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Title: Verdi: Man and Musician - His Biography with Especial Reference to His English Experiences
Author: Crowest, Frederick James
Language: English
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VERDI: MAN AND MUSICIAN


      *      *      *      *      *      *

            _BY THE SAME AUTHOR._


     "THE STORY OF BRITISH MUSIC."

     "THE GREAT TONE POETS."

     "CHERUBINI" ("GREAT MUSICIANS" SERIES).

     "PHASES OF MUSICAL ENGLAND."

     "ADVICE TO SINGERS." (12th Thousand.)

                  ETC. ETC.

      *      *      *      *      *      *


[Illustration: A signed photograph of Giuseppe Verdi.
  The inscription reads "_Genova 18 feb[braio]. 1897. G Verdi_"]


VERDI:

Man and Musician

His Biography with Especial Reference to his English Experiences

by

FREDERICK J. CROWEST_

_Author of "The Great Tone Poets," etc._



John Milne
12 Norfolk Street, Strand
London
MDCCCXCVII


[Illustration: Publisher's logo]



                                 _To_

                   _MADAME ADELINA PATTI NICOLINI_

                          _EMPRESS OF SONG_

           _Whose Transcendent Vocal and Histrionic Powers_

                                _HAVE_

         _Contributed so largely to an adequate appreciation
                          of the genius of_

                               _VERDI_

                   _This Monograph of the Master is
                       by Expressed Permission_

                             _DEDICATED_



                               CONTENTS


                                                                     PAGE

                              CHAPTER I

                   BIRTH, PARENTAGE, AND CHILD-LIFE

Verdi's birth and birth-place--Dispute as to his township--Baptismal
   certificate--His parentage--The parents' circumstances--The _osteria_
   kept by them--A regular market-man--A mixed business--Verdi's early
   surroundings and influences--Verdi not a musical wonder or
   show-child--His natural child-life--Enchanted with street
   organ--Quiet manner as a child--Acolyte at Roncole Church--Enraptured
   with the organ music--Is bought a spinet--Practises
   incessantly--Gratuitous spinet repairs--To school at Busseto--Slender
   board and curriculum--First musical instruction--An apt pupil       1


                               CHAPTER II

                     CLERK, STUDENT, AND PROFESSOR

Verdi goes into the world--Office-boy in Barezzi's
   establishment--Congenial surroundings--An exceptional employer--Verdi
   becomes a pupil of Provesi--A painstaking copyist--Verdi wanted for a
   priest--Latin elements--Appointed organist of Roncole--A record
   salary--Barezzi's encouragement of Verdi's tastes--Father Seletti and
   Verdi's organ-playing--Provesi's status and friendship towards
   Verdi--Milan training for Verdi--Refused at the
   _Conservatoire_--Experience and training needed--Study under Vincenzo
   Lavigna of La Scala--Death of Provesi, and assumption of his Busseto
   duties by Verdi                                                    16


                              CHAPTER III

            COURTSHIP, MARRIAGE, AND FIRST OPERATIC SUCCESS

Verdi is engaged to Margarita Barezzi--His marriage--Seeks a wider field
   in Milan--An emergency conductor--Conductor of the Milan Philharmonic
   Society--His first opera, _Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio_--Terms for
   production--Its success--A triple commission--A woman's
   sacrifice--Clouds--Death of his wife and children--_Un Giorno di
   Regno_ produced--A failure--Verdi disgusted with music--Destroys
   Merelli contract--The _Nabucco_ libretto forced on Verdi--Induced to
   set the book--Production of _Nabucco_ with success--Opposition from
   the critics--Mr. Lumley gives _Nabucco_ in London--Its performance
   and reception                                                      27


                               CHAPTER IV

                 SUCCESS, AND INTRODUCTION INTO ENGLAND

Verdi's position assured--Selected to compose an _opera d'obbligo_--The
   terms--_I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata_--Its _dramatis personæ_ and
   argument--Reception at La Scala--A new triumph for Verdi--_I
   Lombardi_ in London, 1846--_Ernani_--Political effect of
   _Ernani_--Official interference--Verdi first introduced into
   England--Mr. Lumley's production of _Ernani_ at Her Majesty's
   Theatre--The reception of the opera--Criticism on
   _Ernani_--_Athenæum_ and _Ernani_                                  49


                               CHAPTER V

                           FIRST PERIOD WORKS

_I Due Foscari_--Its argument--Failure of the opera in Rome, Paris, and
   London--_Giovanna d'Arco_--A moderate
   success--_Alzira_--_Attila_--More political enthusiasm--_Attila_
   given at Her Majesty's Theatre by Mr. Lumley--Its cool
   reception--_The Times_ and _Athenæum_ critics on
   _Attila_--Exceptional activity of Verdi--_Macbeth_--_Jerusalem_ in
   Paris--_I Masnadieri_ first given at Her Majesty's Theatre--Jenny
   Lind in its cast--Plot of the opera--The work a failure
   everywhere--The critics on _I Masnadieri_--Mr. Lumley offers Verdi
   the conductorship at Her Majesty's Theatre--_Il Corsaro_--_La
   Battaglia di Legnano_--_Luisa Miller_--Mr. Chorley on _Luisa
   Miller_--Its libretto--Reception of the work in Naples, London, and
   Paris                                                               70


                               CHAPTER VI

              _RIGOLETTO_ TO _AÏDA_--SECOND PERIOD OPERAS

Turning-point in Verdi's career--The libretto of _Rigoletto_--Production
   of _Rigoletto_ in Venice, London, and Paris--Great success of the
   opera--_Athenæum_ and _The Times_ on _Rigoletto_--"_La Donna è
   mobile_"--A second period style--_Il Trovatore_ written for Rome--The
   libretto--Its reception at the Apollo Theatre--The work produced at
   the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden--Its cast, and Graziani's
   singing therein--Lightning study of the _Azucena rôle_--_Athenæum_
   and _The Times_ on _Il Trovatore_--_La Traviata_--The libretto and
   argument--The first performance at Venice a _fiasco_--Judgment
   reversed--Brilliant success of the opera in London--Piccolomini's
   impersonation of Violetta--Mr. Lumley's testimony--The Press and _La
   Traviata_--_Athenæum_ and _The Times_ criticism of _La
   Traviata_--_Les Vêpres Siciliennes_--_Prima donna_ runs
   away--Reception of the opera in Paris and London--Verdi in
   Germany--_The Times_ criticism--_Simon Boccanegra_ a failure--_Un
   Ballo in Maschera_--Trouble with the authorities--Production and
   success of _Un Ballo in Maschera_--Its reception in London--_The
   Times_ on the opera--_La Forza del Destino_ unsuccessful           104


