How to Order | Subscribe Now | Shop Merchandise
Composer Giuseppe Verdi was born on Oct. 10, 1813 in Roncole, near Busseto, Italy. After some years as a conductor in small communities, Giuseppe Verdi submitted an unsolicited opera to La Scala, entitled Oberto, conte di Bonfacio. Based on its success, Verdi was given a contract for three further operas.
However, his next opera failed and the deaths of his wife and two young children sent him into a deep depression. He composed nothing for nearly a year.
Everything changed with the premiere of Nabucco in 1842. The Italian people strongly identified with its politically charged biblical story, securing Verdi’s fame throughout the country.
From 1842 to 1853 he wrote 16 operas, with performances in Milan, Rome, Naples, Venice, Florence, Trieste, Paris and London. The operas included his biggest hits: Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata. Verdi looked to great writers for inspiration including Victor Hugo (Rigoletto), Schiller (Luisa Miller) and Shakespeare (Macbeth).
In the following 18 years, Verdi’s output slowed to six operas: Simon Boccanegra, Un ballo in maschera, Don Carlos, Aida, Les vêpres siciliennes and La forza del destino.
Interestingly, Verdi employed no agent or manager, negotiating commissions personally from theatre managements with Ricordi, his publisher and consultant, by his side.
By this point Verdi was not only the great man of opera, but also a national hero. Even Verdi’s name was used as a political acronym: Vittorio Emmanuele, Rè d’Italia (Victor Emmanuel was to be the first King of a united Italy).
After Aida’s premiere in Cairo in 1871, Verdi did not write another opera for the next 16 years. He traveled through Europe, watching over his productions, and wrote his famous Requiem. Late in life, Verdi created two final works, Otello and Falstaff.
Verdi suffered a stroke and died on Jan. 27, 1901 in Milan.
Librettist Salvatore Cammarano was born on March 16, 1801 in Naples, Italy. The Cammarano family was highly artistic and well known in the theatrical scene in Naples during the 19th century. By the age of 18, Salvatore Cammarano had already written some very successful plays, such as his tragic Baldovino, which was performed at the Teatro dei Fiorentini. His first libretto, La Sposa, was written in 1834 for Vignozzi. Only one year later, Cammarano was established as a stage director and poet at the respected Teatro San Carlo.
Over his career, Cammarano wrote 50 libretti for Donizetti, Verdi, Pacini, Mercadante and a number of lesser-known composers.
For Donizetti, he wrote Lucia di Lammermoor (1835), L'assedio di Calais (1836), Belisario (1836), Pia de’ Tolomei (1837), Roberto Devereux (1837), Maria de Rudenz (1838), Poliuto (1838) and Maria di Rohan (1843).
For Verdi, Cammarano wrote Alzira (1845), La battaglia di Legnano (1849) and Luisa Miller (1849), and he had almost finished his libretto for Verdi’s Il Trovatore (1853) when he died in Naples on July 17, 1852. The libretto was completed with significant revisions by poet Leone Bardare.
Ramón Vargas as Manrico and Elza van den Heever as Leonora in in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Il Trovatore, 2012. Photo: Michael Cooper © 2012