Verdi, Giuseppe (1813-1901), Italian operatic composer, whose works stand among the greatest in the history of Italian opera.
Born on October 10, 1813, in Roncole in the former duchy of Parma, he first studied music in the neighbouring town of Busseto. Then, upon being rejected in 1832, because of his age, by the Milan Conservatory, he became a pupil of the Milanese composer Vincenzo Lavigna. He returned to Busseto in 1833 as conductor of the Philharmonic Society.
At the age of 25 Verdi again went to Milan. His first opera, Oberto, was produced at La Scala with some success in 1839. His next work, the comic opera Un giorno di regno (King for a Day, 1840), was a failure, and Verdi, lamenting also the recent deaths of his wife and two children, decided to give up composing. After more than a year, however, the director of La Scala succeeded in inducing him to write Nabucco (1842). The opera created a sensation; its subject matter dealt with the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, and the Italian public regarded it as a symbol of the struggle against Austrian rule in northern Italy. I Lombardi (1843) and Ernani (1844), both great successes, followed, but of the next ten only Macbeth (1847) and Luisa Miller (1849) have survived in the permanent operatic repertory. Verdi's three following works, Rigoletto (1851), Il Trovatore (1853), and La Traviata (1853), brought him international fame and remain among the most popular of all operas.
Operas written in the middle of Verdi's career, including Un ballo in maschera (A Masked Ball, 1859), La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny, 1862), and Don Carlo (1867), exhibit a greater mastery of musical characterization and a greater emphasis on the role of the orchestra than his earlier works. Aďda (1871), also of this period and probably Verdi's most popular opera, was commissioned by the khedive of Egypt to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal; it was first performed in Cairo. Three years later, Verdi composed his most important nonoperatic work, the Requiem Mass in memory of the Italian novelist Alessandro Manzoni.
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