                              CHAPTER VII

                 _REQUIEM_ MASS AND OTHER COMPOSITIONS

Verdi as a sacred music composer--Share in the "Rossini" mass--Failure
   of a patch-work effort--_Missa de Requiem_ produced--Splendid
   reception--Performed at the Royal Albert Hall--Structure of the
   work--Von Bülow's opinion--Divided opinions on its style and
   merit--Its character--Modern Italian Church style--Northern _versus_
   Southern Church music--Verdi's early compositions--E minor Quartet
   for strings--_L'Inno delle Nazioni_--Its performance at Her Majesty's
   Theatre--Verdi's slender share in orchestral music--National
   temperament involved--Thematic method inconsistent with Italian
   national life                                                      150


                              CHAPTER VIII

                          THIRD PERIOD OPERAS

A matured style--Methuselah of opera--The last link--_Aïda_--A higher
   art plane--Ismail Pacha commissions _Aïda_--Its libretto--Production
   at Cairo--The argument--Patti as _Aïda_--_Athenæum_ criticism of
   _Aïda_--_Otello_--Scene in Milan--The initial cast--Its production
   and reception in London and Paris--_Athenæum_ review of _Otello_--Its
   story--Vocal and instrumental qualities--_Falstaff_--A surprise
   defeated--Boito--_Falstaff_ produced at La Scala--In
   France--_Falstaff_ at Covent Garden--The comedy and its
   music--_Athenæum_ opinion of _Falstaff_--A crowning triumph        167


                               CHAPTER IX

                         POLITICIAN AND CITIZEN

A born politician--Attempt to draw Verdi--The revolutionary ring of
   Verdi's music--Signor Basevi on this feature--National and political
   honours and distinctions--An inactive senator--England's neglect--The
   composer's nature and character--Bluntness of speech--A dissatisfied
   auditor--Verdi's alleged parsimony--Verdi and the curate--The gossips
   and his fortune--Life at St. Agata villa--An "eighty-two"
   word-portrait--Verdi's old-age vigour--Love of flowers--His hobby at
   the Genoa _palazzo_--Independence of character                     203


                               CHAPTER X

                    GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF STYLE

Verdi's popularity--An important personality in music--Most successful
   composer of the nineteenth century--Verdi's opportuneness--Keynote of
   future struck in _Nabucco_--Its characteristics--Distinguishing
   features of Verdi's music--Stereotyped pattern operas--Change of
   style imminent in _Luisa Miller_--Altered second period style of
   _Rigoletto_--This maintained in _Il Trovatore_--_La Traviata_
   forebodings--Basevi's charge of an altered style therein--_La
   Traviata_ and _débutantes_--True Verdi style in _Les Vêpres
   Siciliennes_--_Simon Boccanegra_ and _Un Ballo in Maschera_--Third
   period works--_Aïda_--Alleged Wagner influence--Mistaken
   criticism--Orchestration of _Otello_--Its style and _technique_
   compared with _Aïda_--_Falstaff_--Its position as an opera--A saviour
   of Italian art--The _Illustrated London News_ defends Verdi from
   early critics--Later critics silenced--Verdi vindicated            223


                               CHAPTER XI

                     EFFECT UPON AND PLACE IN OPERA

Origin of opera--Melody in music--The first opera, _Dafne_--Monteverde's
   advances--Early opera orchestration--Gluck's reformed style in
   _Orfeo_ and _Alceste_--A complete structure--Verdi's
   starting-point--Wagner's methods--Verdi's early operas--_Don Carlos_
   and an altered style--Its reception--A third or matured period
   method--Its characteristics--_Aïda_, _Otello_, and
   _Falstaff_--Verdi's disciples--Opera as a social need, past and
   present--Its reasonable decline--Verdi's ultimate position--His
   lasting works                                                      273


                              CHAPTER XII

                            VERDI LITERATURE

Its scantiness--Restricted scope for the writer and historian--English
   ideas of Italian opera--English books on Verdi--German historian's
   measure--Recent English press notices--Foreign journalistic
   criticism--Italian writings                                        293



                             ILLUSTRATIONS


                                                              FACING PAGE

  Giuseppe Verdi                                           _Frontispiece_

  Antonio Barezzi                                                      14

  Margherita Barezzi                                                   40

  Giovanni Provesi                                                    160

  Giulio Ricordi                                                      216



                                PREFACE


This work is an attempt to tell, in a popular key, the story of Verdi's
remarkable career. A connected chronological account of this composer's
life is needed; and a plain unvarnished narrative will best coincide
with the temperament and habit of one who, throughout a long life, has
been singularly abhorrent of pomp and vanity.

In the literature concerning Verdi, the great man's English experiences
have been studiously neglected. We learn about Verdi in Italy, also
in France; but scarcely anything is recorded respecting Verdi in
England--the land which, more than any other country, served to make
and enrich Verdi. It is to show more of the English side of the famous
_maestro's_ career that the present book is written. It may, probably
will be, long years ere Italy will have another such son to worship.
A tone-worker like Verdi is rare. Then, few great composers who have
appealed to the English public have lived to see their works received
and appreciated to the extent that Verdi has; and it is unparalleled in
the history of musical art, to find a musician, when a septuagenarian
and octogenarian, giving to the world compositions which, for
conception and freshness, far surpass the scores written by him in the
vigour of middle age.

It would be ungracious indeed were I to neglect to express the very
deep obligation which I am under to the illustrious _maestro_ for the
handsome and specially signed portrait which adorns this volume. Not
less am I indebted to the Messrs. Ricordi for all the kind assistance
and encouragement which they have afforded me during the preparation of
this work.

                                                            F.J.C.

LONDON, _June 1897_.



                               CHAPTER I

                    BIRTH, PARENTAGE, AND CHILD-LIFE

Verdi's birth and birth-place--Dispute as to his township--Baptismal
   certificate--His parentage--The parents' circumstances--The _osteria_
   kept by them--A regular market-man--A mixed business--Verdi's early
   surroundings and influences--Verdi not a musical wonder or
   show-child--His natural child-life--Enchanted with street
   organ--Quiet manner as a child--Acolyte at Roncole Church--Enraptured
   with the organ music--Is bought a spinet--Practises
   incessantly--Gratuitous spinet repairs--To school at Busseto--Slender
   board and curriculum--First musical instruction--An apt pupil.


