Verdi's Masterwork: Lecture Series Explores the Music & Legacy of the Italian Composer
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November 1, 2013 (7:30pm – 9:30pm)
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Giuseppe Verdi and the Risorgimento
*_Philip Gossett (University of Chicago)_
Verdi was a true Italian patriot who served his nation as a statesman as well as an artist. The operas of his youth became identified as “Risorgimento” art filled with both explicit and hidden revolutionary messages. His personal experiences—combined with the “escape-from-tyranny” literary tastes of his time—led him to create operas that resonated with the nationalist aspirations of the nascent Italian nation. Embraced as the musical manifestation of the “Risorgimento,” Verdi found his name employed in the late 1850s as a political slogan: “Viva VERDI,” an acronym for “Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re D’Italia,” “Long Live Victor Emmanuel II, King of Italy.” This keynote lecture examines Verdi’s works from the 1840s through the time he became a member of the first national Parliament in 1861, capped by works that became forever identified with the spirit and dream of the Risorgimento, Nabucco_ and _Ernani. *
O Patria Mia: Bringing Patriotism to Life on the Stage
*_Clifford (Kip) Cranna (San Francisco Opera)__
What does patriotism sound like? What does it look like? Opera producers confront this problem often when they stage Verdi’s operas, with their veiled, and sometimes overt, expressions of patriotic longing, rebellion against oppression, and nationalistic aspiration. In this lecture-demonstration, video examples will explore the ways in which opera companies of our era have made these scenes unfold for modern audiences, while live performanceswill help bring us into Verdi’s emotional world of personal devotion to homeland. Accompanied by Ron Valentino on the piano, soprano Hope Briggs performs “Ritorna vincitor” and “O patria mia” from Verdi’s _Aida. _
_November 2, 2013 (10:00am – noon, 1:30pm – 4:00pm)
_ *Verdi and Garibaldi: Heroes of the Risorgimento
*_Giovanna Ceserani (Stanford)
_Italians in the 19th Century, dreaming of a unified nation, nourished their hopes by insistently turning to the past. History—with its relics and its heroes—was everywhere in the formative years of the Risorgimento: in novels, in paintings, in operas. Excavations of ancient Rome brought monuments associated with ancient democratic ideals into plain view. Political thinkers reflected on which ideas and heroes from the past might catalyze their dream of a unified Italy. Giuseppe Garibaldi fashioned a heroic persona for himself out of the materials provided by romantic literature. The heroic characters and revolutionary feelings of Giuseppe Verdi’s operas emerge from this very same world of Risorgimento ideals. This lecture considers the influence of the Risorgimento on Verdi, in order to illuminate his musical work, but also to provide for a deeper appreciation of the parallel lives led by two heroes of the Risorgimento: Garibaldi, its chief military architect, and Verdi, whose music provides a kind of soundtrack to that same effort.
*_Mary Ann Smart (UC Berkeley)
What kinds of political messages did audiences in 19th-century Italy hear in the opera of their time? Censorship of the press and the theater meant that very few overt statements were made that linked opera to political ideas. Yet some of the most influential players in the operatic world were also central figures in the revolutionary movements of the 1830s and 1840s. To mention just a few of these connections, Donizetti collaborated on his I puritani_ with the exiled poet Count Carlo Pepoli, and on_Marino Faliero_ and Don Pasquale with the Ruffini brothers, who had been boyhood friends of Giuseppe Mazzini, founder of the “Young Italy” movement. Professor Smart examines the political ideas that swirled around the edges of the operatic world, voiced by poets, journalists, and theater officials, and explore how those ideas found their way into the music.
*How to Listen to Verdi
Clifford (Kip) Cranna (San Francisco Opera)
*The music of Verdi’s operas is compelling, uplifting, dramatic, and full of melody. But what’s behind the structure and the shape of the music? Verdi’s innovative and imaginative approach to opera broke new ground, but was nonetheless based on established operatic practice. Can understanding the musical and dramatic construction of a Verdian scene help the listener to appreciate and enjoy it even more? Kip Cranna explores this question with an analysis of how Verdi scenes are put together, using video and live musical examples to help us to a new perspective on a great musical genius at work. Cheryl Cain (soprano) performs “Ah, fors’è lui . . . Sempre libera” from Verdi’s La Traviata, accompanied by Ron Valentino.
Verdi, Shakespeare, and Falstaff
_Philip Gossett (University of Chicago)
_ *Verdi’s life-long love affair with the plays of Shakespeare resulted in only three actual settings of Shakespearean plays, Macbeth_ (1847 and 1865), Otello_ (1887), and Falstaff , two coming near the end of his life, when the appearance of Boito as librettist offered the composer new motivation to write operas. Although the composer long hoped to create musical settings based on other plays, especially King Lear_, he does not seem to have undertaken any actual composition for them. Boito brilliantly wove together into Falstaff_, Verdi’s last opera, based essentially on The Merry Wives of Windsor, the appearances of “fat Jack” in Henry IV. Verdi’s score is a masterpiece of free composition, but it has its roots in earlier Italian opera, sometimes even quoting his earlier works ironically (think of Mistress Quickly’s “Povera donna,” which quotes from La traviata). Verdi often said that, while he admired Wagner, he remained Italian to his core.
*_Panel discussion with presenters moderated by George Hammond.
- _ Presented in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera, Consul General of Italy, Italian Cultural Institute, and the Leonardo da Vinci Society, celebrating 2013 as the Year of Italian Culture in the US._