The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Why is opera composer Giuseppe Verdi so important on his 200th birthday? Ask NPR.

October 12, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

This past Thursday marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Giuseppe Verdi, the great 19th-century Italian opera composer (below, in a photo).

Verdi Giuseppe

During this bicentennial year, you will probably get to hear and read many different evaluations of Verdi and why his contributions to opera, and to classical music and drama in general, remain so important after two centuries.

But I don’t think I have ever come across better or more accessible and convincing explanations than I found – and heard – this week on NPR’s terrific blog “Deceptive Cadence.”

Below are various links plus, at the bottom, a long and popular YouTube of highlights from Verdi’s enormous body of work.

Here is a link to a story about how Verdi managed to incorporate controversial and socially problematic plots – such as his sympathetic treatment of a prostitute in”La Traviata” — into his operas, and how brave it was of him to do so. Acclaimed conductor John Mauceri spoke with “All Things Considered” co-host Robert Siegel.

verdi drawing

Here is another link to a story about how Verdi’s subject matter still touches on human nature today and our contemporary psyche. It uses “Rigoletto” as an example:

And finally, here is a quiz with which you can test your own knowledge about Verdi:

verdi caricature

What do you think is Verdi’s most enduring legacy?

Which is your favorite Verdi opera and why?

The Ear wants to hear.

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