Verdi was born at Roncole, an unpretentious settlement, sparsely
inhabited, hard by Busseto, which, in its turn, is at the foot of
the Appenine range, and some seventeen miles north-west of Parma, in
Italy. The red-letter day, since such it deservedly is, on which this
universal melodist first saw the light was the 10th October 1813.
Terrible events shadowed his infancy. In 1814 the village was sacked
by the invading allies. Then the frightened women took refuge in the
church--safe, as they believed, near the image of the Virgin--until the
soldiers forced the doors, and slew women and children till the floor
reeked with blood. One woman, with infant at breast, flew to the belfry
and hid there, thus saving herself and her child. The child was the
infant Verdi!

Whenever a son of man is born into the world who, in the mysterious
course of events, turns out to be what mankind calls "great,"
there is inevitably a community jealous to claim ownership of the
illustrious one, alive or dead. The subject may have lingered through
troublous long seasons, craving vainly for the stimulus of even scanty
recognition. He has only to become "great" to find hosts of persevering
friends. Verdi having risen to great eminence, more than one locality
has claimed him. He has been styled "_il cigno di Busseto_,"[1] and
"_il maestro Parmigiano_"; but he was neither the swan of Busseto
nor the master of the town of cheeses. Roncole alone is entitled to
the sonship of Verdi; and as both Parma and her smaller sister town,
Busseto, have disputed his parentage, the point of interest has been
very properly investigated. The result is that the question has been
decided once and for all. A certificate written in Latin has been
traced, which establishes beyond dispute both the time and place of
Verdi's birth. The following is the text of the original document:--

"Anno Dom. 1813 die 11 Octobris--Ego Carolus Montanari Praepositus
Runcularum baptizavi Infantem hodie vespere hora sexta natum ex Carolo
Verdi q^m Josepho et ex Aloisia Utini filia Caroli, hujus parocciae
jugalibus, cui nomina imposui--Fortuninus Joseph, Franciscus--Patrini
fuere Dominus Petrus Casali q^d Felicis et Barbara Bersani filia
Angioli, ambo hujus parocciae."

This dog Latin, translated into English, runs as follows:--"In the year
of our Lord 1813, on the 11th day of October, I, Charles Montanari,
placed in charge of Roncole, did at the sixth hour of this evening
baptize the infant son of Charles Verdi and Louisa Utini, daughter of
Charles, married in this parish, under the name of Fortuninus Joseph
Franciscus. The sponsors were Father Peter Casali q^d Felicis and
Barbara Bersani, daughter of Angiolus, both of this parish."[2]

The abode in which the infant Verdi first opened his eyes was one
of the best known and most frequented among a cluster of cottages
inhabited by labouring folk who found work and small wage in the
immediate neighbourhood of Roncole, a three miles' stretch from
Busseto. It was a tumble-down stone-and-mortar-mixture building of low
pitch.

_Padre_ Carlo Verdi and his good wife Luigia Utini were the licensed
keepers of this small _osteria_, whereat wine, spirits, and malt, with
their close relations pipes and tobacco, were matters of trade between
Boniface or _la signora_ and the frugal _contadini_ who lived in and
about Roncole. Wine and music! Another illustration of the curious
union between harmony and alcohol--a connection which harmless as it
really is, has been discouraged and taken fearfully to heart by a
sensitive sort of people, but which has never yet been satisfactorily
disproved or accounted for by all the Good Templar philosophy.
Bacchanalian aids were not the only commodities dealt in by the honest,
though illiterate Carlo Verdi and his brave wife. The inn stood also
as the local _dépôt_ for such unromantic necessaries of existence as
sugar, coffee, matches, oil, cheese, and sausage--all indispensable
items in housekeeping, even in Italy.

The business air pervading the home of Verdi's childhood seems not
to have affected his young mind, and, pecuniarily profitable as such
an establishment for the sale of the liquids and solids of life may
have been, the future musician does not appear to have shown any
disposition towards becoming a vendor of unromantic necessaries or
alcoholic unnecessaries of life. Happily, the fire of genius--the _feu
sacré_--was in Verdi.

Verdi _maggiore_ was distinctly a retail trader, running, with great
good-nature, what are vulgarly known as "ticks" with the Roncolese.
He went to market once a week, to buy in wholesale quantities
grocery of one Antonio Barezzi, storekeeper, distiller, etc., who,
as circumstances proved, was to figure prominently in the Verdi
_dénouement_.

It is a sorry reflection that several of our greatest musicians have
had poverty and untoward circumstances as a "set off," as it would
seem to be, for their bounteous musical gifts. A study of the lives
of the great tone poets will reveal the saddening but not astonishing
truth that, while the world's fairest minstrels have been shaping
melodies and harmonies to gladden hearts and brighten homes for all
ages, they themselves have frequently been enduring lives of misery,
and sometimes want. Verdi at no part of his career has ever been in
abject poverty, but his was by no means a luxurious early life, nor
was his home particularly predisposed towards music. At first, there
was not a pianoforte in it, nor can it be said that Verdi passed his
childhood amongst surroundings to favour the muse, such as the paint
pots, canvases, and stage lights upon which Weber's young imagination
fed. The social and physical conditions in and around Busseto were
ill calculated to inspire the mind with anything approaching the
sublime or the ideal, the poetic or the beautiful; and there seemed to
be insuperable difficulties in the way of the son of the chandler's
shopkeeper ever becoming a musician of any importance. But many most
surprising episodes were to unfold themselves. This unpretentious
spot of Italian soil was to prove the cradle of the revolutioniser of
Italy's national music-drama. To-day it is incontrovertible that in
Verdi's music, especially in his later writings, there is far more
than could ever have been expected of any Italian master. His melody
is the pure chastened current of the sunny South, and no one of his
countrymen has written loftier operatic music than that in _Aïda_ and
_Falstaff_. Much of the flow and beauty throughout his compositions
must, of course, be accounted for by the inability of any Italian son
of art to compose else but luscious melody, while the life and gaiety,
together with that irresistible "go" which so distinguish Verdi's tunes
and colourings, may have borrowed their genesis out of the lively times
and good humour that prevailed at that earliest home--the inn.

The unsophisticated Italian loves music much as a lark loves liberty,
and it is not in Italy, as it used to be here, regarded as degrading
to aspire to being a _virtuoso_. No other occupation is so natural to
the son of the South as music, and although Italians are keen business
people when they once taste commercial success--even if it be of
ice-cream born--yet they make better musicians. Verdi senior did not
press his son into the service of Orpheus, and no steps appear to have
been taken towards forcing the offspring into becoming a manipulator
of chords and cadences. Young Verdi enjoyed a perfectly natural
child-life, playing with children indoors and out of doors until he was
old enough to be sent to school. He was no forced exotic.

