Page images
[merged small][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic]
[blocks in formation]

of his triumphs, he passed from 1 if e on January 27, 19 o 1. The building around which hovers so many fond memories of the maestro faces a beaut if u1 a venue, called by the Italians Via. Alessandro Manzoni, in remembrance of their patriot, novelist and poet whom the Milanes e worship ed and for who m Verdi wrote the Requiem Mass. A scending a ! . ~ short stairway in the Grand Hotel de Milan, you enter a large corner room, known for half a century as the Verdi Salon. The door is carefully locked and every precaution taken lest the precious mementos prove an overpowering temptation to the souvenir collector. Above the door hangs a life-size painting of the composer and you are told that everything remains as it did during his lifetime, save the grand piano, which was removed by the family. I.uxurious furniture, soft carpets, silken draperies, large mirrors and


gems of art give a grandeur to this room which was so long occupied by the man who was not only a composer of operas, but a member of the Italian Senate, honored with the title of Marquis and adored by the civilized world. The bed-chamber, which opens out of the salon, contains many personal belongings of Verdi. Lying upon the writing desk is a pen, ink-stand and blotter he used to the last. In the blotter may be plainly seen the impression of his trembling h a n d. Playing cards, which he always carried with him, are resting in a golden case. A mahogany c a binet contains wineglasses with the initials “G. V.” H is fav or ite dressing go w n and many of his undergarments h a ve been preserved ; but even an enth us i a st feels that is carrying their ardor too far ! In this sunny, cheerful s a 1 on Verdi received such men as Car\ ducci, Rossi, Boito, Manzoni and many other noted men of his time. What an inspiration to have listened to the words of wisdom, sagacity and repartee uttered by these men who have moved the world these men who have moved the world with their genius. What hours of uncertainty and doubt Verdi passed in this retreat, and then, what triumph and what victory! Fancy the confusion which reigned,—both from within and without on those unprecedented “first nights” at La Scala' As you leave the hotel and pass out into the bright sunlight of an Italian morning, your thoughts unconsciously wander to the childhood of this great man; to his student life, fraught with petty jealousies and tribulations; to his early manhood, filled to overflowing with sorrow and disappointment. Your sympathy has gone out to the man, and you have quite forgotten the great composer The municipality has placed a marble slab on the facade of the Grand Hotel de Milan, just beneath the Verdi Suite. Translated it reads: “Giuseppe Verdi has made memorial, for all time, this house in which he was an everwelcome guest and where he expired on January 27, 1901. On the anniversary of such a death the Commune, by unanimous consent of the people, place this tablet, as a token of perpetual honor to the great man who revived, in Italian hearts, with his heavenly harmonies, the desire and hope of a country.” About a mile from La Scala, facing the Piazza Michael Angelo, stands a magnificent building of brick and stone, covering an acre in extent. It is the Verdi Casa di Repose, or Home of Rest, erected during the last days of the composer's life at a cost of half a million of money. The donor also provided for the perpetual maintenance of the institution in a proper manner. Signor Camillo Boito, brother of the poet and composer, was the architect for this unique building, so simple yet substantial in design. It somewhat resembles mediaeval art, with a large courtyard in the centre, where bloom the choicest flowers in all Italy. The Home contains a chapel, library, infirmary, museum and large concert hall. £h. are spacious reception rooms and attractive dormitories, which are provided with all modern conveniences. Musicals are given weekly in the concert hall and on these occasions the best artists are none too choice for the inmates. One hundred people— sixty men and forty women—are sheltered beneath this hospitable roof and every comfort and pleasure seems to have been provided for those who are less fortunate than the donor.


Near the entrance of the Verdi Museum hangs a picture of her, who in youth was Signora Giuseppina Strepponi, a famous opera singer of her time and who finally became the second wife of Verdi. This picture was doubtless painted during the height of her popularity at La Scala, where the singer did much to further the success of the composer's first operas. It is a very beautiful face which looks down upon you, -a face which you cannot easily forget. Not only was this gifted woman the companion of Verdi's home, but his advisor and friend. Being thoroughly versed in all subjects pertaining to music, she often assisted him in his work and their married life seems to have proved ideal.

Perhaps the most interesting mementos found in the museum are the musical instruments used by Verdi at different periods of his life. The spinet, sold to his father by a priest of Roncole, and used by the composer during his early childhood, reminds us of the lad who shed “fruitful tears of troubled youth” while seeking to find his favorite harmonies on this precious relic.

The second instrument used by the composer, a piano which the magnanimous Barezzi loaned his protege and which finally became the property of the latter, has also been preserved. This piano was in Verdi's possession when he first entered Milan as a member of Signor Seletti's household. It bears the name of “Fritz,” Vienna, and from its keys echoed the airs of the maestro's early operas.

Resting in a remote corner of the museum stands a grand Erard piano, taken from the Palazzo Doria, Genoa, the composer's winter home. Facing this instrument, which was used during the composing of Aida, Otello and Falstaff, stands a bronze bust of Verdi, executed by Vincenzo Gemito. So lifelike is this work of art that one feels the maestro to be patiently awaiting the coming of one of his countrymen who can fill the place at the grand piano, now vacant for nine years.

