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.


  1. Interesting blog , it reminds me of Verdi’s operas… one of the best for me is La Traviata, which means “the fallen woman” or “the one who goes astray” and in context it connotes the loss of sexual innocence.
    I tried to write a blog about him, hope you like it too:

    Comment by Steven Toh — January 5, 2021 @ 8:19 pm

  2. Perhaps as Verdi said: ” The explanation may be partly found in my humble origin, my simple upbringing. My father kept a little inn and grocery shop in the village of Roncole. He was not rich, but prosperous enough to be able to give his son a thorough musical education. My father arranged music lessons before I was four. When only eleven, I succeeded my teacher in the post, at a salary of thirty-six francs a year! I had a hundred francs when I left six years later, but I was then walking every Sunday and festival day from Busseto, three miles distant, for my general education.”

    Comment by Steven Toh — September 6, 2020 @ 7:53 pm

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

    Pingback by Giuseppe Verdi | doug --- off the record — October 19, 2013 @ 4:00 am

  4. […] October 2013 marks the 200th birthday for the 19th-century italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. To mark this anniversary Jacob Stockinger has compiled a selection of stories about Verdi produced by National Public Radio. You can find those stories at his blog The Well-Tempered Ear. […]

    Pingback by — October 18, 2013 @ 8:00 am

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