There is a feature sometimes attaching to the lives of great
musicians which, happily, in the case of Verdi does not require to
be put forward. He proved no wonder-child or prodigy who--adroitly
boomed--made the round of Europe with advantage financially and
corresponding disadvantage musically. From the outset his career
has been perfectly legitimate, and free from episodes or situations
partaking of the supernatural--no circumstances presenting themselves
to impede his quiet progress along the artistic way which he seems to
have been content to travel.

What will he become? This is the question, pregnant with blissful
uncertainty, which nearly every decent parent has to ask himself of
a young hopeful. Doubtless Verdi senior applied the interrogatory to
himself respecting Giuseppe, but it has not transpired that the subject
of the inquiry furnished much solution to the problem, beyond the
fact that he was always overcome when he heard street-organ music. No
sooner did an organ-grinder appear in Roncole, with his instrument,
than young Verdi became an attentive auditor, following the itinerant
musician from door to door until fetched away. This was the first
hint he gave of musical aptitude, and probably no one would have
predicted that he would one day furnish melodies, almost without end,
for these instruments of torture in each quarter of the globe. One
particular favourite with little Verdi was a tottering violinist known
as Bagasset, who used to play the fiddle much to the little fellow's
delight. This obscure musician urged the _osteria_-keeper to make a
musician of his son, and is said to have received many favours from
the son since he became famous. The old itinerant, very grateful, used
to exclaim, "Ah! maestro, I saw you when you were very little; but
now----!"

The Verdi who was to create such streams of sparkling melody, and need
an Act of Parliament[3] to stop them, was a quiet thoughtful little
fellow as a child, possessing none of that boisterous element common to
boys. That serious expression seen in the composer's face, the first
impression that a glance at any of his present-day portraits would
convey, was there when a child. Intelligent, reserved, and quiet,
everybody loved him.

Perhaps it was this good and melancholy temperament that attracted the
attention of the parish priest, and which led to Verdi's receiving the
appointment of acolyte at the village church of Le Roncole. He was now
seven years old, and it was in connection with his office as "server"
that we are introduced to the first episode, a really dramatic one,
in his career. One day the ecclesiastic was celebrating the Mass with
young Verdi as his assistant, but the boy, instead of following the
service attentively with the priest, which no acolyte ever does, got
so carried away by the music that flowed from the organ that he forgot
all else. "Water," whispered the priest to the acolyte, who did not
respond; and, concluding that his request was not heard, the celebrant
repeated the word "water." Still there was no response, when, turning
round, he found the server gazing in wonderment at the organ! "Water,"
demanded the priest for the third time, at the same moment accompanying
the order with such a violent and well-directed movement of the foot,
that little Verdi was pitched headlong down the altar steps. In falling
he struck his head, and had to be carried in an unconscious state to
the vestry. A somewhat forcible music lesson!

Possibly it was this incident, and the child's unbounded delight at
the organ music which he heard in the street, that set the father
thinking of his son's musical possibilities, for at about this time,
1820, the innkeeper of Roncole added a spinet or pianoforte to his
worldly possessions. This indispensable item of household belongings
was purchased for the especial benefit of the boy-child, thus pointing
to some indications of budding musical aptness on his part. More
soon followed! Young Verdi went to the instrument at all hours,
early and late, playing scales and discovering chords and harmonious
combinations. Sometimes he would forget or lose one of his favourite
chords, and then there was an outburst of genuine native passion
that stood in strange contrast to his usual quiet demeanour. A story
goes that once, when he was labouring under one of these fits of
temper, he seized a hammer and commenced belabouring the keyboard. The
noise attracted the attention of his father, who stemmed his son's
impetuosity with a sound box on the ears, which stopped the craze for
pianoforte butchering. On the whole, however, every one was pleased
with the little fellow's devotion to the instrument, and one friend
went so far even as to repair it for him gratuitously, when it wanted
new jacks, leathers, and pedals, which it soon did, owing to the boy's
phenomenal wear and tear of the instrument. This spinet remained one
of Verdi's most treasured possessions. It was stored at the villa
at St. Agata, and no doubt has often recalled to the veteran's mind
moments and feelings of his childhood. Inside it is an inscription,
a testimonial creditable alike to the application of the little
musician as also to the goodness of the generous local tradesman, who,
conscious, perhaps, of a future greatness for the child, had become
one of his admirers. It runs: "I, Stephen Cavaletti, added these
hammers (or jacks) anew, supplied them with leather, and fitted the
pedals. These, together with the hammers, I give as a present for the
industry which the boy Giuseppe Verdi evinces for learning to play the
instrument; this is of itself reward enough to me for my trouble. Anno
Domini 1821."

It was when he was about eight years of age that little Verdi's
education became a subject for active consideration. His parents'
deliberations ended in the resolve to send him to a school in Busseto.
By virtue of an acquaintance with one Pugnatta, a cobbler, the future
composer of the _Trovatore_ and _Falstaff_ was boarded, lodged, and
tutored at the principal academical institution in Busseto, all at the
not extravagant charge of threepence _per diem_! How this was managed
history relateth not. Young Verdi's receptive faculties did not need to
be severely extended, therefore, to spell "quits" to _padre_ Verdi's
generosity in the matter of letters and "keep" for Giuseppe. After
events abundantly prove that the little harmonist was not slothful in
grappling the mysteries of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Whether,
added to a fair knowledge of the three Rs, he, like most boys, made an
acquaintance with another R, of pliable and impressive properties, is
not known.

Concurrently with the scholastic training, Verdi's father provided
some regular musical instruction for his son. The local organist of,
and the greatest authority upon music in, Roncole was one Baistrocchi,
and to him young Verdi was entrusted for the first training in music
that he received. The terms for the music lessons were not extravagant,
and were requited by a system of Dr. and Cr. account at the inn.
Nevertheless, the instruction imparted was sound and solid, young
Verdi proving smart at music. The measure of the musical merits of
Baistrocchi has not transpired, and the world is uninformed as to
whether he knew much, or little, musically; but whatever store of
harmonious erudition was possessed by him he poured into his young
charge. At the end of twelve months Baistrocchi felt bound to confess
that Verdi knew all that he had to teach him. Thus, either the teacher
had an unusually small store of information to impart, or the student
possessed an abnormal appetite for musical learning.