In the concert hall of the home are inscribed the names of eight mastermusicians of Italy; but, previous to his death, Verdi refused to have his appear in the list. Since his decease, however, his name has been enrolled with those of his illustrious countrymen and every possible honor paid the venerable old man who, in his eighty-third year, planned and superintended the construction of a building which will long stand as a reminder of his generosity and benevolence.

Near the chapel entrance and just within the walls of the courtyard is a small and unpretentious crypt, protected by an iron gateway. The surrounding walls are beautifully decorated with paintings by Pogliaghi, and a bas-relief by Lomazzi. Within this crypt lie the remains of Giuseppe Verdi, the best representative of the grand art of his country. Beside him rests his second wife, who died a few months prior to his decease. In accordance with his wish, no imposing monument was to mark the place of his burial. One feels that, like Sir Christopher Wren, “his monument is around him.”

Nobles and all the illustrious citizens of Milan followed, with bared heads, this great man to his grave. It was

the earnest wish of the Italian Senate that Verdi be interred beside the honored city fathers; but the maestro chose the shadow of his little chapel for his final resting-place. As you stand beside the iron gate and reverently read the simple inscription, the familiar words: “Ah, che la morte ognora,” instantly come to your mind and you seem to feel something of the pathos in the composer's life when he wrote the music for Cammarano's tragic and well-known libretto, Il Trovatore. More than half a century has elapsed since this work was given to the world; yet, notwithstanding the severe censorship of the critics, it still stands the hearty approval of the public and is more successful in filling the coffers of theatre managers than any opera of modern times. To find a composer equal to Verdi we must go back to Palestrina, Lotti, Corelli, and Scarlattis. Even the brilliant productions of Rossini suffer when comparing them with Verdi's captivating melodies. It is doubtful if Italy or, indeed, the world ever produces another Verdi, so unassuming, yet so powerful, whose manly and noble traits of character were united with such masterly genius.


Often when life about me flushes red ;
When youth is strident with glad rioting;
When love and light and laughter have their fling,
Softly I muse: “How fares it with the dead!
Have they pale comfort in their narrow bed?
Lie they too still to stir at call of spring?
Or do their spirits still rejoice in sting
Of high endeavor urging heart and head?”

But this I know : If actic n be the law;
If the good warfare wages there as now;
If shock and clamor be on battle-field;
Then are thou there, a sword, a flame, a shield,
A perfect knight, unsullied, without flaw,
With high resolve still glowing on thy brow.



ONEY was beginning to tighten. The wiseacres at Washington had been meddling with the tariff, and the stock men were running up against the wall in all directions. The bankers and financial men of Kansas were put to their wits' ends to keep their heads above the financial deluge which threatened to sweep over the entire country. Willman Glasen had been compelled to foreclose a mortgage which threw upon his hands one thousand acres of Missouri land, and he had cared to own land across the state line. All the way home he dwelt upon it, and only when he lifted the latch on his gate did he dimly remember that Bertha had been “nagging” him about something. He paused a moment before his deepshaded white house, flecked, in the moonlight, with the shadows of the trees, then gave it up hopelessly. Bertha, for a motherless girl, he admitted, had managed to care for her home well; so well, in fact, that he came and went like a boarder, free from all responsibility. Of course, she was the pride of his heart, but he never found time to tell her so; there was no time for anything but business. When he became aware that his feet were upon his side veranda, the sittingroom door flew open, and Bertha warmly welcomed him to his easy chair beside the softly shaded lamp; then settled again to some frippery she was sewing upon. Just so, she had welcomed since a mere child, save the months she was away to school, but her father looked at her vacantly through the one thousand acres of Missouri land, pulled the Kansas City paper

from his pocket, unlaced his shoes and thrust his tired feet into his waiting slippers. The hall clock ticked away the evening pleasantly; the warm glow of the lamplight fell over the books that Bertha had gathered about her, or that he himself had purchased blindly and wrathfully, to get rid of obnoxious book agents who took up his valuable time. The cool, southern wind, laden with the heavy odor of petunias, blew the lace-edged curtains in from the open window. Bertha had watched her father for some little time; he was busy, as she could see, looking over his day's business. She had for some days past wanted to ask him something, but undecided as to how she was to begin if she did get him alone, she sat halfglancing at the book and looking over her father as if to figure him; to be sure she was right before she should say what she had for some little time wanted to say. As he sat glancing over the paper, Bertha came up to him and placed her hand on her father's shoulder and said: “You will let me go, father, won't ou?” When he had thrashed his paper in and out she felt sure he was through with the stock market. “Huh,” he exclaimed, settling his eyeglasses afresh and burying his Roman nose in the coming campaign. The hall clock still ticked and the cry of the whippoorwill came in on the cool wind. “Gertrude will never forgive me if I disappoint her in being her bridesmaid, and I would like to start Wednesday,” Bertha persisted, when she thought he was quite ready to turn the pages.

« PreviousContinue »