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Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Verdi was born in the Italian village of Le Roncole near Busseto in 1813. He showed considerable musical promise, and by the age of seven was organist at a local church. In 1823, he moved to Busseto and attended the music school run by Antonio Provesi, by the age of 13 becoming an assistant conductor of the Busseto orchestra. After finishing school, Verdi applied to the Milan Conservatoire, but was turned down, partly due to his poor piano playing. However, he was advised by one of the adjudicators to take private tuition within the city and then spent two years studying with Vincenzo Lavigna, a composer and maestro at La Scala.

In May 1836, he married, Margherita Barezzi, the daughter of his principal benefactor, and three years later, he finally had an opera accepted for production at La Scala. Oberto was a success, and subsequent publication by Ricordi earned him a contract for a further three operas. However, during work on his next opera, Un giorno di regno, his wife and two children died. Although he did finish the opera, it was not a success and he vowed never to compose another comedy.

In 1841, having kept faith in him, the director of La Scala persuaded Verdi to compose another opera. Nabucco was a triumphant success and thrust him to international fame. During the next decade, he wrote, and often directed, a continuous stream of operas for Milan and, later, foreign opera houses. This series culminated with three of his greatest opera, Rigoletto (1851), Il trovatore (1852) and La traviata (1853, revised 1854). Also in 1853, he journeyed to Paris to stage Les Vêpres siciliennes, including a half-hour ballet interlude (the music to which BRB dances The Seasons) for the Opéra.

1859 saw both the premiere of Un ballo in maschera, and his marriage to his long-term partner, the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi. He continued to compose successful operas, including La forza del destino (1862) and Don Carlos (1867), culminating with Aida (1870). Continuing a life-long interest in politics, he was also elected to the newly formed Italian parliament, after independence was gained from Austria in 1860.

In the following years, he turned his compositional skills to other mediums, writing amongst other works, a string quartet (1873) and his famous Requiem (1874). After a 16-year operatic silence, Verdi's publisher Ricordi, suggested that he consider a new libretto by Arrigo Boito. Verdi was enthusiastic, and Otello was given a rapturous premiere at La Scala in February 1887.

His last opera Falstaff, and his first comedy since Un giorno di regno, 53 years earlier, was premiered in 1893, also in Milan. In 1901, after a massive stoke, Verdi died, and is now considered one of the greatest opera composers to have lived. He left his not inconsiderable savings to a home for elderly musicians that he had founded in Milan.

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