[Footnote 1: Rossini used to be styled the "Swan of Pesaro," but in his
old age he laughed at this compliment, and endorsed a Mass which he had
composed as the work of "the old Ape of Pesaro," thus parodying the
"swan" or _cigno_ sobriquet which had been given him.]

[Footnote 2: There is in existence another Certificate of this
musician's birth. This is in the Registry of the _État Civile_ of the
Commune of Busseto for the year 1813, and is written in French, Italy
being at the time under French rule.]

[Footnote 3: Mr. Michael T. Bass, M.P., "Bill for the Better Regulation
of Street Music in the Metropolitan Police District."]

[Illustration: Antonio Barezzi]



                               CHAPTER II

                     CLERK, STUDENT, AND PROFESSOR

Verdi goes into the world--Office-boy in Barezzi's
   establishment--Congenial surroundings--An exceptional employer--Verdi
   becomes a pupil of Provesi--A painstaking copyist--Verdi wanted for a
   priest--Latin elements--Appointed organist of Roncole--A record
   salary--Barezzi's encouragement of Verdi's tastes--Father Seletti and
   Verdi's organ-playing--Provesi's status and friendship towards
   Verdi--Milan training for Verdi--Refused at the
   _Conservatoire_--Experience and training needed--Study under Vincenzo
   Lavigna of La Scala--Death of Provesi, and assumption of his Busseto
   duties by Verdi.


When ten years of age, Verdi went into the world. Could the parent
have foreseen the future that lay in store for his boy, he might have
given him a little more learning, and have risked being a little the
poorer. He saw nothing, however. His child had been to school, and
could read, write, and add figures--an ample education for the son of
a poor _locandiere_! Beside which the parents at no time entertained
any greater musical ambition than that their boy might, one day, become
organist of the village church!

When the industrious parent used to trudge from Roncole to Busseto to
replenish the "general" department of his business, it was to purchase
from the wholesale grocer's store which, as we have seen, was presided
over by Antonio Barezzi. It was a flourishing concern, and its owner
was a fairly rich man. What was worth more than his money, however,
was a good disposition and kindliness which endeared him to his
traders. Verdi senior was an especially welcome visitor. With him the
storekeeper gossiped, the conversation turning betimes upon the little
fellow at home and his budding musical tendencies. Music and culture,
it should be stated, were dear to Barezzi, and had placed him at the
head of everything musical in Busseto. Thus he was President of the
local Philharmonic Society, for which he held open house for rehearsals
and meetings. Barezzi's instrumental ability was considerable, and he
could perform on the flute, clarionet, French horn, and ophicleide.

As luck would have it, young Verdi was to be thrown into the service of
this Barezzi. In the course of their gossipings, innkeeper had hinted
to merchant that the son would have to be bestirring himself; and
Barezzi, having a vacancy for an office-boy, offered to try Giuseppe.
The matter was speedily arranged, and the boy soon proved that he could
make himself useful to Barezzi--merchant in spirits, drugs, drysaltery,
and spices.

The average business man views a predilection for music, or indeed
for any art study, as fatal to duty and discipline. Not so Barezzi.
He encouraged the musical proclivities of the office-boy, and, as we
shall discover, most generously and materially assisted him towards an
inevitable artist career. In time he began to regard Verdi as one of
his family, and allowed him the use of the pianoforte.

Let us see what happened. Without neglecting his daily duties in the
office, young Verdi availed himself of every moment of spare time
to add to his musical knowledge and practice. He seldom missed an
opportunity of attending the rehearsals held in Barezzi's house,
or the public concerts given by the Philharmonic Society under the
conductorship of Giovanni Provesi, organist and bandmaster of the
_duomo_ of Busseto. In return Verdi copied the instrumental parts
for the various performers, working at "string" and "brass" parts
with a neatness and accuracy that quite won the hearts of those who
had to play therefrom. Some people would declare such copying to be
inconceivable drudgery, but young Verdi relished the excellent insight
into orchestration which such practice afforded him. Provesi, on his
part, was so pleased that he gave the lad some gratuitous instruction,
of which Verdi took such advantage that at the end of two or three
years the master frankly owned, like Baistrocchi, that the pupil knew
as much as he himself did.

No wonder that Provesi, struck with the lad's musical promise, one
day advised him to think of music as a profession. It so happened,
however, that the lad just then was dangerously near to becoming a
knight of the cowl instead of the _bâton_. The priests had got hold
of him, and one ecclesiastic, Seletti by name, had commenced to teach
him the Latin tongue, with the view, some day, of making a priest of
him! Thus Verdi might have been for ever meditating in the cloister,
instead of ministering to great demands, choreographic and otherwise,
of a modern lyric drama stage! "What do you want to study music for?"
said the priest, at the same time backing up the query with the not
very comforting nor accurately prophetic warning that he would "never
become organist of Busseto"--a position which he did subsequently fill.
"You have a gift for Latin, and must be a priest," was the confessor's
parting shot.

Now the organist of Roncole died, creating a vacancy. Officialism and
bumbledom, usually connected with organ elections, did not operate
here. All concerned were agreed that, although young, the son of
townsman Verdi was musically and morally fitted for the post, and he
was thereto appointed. The salary was not overpowering, the exact
payment being £1:12s. yearly! Thus the parents' wish was gratified, for
their little son was duly appointed in Baistrocchi's stead, and from
his eleventh to his eighteenth year Verdi performed his duties in the
dusty old organ-loft at Roncole, supplementing his salary with small
fees for such additional services as baptisms, marriages, and funerals.
Every Sunday and Feast-day he trudged on foot from Busseto to Roncole
to perform his duties. Sometimes it was scarcely daybreak, and on one
of these excursions he fell into a ditch, and would assuredly have
been drowned, or frozen to death, save for the timely aid of a peasant
woman, who had heard his groans.

How long Verdi remained in the employ of Barezzi has not transpired,
but important subsequent events prove that he retained the friendship
and esteem of the merchant long after being released of the tedium of
bills and quantities calculations. He continued to receive musical
training from Provesi until he was sixteen years of age, and it is
not improbable that his generous employer, observing the musical
inclinations of his clerk, allowed him to drift naturally into a
harmonious haven. A story told of the young musician this while is
ominous. It came to pass that Father Seletti, who would have the
born-opera-composer a monk, was officiating at mass on an occasion
when Verdi happened to be deputizing at the Busseto organ. Struck with
the unusually beautiful organ music, the priest at the close of the
service expressed a desire to see the organist. Behold his amazement
on discovering his scholar whom he had been seeking to estrange from
harmony to theology! "Whose music were you playing?" inquired Seletti.
"It was beautiful." Verdi, feeling shy, informed the priest that he had
brought no music with him, and had been improvising. "So I played as I
felt," he added. "Ah!" exclaimed Seletti, "I advised you wrongly. You
must be no priest, but a musician."

