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ful Margherita Barezzi. It is not sur municipality. Verdi now returned to prising that the union was looked upon Milan, taking with him his family, with disapproval by many, owing to which he installed in a modest apartthe difference in fortunes of the two ment near the Porta Ticinese. At this families; but it is quite evident that the period Verdi's sole asset was the licontracting parties were well pleased, bretto of his first opera, "Oberto di San including the genial wine merchant. Bonifacio," which he had completed These young people seemed particu- during his three years' absence. The larly adapted to each other. Margherita family income did not admit of luxBarezzi possessed, in an uncommon de- uries. But at last, after many misgree, the charm of seduction. The un- givings and repeated disappointments, conscious loveliness of her nature Signor Merelli, manager at La Scala,
brought courage and hope to the man decided to present Oberto for half the who, from childhood, possessed, to an proceeds from the sale of the score, alarming degree, a timid and serious should the opera meet with success. temperament. Margherita, alone, seems This was a bit of good fortune, for, in to have held the power to lift Verdi those days, it was the duty of the imout of himself and spur him on to the presarii to offer large sums of money goal of his desire. Three years of con for such a privilege. jugal bliss were passed in the quiet In anticipation of this event, Verdi little town of Bussanto, during which assumed the duties of director at La time a son and daughter were born to Scala, where he managed every detail them.
of the rehearsals.
In this famous Having fulfilled his contract with the theatre the composer's first opera was
Is the poem
given to the world, November 17, 1839. “It will not harm you," cried the Following this triumph, Verdi was en indignant manager; "take it home,gaged to produce three other operas, read it—and then bring it back to me!" one every eight months,—the first of The following day Verdi returned which, was to be a comedy, and for with the libretto, having decided, after which the composer was to receive careful consideration, that he could 4000 Austrian lire, or about $700. not set the words to music, not even
Verdi's future now seemed practi- for Merelli. Disappointed and not a cally assured.
Prosperity and fame little vexed with the composer, the were evidently close at hand; but all
manager demanded: this was soon to be obliterated by a “What's the matter? terrible tragedy, which was rapidly ap not beautiful?” proaching. Scarcely had the Italian To this Verdi replied: maestro begun his work when his “Yes, it is very beautiful!" little daughter died. Then followed the "Then set it to music," shouted the death of his infant son, and before June irate Merelli; and without waiting for of the same year the young wife had a reply, he thrust the libretto into also passed away, making the third Verdi's coat-pocket, and, seizing the death in Verdi's family in less than unyielding maestro by the shoulder, three months and leaving him-alone! pushed him from the room, actually
Prostrated with grief and, at the locking the door in his face, thus leavsame time, financially embarrassed, he ing no chance for a second refusal. In endeavored to keep his contract with this manner Verdi again took up his the manager at La Scala and complete life-work and the score of Nabucco, the comic opera! This work was given produced in 1842, was the result of in Milan during September following Merelli's persistent efforts. the composer's bereavement and, need La Scala Theatre, the birthplace of less to state, proved a failure. Over- eight Verdi Operas, is known throughcome with disappointment, Verdi now out the musical world. Erected in broke all contracts with Signor Merelli 1778, it is the largest, save one, in and retired to a quiet apartment near Italy. Everything about the place Corsia de Servi, declaring that his speaks of the gentle, yet masterful musical career was ended. Then fol- hand, which gave to us an Aida, an lowed weeks of complete dejection, Otello and a Falstaff. Standing in the when all former interests
ap- auditorium, one can almost hear the parently forgotten. But even sorrow chorus from I Lombardi, as it chants like Verdi's could not long suppress the words: the genius of such a man. One winter's evening, when coming
“O signora del tetto natio," out of the De Cristoforis Gallery, that glorious refrain which, when sung that grand arcade of Milan,-Verdi in the streets of Milan and Venice, suddenly encountered Signor Merelli. finally resulted in tearing the hated In spite of the snow, then falling in yoke of Austria from this modern great flakes, the crafty manager urged Etruria. In the dark shadows of La the maestro to accompany him on his Scala's walls seem ever lingering the way to La Scala, saying that he wished ghosts of an insolent Otello or fair to chat about a new libretto. When Desdemona, awaiting the return of the reaching the office, Merelli begged his great composer whose interpretations companion to enter, adding that he brought honor, even to a Shakespeare. would like to show him the latest pro Nowhere but in Italy could such a duction from the pen of the Italian poet, scene take place as was witnessed on Solera. With great reluctance, Verdi the memorial first night of Otello, hastily glanced over the manuscript, when Verdi gave to the musical world after which he returned it to Signor that brilliant gem of lyric drama which Merelli.
