« PreviousContinue »
TOMB OF GIUSEPPE VERDI AND PAINTINGS BY POGLIAGHI REPRESENTING ITALY AS NOW
THE LAND OF LIBERTY MOURNING THE DEATH OF THE GREAT COMPOSER WHOSE
MUSIC HELPED TO DELIVER A DISHEARTENED PEOPLE FROM OPPRESSION
IUSEPPE VERDI, whose rare people long barred the more intimate musical talent is unprecedented facts of his personal life from the pub
by any Italian composer of this lic. Since his decease each successive century, was a man who may justly year has but strengthened the ardor be called the antithesis of musicians and admiration we have for this creator moulded in the shape with which we of Italian song. Realizing the force are all so familiar. Lacking the neces- of such a personality, it is impossible sary qualifications of a true Bohemian, for the average person to visit Verdi's he preferred the simple life of the com- native haunts,—especially the city of mon people. A child of the contadini, Milan,—without feeling that his spirit he became, by the sheer force of his has permeated every cobble-stone of genius, not only the composer of thirty the ancient Lombard town with that operas, but an Italian Senator, “musical indescribable beauty of soul which politician,” philanthropist and three one pursues, yet never overtakes. times over a millionaire. Honored and It is difficult to imagine Verdi, with respected by the civilized world, his his innate shrewdness and practicacountrymen ever looked to him as a bility as being the composer of operas; deliverer from their national oppression yet the creator of Il Trovatore has and many times this modest, retiring sounded an harmonious chord in the man held within his grasp the power heart of all nations. Lovers of Italian of a king. Placing the tumult of his opera will long remember Milan as soul into each note of pathos, Verdi once the musical centre of the world. may justly be credited with having Your Baedeker will tell you that the drawn politics into his music. Rossini chief attractions are the Gothic Castyled him, "the musician with a hel- thedral with its two thousand statues met," and probably no composer has and Leonardo da Vinci's famous paintso well deserved this distinction. ing, "The Last Supper.” But this in
But aside from his musical ability, telligence appears quite forgotten by Verdi held and still holds that magic the musical enthusiast, as he walks power and personal charm which death the streets of the city, casting benign itself cannot efface. Strange as it may glances at each native, dark-haired seem, no complete English biography Manrico, who softly hums in his sweet, has yet appeared to do homage to the rhythmical language, the familiar rememory of this octogenarian composer. frain of the Miserere. His love of seclusion and unaffected Giuseppe Verdi first came to Milan horror of posing as an idol of the when nineteen years of age. He had
already felt the humility of poverty and was heard in the village of Roncole. want. Born in the desolate village of His favorite musician in these early Roncole, a small settlement at the foot days was a tottering violinist, who of the Apennines, the child passed his often appeared before his father's youth in a modest country inn, kept homestead. These events gave little by his parents. Soon after his birth, Verdi the wildest delight and he imwhen but a babe in his mother's arms, mediately became an attentive auditor. this lonely town became the scene of Whenever a strolling artist of this type pillage and bloodshed.
invaded the town, Verdi would eagerly It was in 1814, about a year after follow from door to door, never dreamVerdi's birth, that the Austrians and ing that, some day, he would furnish Russians sacked the peaceful village of sparkling melodies for like instruments Roncole, scattering terror and death of torture and need an Act of Parliathroughout the land. The women and ment to regulate their use! children, thinking to be safer near the Verdi senior soon recognized the shrine of the Virgin, took refuge in musical possibilities of his son and dethe church. But the allies soon forced termined, in spite of poverty, to secure their way into the sacred edifice, ruth a spinet for the child's use. The itinlessly slaying both women and chil
erant violinist, whose melodies first indren, until the floor was covered with spired Verdi, urged the innkeeper to the blood of their innocent victims. make a musician of his son.