Provesi had an extensive musical practice in and around Busseto, to
which he gradually introduced Verdi. More and more frequently he
deputized for Provesi, and the sight must have been worth seeing, of
the diminutive organist, fifteen years old, on the high seat in the
great organ-loft in the dim cathedral of Busseto--all unconscious,
as every one else was, of the great future before him. When, from
advancing years, Provesi resigned the conductorship of the Philharmonic
Society of the town, Verdi was unanimously selected for the vacancy.
His chief delight was to compose pieces for the Society and to perform
them. These early compositions are preserved among the _archives_ of
Busseto.

The master musician is not an easily moulded quantity. He has first to
traverse the whole surface of musical science; even then, Nature may
have denied to him those gifts of colour and glow which are the wings
of music, and lacking which, he may remain for ever a mathematical
musical machine, too many of whom, loaded with academical degrees and
distinctions, and the consequent array of scholastic millinery, have
been given to the world.

Verdi's ambition was to become a successful opera composer, but ere
he could succeed, there were branches of study which could only be
mastered in an establishment such as the _Conservatoire_ at Milan. To
it Verdi's friends, notably Provesi (who prophesied that one day Verdi
would become a great master), urged him to go. There was one undeniable
obstacle--the money! This difficulty was, however, eventually overcome.
One of the Busseto institutions was the "Monte de Pieta," which granted
premiums to assist promising students in prosecuting their studies.
Verdi's petition was sent up, and with the wheels of benevolent
machinery turning, as usual, slowly, the decision was long delayed. At
this crisis stepped in Barezzi, grocer and gentleman, as he proved, who
agreed to advance the money, pending the decision of the institution.
This enabled Verdi to turn his face towards Milan. He did not forget
the kindness, but returned Barezzi the money, in full, from the first
savings he was able to make from his art.

It is a grim commentary upon the usual way of managing the things of
this life, to witness a man who has made melody for the whole world
for now over half a century being refused an entrance scholarship at
the training institution of his own land! It is a fact, nevertheless,
that Verdi was actually denied admittance to the _Conservatoire di
Musica_ of Milan, on the ground of his showing no special aptitude for
music! Yet the world goes on, gaping and wondering at its monotonous
mediocrity, while seven-eighths of its energy is being exhausted in
repairing the consequences of the genius of its blunderers, who somehow
are generally and everywhere in power, and rampant. Chiefly from shame,
the rejection of Verdi at the _Conservatoire_ has been industriously
excused, but the mistake shall always stand to the discredit of
Francesco Basili, the then Principal. Men like Verdi--men of metal--may
be hindered, but are rarely defeated by obstacles, or long-refused
justice. Verdi had fixed his heart and eyes on a mark which he has
never left, and in this respect, if in no other, he is a model for
every earnest struggling student.

Verdi had now to look elsewhere for that training which he had hoped to
obtain at Milan. "Think no more about the _Conservatoire_," said his
friend Rolla to him. "Choose a master in the town; I recommend Lavigna."

Vincenzo Lavigna was an excellent musician, and conductor at the
theatre of La Scala. To him, accordingly, Verdi went for practical
stage experience and familiarity with dramatic art principles. This
was in 1831, when the pupil was eighteen years old. Lavigna could not
have desired a more exemplary pupil than Verdi was, and the master lost
no time before taking his charge into the broad expanse of practical
theatre work. All the drudgery of harmony, counterpoint and composition
generally, had been learned and committed to heart long before; it was
practice and experience in the higher grades of planning and spacing
libretti, and the scoring of scenas and concerted numbers for operas,
that Verdi needed. This Lavigna could and did give him. Verdi, on
his part, showed such aptitude for dramatic composition that Lavigna
was greatly pleased. "He is a fine fellow," said Lavigna to Signor
Barezzi, who had called to inquire as to the progress of his _protégé_;
"Giuseppe is prudent, studious, and intelligent, and some day will do
honour to myself and to our country."

The death, in 1833, of Provesi, the guiding musical spirit of Busseto,
meant another episode in Verdi's career. By the conditions of the loan
from the trustees of the "Monte di Pieta" of Busseto, he was to return
home from Milan to take up Provesi's duties. Such a heritage of work,
including the post of organist at the _duomo_, the conductorship of the
Musical Society of Busseto, much private teaching, etc., kept Verdi
well employed; but it did not deter him from a regular and assiduous
prosecution of his operatic studies. He worked with an almost unbounded
will and pride in Busseto. Why? Because there was present there a
power which fired him with enthusiasm and ambition; otherwise the call
from Milan might have been a difficult step for him to take; one word,
however, will explain all--Verdi was in _love_!



                              CHAPTER III

            COURTSHIP, MARRIAGE, AND FIRST OPERATIC SUCCESS


Verdi is engaged to Margarita Barezzi--His marriage--Seeks a wider field
   in Milan--An emergency conductor--Conductor of the Milan Philharmonic
   Society--His first opera, _Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio_--Terms for
   production--Its success--A triple commission--A woman's
   sacrifice--Clouds--Death of his wife and children--_Un Giorno di
   Regno_ produced--A failure--Verdi disgusted with music--Destroys
   Merelli contract--The _Nabucco_ libretto forced on Verdi--Induced to
   set the book--Production of _Nabucco_ with success--Opposition from
   the critics--Mr. Lumley gives _Nabucco_ in London--Its performance
   and reception.


When Verdi took the office stool in Barezzi's counting-house, there
was little reason to suppose that he would get much beyond it; but he
was to become something more than an _employé_. He was often invited
to join the family circle, and so became acquainted with the eldest
daughter, Margarita--a girl of beautiful disposition, with whom Verdi
fell violently in love. The young lady returned his affection, and
Signor Barezzi, with his usual kindly feeling towards Verdi, not
opposing the engagement--albeit Verdi was extremely poor--the young
people were married in 1836. Upon this occasion all Busseto turned out
_en fête_.

Now had Verdi every incentive to work, for his young wife bore him a
son and a daughter within two years of their marriage, and he longed
for an operatic success that would add to his slender income. The
prospect of a large family, and no means to support it with, was a
painful piece of mathematics, the solution of which depended entirely
upon himself. Alas! could he but have foreseen his almost immediate
release from such love chains!