is yet unsurpassed by any of his
countrymen. Signor Arrigo Boito, the studied gaiety in every note of this distinguished poet and composer, fur- opera! After a lifetime devoted to nished the libretto for this occasion and tragedy, Verdi suddenly brought forth, seems to have found favor in the eyes at the age of four-score years, a comedy of Verdi, who declared him to be an which proclaimed him to be the greatideal librettist. How the cobble-stones est living Italian composer. Surely, of the Piazza della Scala must have the day of miracles belongs not wholly groaned beneath the weight of an ex to the ancient Nazarenes! pectant, excited mass of humanity, rep What unfeigned enthusiasm was resenting all nations, eager to hear born for all true artists under the githis long-deferred work which the com- gantic roof of La Scala! Italy still
poser produced in the seventy-fourth leads the world in operatic music, yet year of his age!
its idealistic worship of poetry and song Yet once again did this wizard of is slowly but steadily becoming a the muse add another shining jewel to thing of the past. In Verdi's youth his diadem,—that of Falstaff, the art was worshiped for Art's sake and brightest of them all—a lyric comedy Mammon was, for the time, forgotten. which the world's greatest critics pro- Milan is still powerful and prosperous; nounce his best work. Again did Sig- but modern industries are fast crowdnor Boito furnish the libretto, which ing out that child-like adoration of the has been accorded the poet's best pro- beautiful for which all Italy was once duction. What youthfulness and un so famous.
In the first days of Verdi's prosper- gems of art give a grandeur to this ity he purchased an estate about ten room which was so long occupied by miles from the scenes of his childhood, the man who was not only a composer and when not occupying the Palazzo of operas, but a member of the Italian Doria, at Genoa, spent much of his Senate, honored with the title of Martime at Sant'Agata, his country re- quis and adored by the civilized world. treat situated in this solitary, isolated The bed-chamber, which opens out land. But during his active life in of the salon, contains many personal Milan, when conducting at La Scala, belongings of Verdi. Lying upon the it was his custom to remain from four writing desk is a pen, ink-stand and to six months yearly at the Grand Hotel blotter he used to the last. In the de Milan. Under this hospitable roof blotter may be plainly seen the imthe composer was
pression of his a guest for thirty
trembling hand. four consecutive
Playing cards, years, and here,
which he always amid the scenes
carried with him, of his triumphs,
are resting in a he passed from
golden case. A life on January
mahogany cabi27, 1901. The
net contains winebuilding around
glasses with the which hovers so
initials "G. V." many fond mem
His favorite ories of the maes
dressing gown tro faces a beau
and many of his tiful a venue,
undergarments called by the Ital
have been preians Via. Alessan
served; but even dro Manzoni, in
an enthusiast remembrance of
feels that is cartheir patriot, nov
rying their ardor elist and poet
too far! whom the Milan
In this sunny, ese worshiped
cheerful salon and for whom
Verdi received Verdi wrote the
such men as CarRequiem Mass.