This One of the women, wiser than the proposition seems to have met with rest, amid mingled screams and en hearty approval. Already Giuseppe treaties for mercy, fled to the narrow had shown an aptitude for the prostaircase, leading to the belfry. Grop- fession, his time being absorbed in ing along in this narrow passageway, discovering chords and harmonies on she crouched in the farthest corner of his spinet. her somber fortress, the helpless babe At eight years of age we find him at still clasped to her breast. Here the Bussanto, a small town about three terror-stricken woman remained until miles from his birthplace. Here, for the last sound of the enemy had died the munificent sum of about six cents away. The woman was Louisa Utini
per day, the youth entered an academic Verdi, mother of the infant Giuseppe. school, where he remained two years, It is pleasing,—not only to Italians, pursuing those branches of study which but to all nations,—to believe that, by the son of a locandiere deems sufficient some magic power of the gods, the life for his station in life, of this child was spared, that he might Three years after the installation of glorify his country and, through his the spinet into the house of the innmaster-genius, help to lift the oppres- keeper, young Verdi became parish sion which a disheartened people had organist at Roncole, with a salary of long endured.
thirty-six lire per annum,-or less than Self-denial and the closest economy sixty cents per month! This meagre were daily practiced by Verdi's par sum naturally proved insufficient to ents, whose income seemed hardly supply the necessities of a student; adequate to supply their frugal needs. and, besides, his first maestro, one Although the family was
re Baistrocchi, had already confessed his duced to abject poverty, yet the child inability to longer guide the young Giuseppe was not surrounded with an aspirant in his favorite study. atmosphere to inspire the poetic or It was now apparent that some the beautiful. Notwithstanding all means must be found whereby the this, Verdi seems to have enjoyed a youthful Verdi could add his mite to perfectly natural childhood, with no the family coffer and, at the same time, visible sign to indicate his coming fame continue his study of music. Even a and glory. His musical aptitude was musician must have od and raiment, first shown whenever a street-organ and in order to provide these requisites,
the youth secured a position as office vanni Provesi, then organist at Busboy in the employ of Antonio Barezzi, santo and composer of considerable a well-to-do shopkeeper and liquor note, took an intense interest in Verdi's manufacturer of Bussanto and a man of progress, offering to instruct the boy the highest integrity, who was destined without remuneration. In those days, to become closely associated with the Verdi's chief delight was to arrange composer. This genial merchant was orchestral scores for the Philharmonic a musician of no inferior order, and Society of the town. Advancing years
wishing to encourage his apprentice, soon made it necessary for the venermade him a member of his household. able Provesi to resign his position as To the assistance of this loyal-hearted director of this august society, and his friend did the composer owe the possi- precious pupil was selected as his sucbility of becoming great.
cessor. This gentle and unaffected child of But all this glory did not satisfy the contadini soon gained the respect the ambitious youth. He ever dream and love of all who knew him. Gio of some day becoming a successful
preserving the room which was the
It is an indisputable fact that Verdi,
Realizing this decision of the Conservatorio faculty to be final, Verdi was advised to choose Signor Vincenzo Lavigna as his instructor, a pupil of the Conservatorio at Naples and a successful composer and director at La
Scala Theatre. With the guidance of ARRIGO BOITO, COMPOSER OF “MEFISTOFELE"
this sagacious Italian and with music AND LIBRETTIST FOR OTELLO
all around him Verdi toiled incessantly “FALSTAFF”
until a municipal contract, made pre
vious to his departure to Milan, forced composer of operas. In order to ac him to return to Bussanto and fill the complish his purpose he must enter a vacancy of parish organist, caused by musical school and obtain the instruc the venerable Provesi's death. This tion which would properly fit him for event marked another episode in his chosen profession. The only draw Verdi's life. back to this end was lack of funds. Ac
Returning to the scenes of his early cordingly, with a small scholarship, re
years, the young man
now entered ceived from a Bussanto institution the household of his benefactor, Ba(Monte di Pieta), together with the rezzi, who regarded Verdi as his own liberal assistance of his benefactor,
son. It soon became apparent that Barezzi, Verdi was able to carry out the merchant's eldest daughter had also his plans, that of going to Milan and become closely attached to her father's entering the Italian Conservatorio di
protege. Although Verdi mourned the Musica.
fate which forced him to leave Milan, On Verdi's first entrance into Milan yet he seems to have exercised an aswe find him established in the home tonishing amount of fortitude respectof Giuseppe Seletti, a personal friend ing the situation. By some unspeakof Barezzi and a professor at the
professor at the able magic, the composer found perGymnase. This comfortable apart fect consolation in the society of his ment in Via. Santa Maria, No. 19, is foster-father's daughter, whose persituated in the heart of the city. A sonal charm and musical ability he son of the hospitable professor still openly acknowledged.
During this occupies the house and takes pride in period he wooed and wed the beauti