Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Verdi the Phoenix

I haven’t been posting here much lately and I’m about to go away for two weeks so I thought I should put something here so you know I’m still around. Whoever you are mysterious internet personage.

And, since it’s his centenary year, I thought a quick post about Giuseppe Verdi was in order. As it happens I read an interesting story about him last night which I think is worth relating. For the record my source is 1001 Classical Recordings to Hear Before You Die, edited by Matthew Rye.

So Verdi’s first opera was only moderately successful and his second was a total flop. That in itself is somewhat surprising given he is one of the opera composers, but it’s also a little encouraging to know even the greats can start out not-so great. Following that disaster however he had a much worse tragedy occur, his wife and two children all died. I can’t imagine something like that happening but his declaration to never compose again doesn’t seem too surprising.

This is where it gets good. Someone must have thought he was worth encouraging to keep going because they snuck a libretto into his coat pocket. It was for an opera based on Nebuchadnezzar, or Nabucco. When he read the passage which has become the famous Chorus of Hebrew Slaves, it fired his imagination and reignited his passion for composing and he wrote what is now a major part of the opera repertoire and went on to become the success he was. Out of the ashes.

Now, as I’ve said, I’m not a huge opera fan, but the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves is a wonderful piece in itself – I know nothing else of Nabucco – and very moving. (I regret not knowing who are performing it in the video linked here, they sing it well.)

There are a couple of other Verdi pieces I’d like to talk about but they can wait for another time. In the meantime, remember tragedy doesn’t have to be permanent, and a little encouragement can go a long way, so if you think someone needs it a nudge may be in order.

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