ducci, Rossi, BoiAscending a
to, Manzoni and short stairway in
many other noted the Grand Hotel FROM A RARE PORTRAIT OF VERDI
men of his time. de Milan, you enIN ADVANCED YEARS
What an inspirater a large corner
tion to have lisroom, known for half a century as tened to the words of wisdom, sathe Verdi Salon. The door is carefully gacity and repartee uttered by these locked and every precaution taken lest men who have moved the world the precious mementos prove an over these men who have moved the world powering temptation to the souvenir with their genius. What hours of uncollector. Above the door hangs a certainty and doubt Verdi passed in life-size painting of the composer and this retreat,—and then, what triumph you are told that everything remains and what victory! Fancy the confusion as it did during his lifetime, save the which reigned,—both from within and grand piano, which was removed by the without on those unprecedented "first family. Luxurious furniture, soft car- nights" at La Scala! pets, silken draperies, large mirrors and As you leave the hotel and pass out
into the bright sunlight of an Italian Near the entrance of the Verdi Mumorning, your thoughts unconsciously seum hangs a picture of her, who in wander to the childhood of this great youth was Signora Giuseppina Strepman; to his student life, fraught with poni, a famous opera singer of her time petty jealousies and tribulations; to and who finally became the second wife his early manhood, filled to overflow- of Verdi. This picture was doubtless ing with sorrow and disappointment. painted during the height of her popuYour sympathy has gone out to the larity at La Scala, where the singer man, and you have quite forgotten the did much to further the success of the great composer
composer's first operas. It is a very The municipality has placed a mar beautiful face which looks down upon ble slab on the facade of the Grand you,-a face which you cannot easily Hotel de Milan, just beneath the Verdi forget. Not only was this gifted Suite. Translated it reads: "Giuseppe woman the companion of Verdi's Verdi has made memorial, for all time, home, but his advisor and friend. Bethis house in which he was an ever- ing thoroughly versed in all subjects welcome guest and where he expired on pertaining to music, she often assisted January 27, 1901. On the anniversary him in his work and their married life of such a death the Commune, by unan seems to have proved ideal. imous consent of the people, place this Perhaps the most interesting metablet, as a token of perpetual honor to mentos found in the museum are the the great man who revived, in Italian musical instruments used by Verdi at hearts, with his heavenly harmonies, different periods of his life. The the desire and hope of a country.” spinet, sold to his father by a priest
About a mile from La Scala, facing of Roncole, and used by the composer the Piazza Michael Angelo, stands a during his early childhood, reminds us magnificent building of brick and stone, of the lad who shed "fruitful tears of covering an acre in extent. It is the troubled youth” while seeking to find Verdi Casa di Repose, or Home of his favorite harmonies on this precious Rest, erected during the last days of relic. the composer's life at a cost of half The second instrument used by the a million of money. The donor also composer,-a piano which the magnaniprovided for the perpetual maintenance mous Barezzi loaned his protege and of the institution in a proper manner. which finally became the property of Signor Camillo Boito, brother of the the latter,-has also been preserved. poet and composer, was the architect This piano was in Verdi's possession for this unique building, so simple yet when he first entered Milan as a memsubstantial in design. It somewhat re ber of Signor Seletti's household. It sembles mediaeval art, with a large bears the name of "Fritz,” Vienna, and courtyard in the centre, where bloom from its keys echoed the airs of the the choicest flowers in all Italy.
maestro's early operas. The Home contains a chapel, library, Resting in a remote corner of the infirmary, museum and large concert museum stands a grand Erard piano, hall. There are spacious reception taken from the Palazzo Doria, Genoa, rooms and attractive dormitories, which the composer's winter home. Facing are provided with all modern conveni this instrument, which was used durences. Musicals are given weekly in ing the composing of Aida, Otello and the concert hall and on these occasions Falstaff, -stands a bronze bust of the best artists are none too choice for Verdi, executed by Vincenzo Gemito.
One hundred people- So lifelike is this work of art that one sixty men and forty women-are shel feels the maestro to be patiently tered beneath this hospitable roof and awaiting the coming of one of his every comfort and pleasure seems to countrymen who can fill the place at have been provided for those who are the grand piano, now vacant for nine less fortunate than the donor.