While thus musing, the fire kindled. Verdi made up his mind to
relinquish working in Busseto and try his fortune in Milan.
Accordingly, in 1838, he, with his wife and children, set out for that
musical centre, carrying their belongings with them, and with his
stock-in-trade--a score of a musical melodrama entitled _Oberto, Conte
di S. Bonifacio_--under his arm. This composition was his first attempt
at a complete opera. Every pain had been taken with the score; and not
only was each note Verdi's own, but the full score, and all the vocal
and instrumental parts, had been copied out with his own hand. What
labour! and yet the hard (we might say thick) headed man rejoices in
the belief that musicians, big and little, are a lazy lot!

None too speedily, an opening presented itself at the Milan
Philharmonic Society. Haydn's _Creation_ was to be given, and the
conductor had failed to put in an appearance. Suddenly Verdi was
espied, whereupon Masini, a director, approached and begged him to
take the conductorship that evening. In those days conducting was
managed, not with a _bâton_ and a rostrum, but from the pianoforte
in the orchestra, and Masini considerately informed Verdi that if he
would play the bass part merely, even that would be sufficient! Verdi
acquiesced, and, amid starings and titterings, made for the conductor's
seat and score. "I shall never forget," Verdi has said, "the sort
of sarcastic approval that crossed the faces of the knowing ones.
My young, thin, and shabbily-attired person was little calculated,
perhaps, to inspire confidence." Yet Verdi astonished everybody. He
gave not only the bass line, but the whole of the pianoforte part,
bringing the performance to a successful termination. Not from that
night need he have been without an appointment as a musical conductor;
indeed, it was shortly afterwards that the conductorship of the Milan
Philharmonic Society was offered to, and accepted by Verdi.

Possessed almost by the demon of the stage, Verdi sorely wanted a
trial for his opera. To obtain a first hearing then, however, meant
the surmounting of considerable obstacles. The avenues of art were
not open as they now are--when a season is made up almost wholly of
"first nights," and when wealthy or well-backed aspirants can have,
not only their own theatres, but their own critics, and even their own
newspapers and audiences. Such is money! Eventually Verdi got what
he wanted. _Oberto, Conte di S. Bonifacio_ was to be produced at La
Scala theatre in the spring of 1839; but even this arrangement was put
off because a singer fell ill. Sick at heart, Verdi was retreating to
Busseto, when the _impresario_ of La Scala sent for him unexpectedly.
Signor Bartolomeo Merelli had heard from the singers who had been
studying _Oberto_ respecting the uncommon quality of its music, and
the opinions of the vocalists Signora Strepponi and Signor Ronconi
were not to be lightly regarded. The outcome of the interview was an
agreement by which Verdi's opera was to be put upon the stage during
the next season at Merelli's expense--Verdi in the meanwhile making
certain alterations in the score, chiefly because of a change of
artists from those for whom it was originally written. Merelli was to
divide with Verdi any sum for which the score might be sold, in the
event of the opera proving a success. He jumped at the offer, for in
those days the fashion was for _impresarii_ to demand, and to receive,
large sums from unknown composers wishing to have their operas brought
forward. _Tempora mutantur._ Nowadays the difficulty with managers is
to find the talent! _Oberto_ was duly produced on the 17th November
1839, the principal singers being Mesdames Raineri-Marini, and Alfred
Shaw, while Signori Salvi and Marini filled the tenor and bass parts
respectively. The opera saw several representations, and a further
proof of its merit is seen in the fact that music-publisher Ricordi
gave Verdi two thousand Austrian liri, or about £70 sterling, for the
copyright of the work.

Verdi's next experience was a commission. Shortly after the production
of _Oberto_, _impresario_ Merelli, who "ran" the Milan and Vienna
opera-houses, approached Verdi respecting the composition of three
operas--one every eight months, for the sum of £134 for each opera,
with an equal division of any amount arising from the sale of the
copyrights.

This contract came opportunely, for Verdi was on the verge of appealing
to his father-in-law for a £10 loan wherewith to pay rent overdue for
his modest apartment. Now, Merelli was asked to make an advance, "on
account," but he would not. Weak and dispirited after a long illness,
Verdi was greatly distressed at the thought of failing to meet his
rent. Here, however, came man's blessed balm when desperate moments
face him--in the womanly unselfishness of a brave wife. Seeing her
husband's anxiety, Signora Verdi collected her trinkets, went out and
raised money upon them, bringing it all to Verdi. "How she managed it,"
related Verdi afterwards, "I know not; but such an act of affection
went to my heart. I resolved not to rest until I had got back every
article, and restored it to the dear one."

Cloud and sunshine, these are the alternating portions of the mortal's
lot. No sooner did Verdi begin to feel easier at the prospect of
earning some four hundred pounds by these three operas than his home
was suddenly darkened. With the swiftness of a rushing avalanche all
that was brightest in his home was swept away. Ere he could realise
it, he had lost his wife, son, and daughter. Verdi tells the terrible
story as only the sufferer himself can. "My bambino (little boy) fell
ill early in April (1840), and the doctors failing to discover the
mischief, the poor little fellow got weaker and weaker, and passed away
finally in the arms of his mother. She was heart-broken. Immediately
our little daughter was seized with an illness which also terminated
fatally. This was not all. At the beginning of June my dear wife was
cast down with brain fever, until, on the 19th, a third corpse was
borne from my house. Alone! alone! In a little over two months three
coffins, all that I loved and cherished most on earth, were taken from
me. I had no longer a family!"

Here was room for grief. What a situation for one tied by an agreement
to compose a comic opera, the score of which was already overdue! It
was impossible. Yet bills were flowing in, and to meet these Verdi
must, despite all terrible anguish, fulfil his engagement. He did.
Among the libretti which Merelli had submitted was one renamed _Un
Giorno di Regno_. This Verdi set to music. It was produced at La Scala
Theatre on the 5th September following his wife's death, and was a
failure. No wonder that Verdi desponded, and begged of Merelli that
he would cancel the agreement, which he did, tearing the document
to pieces. Verdi's resolute intention was never to compose another
note! Ah! By some force of fate Verdi, many weeks afterwards, quite
by accident, stumbled across Merelli, and although the composer was
still obdurate, ere the two parted a libretto by Solera was forced into
Verdi's coat-pocket, upon the chance, as Merelli put it, of his looking
at and being tempted to set the book.

