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Verdi Flash Mob!

Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 by coffeecritic

             Verdi caricature

It's Giuseppe Verdi's bicentennial and there have been celebrations going on all year. People are gathering at Verdi monuments all over the world to honor him with impromptu renditions of "Va pensiero", the stirring choral work from his opera Nabucco.

Actually, the first Verdi flash mob took place in 1901, when crowds in the street broke into "Va, pensiero" during his funeral procession.

As you can see in the clip below, Verdi continues to inspire flash mobs. The most popular choice is the brindisi (drinking song) from "La Traviata." Here's one of my favorites, that took place at a market in Philadelphia.

See? Take away the costumes and make-up, and opera singers are just like you and me! Only with better voices.

Verdi's operas are the most performed of any composer. But in addition to his musical renown, he is a political figure beloved by Italians for his role in the Risorgimento, the movement that unified the different states of the Italian peninsula into the single state of the Kingdom of Italy. He was also a philanthropist. He founded a retirement home for elderly musicians in Milan (the model for Beecham House in the movie Quartet) and a hospital in his hometown of Busetto. Both still function today.

If you don't know your Traviata from your Trovatore (and even if you do) check out these marvelous operas from the SCCLD collection. You can also download Verdi's music from Freegal. Viva Verdi!

Falstaff

Falstaff

Verdi's final opera. After 24 serious operas, he capped it off with a comedy. It's one of three operas (with Macbeth and Otello) based on Shakespeare. At the end, the chorus sings "Tutto nel mondo è burla" - everything in the world is jest. If you didn't catch the live simulcasts and can't make it to San Francisco to see Bryn Terfel ("a Falstaff for the ages" - SF Examiner), you can experience it here or on CD.

Nabucco

Nabucco

 

After years of struggle, Verdi finally achieved success at age 28, with this opera about the fall of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. The moving chorus "Va, pensiero" became a rallying cry for Italy's struggle for independence.

La traviata

La traviata

 

The opera's heroine is a prostitute - something unheard of at the time - and she's the smartest, sanest and most honest person in the opera. It's based on Alexandre Dumas fils' novel, La Dame aux Camèlias and a new book has come out about Marie Duplessis, the real courtesan who was the inspiration for the novel and opera, as well as plays, movies and ballets.

Il trovatore

Il trovatore

 

Okay, the plot is a little ridiculous. The Marx brothers spoofed it hilariously in A Night at the Opera. Still, it contains some of Verdi's best tunes: among them, the crowd-pleasing "Anvil Chorus" and  "Di Quella pira" with its super high notes for the tenor, 

Rigoletto

Rigoletto

This Metropolitan Opera production, which has come to be known as "the Rat Pack Rigoletto", takes the story out of 16th century Mantua and sets it in Las Vegas. No matter the setting, this is the opera that cemented Verdi's fame the world over. It features both of his signature contributions to opera, the father-daughter duet (a frequent relationship in his operas) and the expanded dramatic role for the baritone, giving it the lead in this and other operas (Macbeth, Simon Boccanegra, and Falstaff).

Aida

Aida

At the 1871 world premiere in Cairo, 12 elephants joined a double chorus in the triumphal scene. In Shanghai's uber-performance of the Verdi classic in 2000, the elephants had even more company: camels, lions, tigers, boas, horses and parrots, not to mention 3,000 singers, dancers, acrobats and behind-the-scenes technicians. Yes, this is the grandest of the grand, the spectacle of spectacles! Even if you never heard this opera, you are no doubt familiar with the Triumphal March. It's been used whenever a sense of great dignity is required. And also in commercials.

Life of Verdi

Life of Verdi

I saw this BBC produced epic mini-series on PBS and was instantly hooked. Filmed in European locations, it gives a complete and accurate overview of Verdi's dramatic life and has music taken from past rare recordings of artists such as Tebaldi, Callas and Pavarotti.

For a different take on his life and operas, check out Great Courses The Life and Operas of Verdi.

Discover more about great movies and music by checking out the SCCLD Music and Movies blog!

 -- Debra

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