlo Mancini, and a few other close friends. On 18 January he writes to his sister-in-law Barberina Strepponi: “I have been confined indoors for nearly fifteen days because I fear the cold!! [...] Here’s hoping that there will continue to be beautiful days like this one.” The morning of 21 January Verdi has a stroke. His condition worsens over the following days until, on 27 January at 2:45 A.M., the doctor Giuseppe Grocco, in tears, announces to the people present the death of the Maestro. His remains and those of Giuseppina rest today in the chapel of the Casa di riposo per musicisti “Giuseppe Verdi”.

© Copyright by Istituto nazionale di studi verdiani


Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio
Un giorno di regno (Il finto Stanislao)
Nabucodonosor (Nabucco)
I Lombardi alla prima Crociata
I due Foscari
Giovanna d’Arco
Macbeth [I]
I masnadieri
Jérusalem (Gerusalemme)
Il corsaro
La battaglia di Legnano
Luisa Miller
Il trovatore
La traviata
Les Vêpres siciliennes
Simon Boccanegra [I]
Un ballo in maschera
La forza del destino[I]
Macbeth [II]
Don Carlos
La forza del destino [II]
Simon Boccanegra [II]
Don Carlo [II]
Messa da requiem
Altre composizioni


Essential bibliography
- Abbiati Franco, Giuseppe Verdi, Milano, Ricordi, 1963 (2a ed.), 4 voll.
- Baldini Gabriele, Abitare la battaglia: la storia di Giuseppe Verdi, a cura di Fedele D'Amico, Milano, Garzanti, 1970, rist. 1983.
- Budden Julian, The operas of Verdi, London, Cassell, 1973-1981, 3 voll. Trad. it.: Le opere di Verdi, Torino, EDT, 1985-1988, 3 voll.
- Carteggi verdiani, a cura di Alessandro Luzio, Roma, Reale accademia d'Italia- Accademia nazionale dei Lincei, 1936-1947, 4 voll.
- Chusid Martin, A catalog of Verdi’s operas, Hackensac, New Jersey, J. Boonin, 1974.
- Conati Marcello, La bottega della musica: Verdi e la Fenice, Milano, Il saggiatore, 1983.
Conati Marcello, Giuseppe Verdi. Guida alla vita e alle opere, Pisa, Edizioni ETS, 2002.
- I copialettere di Giuseppe Verdi, pubblicati e illustrati da Gaetano Cesari e Alessandro Luzio [prefazione di Michele Scherillo], Milano, 1913; rist. anastatica: Sala Bolognese, Forni, 1987.
- Gatti Carlo, Verdi, Milano, Mondadori, 1951.
- Giuseppe Verdi: autobiografia dalle lettere, a cura di Aldo Oberdorfer. Nuova ed. interamente riveduta con annotazioni e aggiunte a cura di Marcello Conati, Milano, Biblioteca universale Rizzoli, 1981.
- Giuseppe Verdi: la biografia, le opere, i libretti, con più di 190 minuti di musica, Novara, De Agostini Multimedia, c1998. - 1 contenitore (1 CD-ROM : son., color. ; 12 cm + 1 opuscolo di 23 pp. (Requisiti di sistema per PC: 486 DX2/66; RAM 8 Mb (consigliato 16 Mb); Windows 95; scheda video SVGA 256 colori; scheda audio Sound Blaster 16 bit o compatibile. - Requisiti di sistema per Macintosh: 68040 (consigliato PowerMac); Ram 16 Mb; System 7.5; CD-ROM 4x; monitor 14" 256 colori.
- Giuseppe Verdi. Libretti, con un saggio di Philip Gossett, Milano, Mondadori, 2000.
- Harwood Gregory, Giuseppe Verdi: a guide to research, New York [...], Garland, 1998.
- Hopkinson Cecil, A bibliography of the works of Giuseppe Verdi: 1813-1901, New York, Broude brothers, 1973-1978, 2 voll.
- Marchesi Gustavo, Giuseppe Verdi, Torino, UTET, 1974.
- Mila Massino, L’arte di Verdi, Torino, Einaudi, 1980.
- Per amore di Verdi, 1813-1901: vita, immagini, ritratti, testi di Marco Marica; iconografia a cura di Marisa di Gregorio Casati; ricerca scenografica e figurini a cura di Olga Jesurum, Parma, Grafiche Step Editrice, 2001.
- Petrobelli Pierluigi, La musica nel teatro. Saggo su Verdi e altri compositori, Torino, EDT Musica, 1998.
- Phillips Matz Mary Jane, Verdi . A biography, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993 (il volume è stato tradotto in francese ed in spagnolo).
- Pougin Arthur, Vita aneddotica di Verdi, prefazione di Marcello Conati, Firenze, Passigli, 1989.
- Rescigno Eduardo, Dizionario verdiano: le opere, i cantanti, i personaggi, i direttori d'orchestra e di scena, gli scenografi, gli impresari, i librettisti, i parenti, gli amici, [Milano], Biblioteca universale Rizzoli, 2001.
- Rosselli John, The life of Verdi, Cambridge, Cambridge University press, 2000.
- Tutti i libretti di Verdi, introduzione e note di Luigi Baldacci, con una postfazione di Gino Negri, [Milano], Garzanti, 1992.
- Verdi intimo, carteggio di Giuseppe Verdi con il conte Opprandino Arrivabene, 1861-1886 , raccolto e annotato da Annibale Alberti, con prefazione di Alessandro Luzio, Milano, A. Mondadori, 1931.
- Verdi, merli e cucù. Cronache bussatane fra il 1819 e il 1839, a cura di Gustavo Marchesi, Busseto, Cassa di Risparmio e Monte di credito su pegno, 1979.
- Walker Frank, The man Verdi, London, Dent and sons, 1962; trad. it.: L'uomo Verdi, traduzione di Franca Medioli Cavara, presentazione di Mario Medici, Milano, Mursia, 1964.
- Zoppi Umberto, Angelo Mariani, Giuseppe Verdi e Teresa Stolz in un carteggio inedito, Milano, Garzanti, 1947.