Strange to say, this "Nebuchadnezzar" libretto took hold of Verdi.
Arriving home, the composer tossed the manuscript on to the table. It
opened of itself at a truly felicitous passage, "Fly, O thought, on
golden wings," which so interested Verdi that he read on. Finally,
the whole poem was in his mind, and so disturbed his rest that he
determined to return the book next day to Merelli. The _impresario_
would not have it, and told him to take the libretto away and keep it
until he could find the will to set it.

_Nabucco_ was replete with beautiful passages, which, one by one,
were set by Verdi, until, in the autumn of 1841, the entire opera was
finished. Two stipulations Verdi now insisted upon. Signora Strepponi
and Signor Ronconi were to sing in _Nabucco_, and the work was to be
produced during the Carnival time. Merelli declared he could not manage
the scenery in the time; but Verdi would not hear of waiting for new
scenery, and consenting to risk the production with whatever chance
canvas the resources of the theatre supplied, _Nabucco_ found its way
into La Scala bills for the 1842 season.

The opera was given on 9th March, and both Signora Strepponi and Signor
Ronconi sang in it.

"With this score," subsequently related Verdi to Signor Giulio Ricordi,
"my musical career really began. With all impediments and difficulties
_Nabucco_ was undoubtedly born under a lucky star. All that might have
been against it proved in its favour. It is a wonder that Merelli did
not send me and my opera to the devil, after the furious letter which
I sent him. The second-hand costumes, made to look equal to new, were
splendid, while the old scenery, renovated by Perrani, might have been
painted for the occasion."

_Nabucco_ took everybody by surprise. It was a species of melodic vein
and choral combination that the Milanese dilettanti had never before
heard; such instrumentation, too; such novel and impressive effects
were not within the memory of the oldest _habitué_ of La Scala. The
Italians could not resist its peculiar "carrying-along" power. The work
was unanimously declared the true ideal of what a tragic musical drama
should be. Little wonder that during its rehearsals the workmen stopped
to listen to the music of the new piece. Many years afterwards, in his
success, Verdi referred to this incident in sympathetic words:----

"Ah!" said Verdi, "the people have always been my best friends, from
the very beginning. It was a handful of carpenters who gave me my first
real assurance of success."

I scented a story, and asked for details.

"It was after I had dragged on in poverty and disappointment for a
long time in Busseto, and had been laughed at by all the publishers,
and shown to the door by all the impresarios. I had lost all real
confidence and courage, but through sheer obstinacy I succeeded in
getting commonly contracted in Italy--rehearsed at the Scala in Milan.
The artistes were singing as badly as they knew how, and the orchestra
seemed bent only on drowning the noise of the workmen who were busy
making alterations in the building. Presently the chorus began to sing,
as carelessly as before, the '_Va, pensiero_,' but before they had got
through half a dozen bars the theatre was as still as a church. The
men had left off their work one by one, and there they were sitting
about on the ladders and scaffolding, listening! When the number was
finished, they broke out into the noisiest applause I have ever heard,
crying '_Bravo, bravo, viva il maestro!_' and beating on the woodwork
with their tools. Then I knew what the future had in store for me."[4]

Some idea of the novel character of the _Nabucco_ music may be gathered
from the discovery that the usual chorus of La Scala was adjudged
too small to give effect to it. Merelli, apprised of this, would not
hear of increasing the staff because of the expense. Then a friend
volunteered the extra cost. "No, no!" thundered in Verdi. "The chorus
_must_ be increased. It is indispensable. I will pay the extra singers
myself." And he did! The success of _Nabucco_ was remarkable. No such
"first night" had marked La Scala for many years, the occupants of the
stalls and pit rising to their feet out of sheer enthusiasm when they
first heard the music. "I hoped for a success," said Verdi; "but such a
success--never!"

The next day all Italy talked of Verdi. Donizetti, whose melodious
wealth had swayed the Italians, as it subsequently did the English, was
among the astonished ones. He had deferred a journey in order to hear
_Nabucco_, and was so impressed by it, that nought but the expressions;
"It's fine! Uncommonly fine!" could be heard escaping his lips. With
_Nabucco_ the impressionable Italians were agreeably warned that a
master-mind was amongst them.

Verdi sold the score of _Nabucco_ to Ricordi for 3000 Austrian liri, or
£102, of which, by the terms of the contract, Merelli the _impresario_
was to share one half. He generously returned Verdi 1000 liri.

In the year 1846 _Nabucco_ was brought to London. Mr. Benjamin Lumley
elected to open the season with it. Her Majesty's theatre had been
newly painted and embellished, and all London was on the tiptoe of
excitement at the prospect of the inauguration of the new _salle_. No
more striking novelty than _Nabucco_ could have been selected, perhaps,
since the work had already become popular on the Continent, and had
in some places created a _furore_. The English public, it should be
stated, already knew Verdi through _Ernani_, which opera, as the
reader will learn later on, had been performed in London the previous
year, and had startled the susceptibilities of our critics. The object
in presenting this _Nabucco_ by Verdi was to afford the public an
opportunity of a further judgment upon the ear-arresting composer
of _Ernani_. In obedience to a prevalent sentiment precluding the
slightest connection of a Biblical subject with stage representation,
_Nabucco_ had to be rechristened. It received the _alias_ "_Nino, Re
d'Assyria_," and was brought forward.

[Illustration: Margherita Barezzi]

"In a popular sense," writes Mr. Lumley, "the opera was a decided
success; the choral melodies especially suiting the public taste.
The libretto, although faulty in many respects, was dramatic, and
afforded scope for fine acting and artistic emotion. _Nabucco_, in
short, floated on the sea of the Anglo-Italian stage where, whilst one
current was always rushing towards novelty, another tended to wreck all
novelty whatever, in the interests of so-called 'classicism.' Much had
been done to place the opera with splendour on the stage, but though
it pleased on the whole, no decided success attended the venture of
the two new ladies. Sanchioli, wild, vehement, and somewhat coarse,
attracted and excited by her 'power, spirit, and fire,' but she failed
to charm. As a 'declaiming, passionate vocalist' she created an effect;
but the very qualities which had rendered her so popular with an
Italian audience, acted somewhat repulsively upon English opera-goers.
The lack of refinement in her style was not, in their eyes, redeemed by
the merit of energy. The electric impulse that communicated itself to
the Italians, fell comparatively powerless on the British temperament.
Sanchioli, however, was in many respects the 'right woman in the
right place' in this melodramatic opera. The other lady, Mademoiselle
Corbari, though destined in after times to please greatly as an
_altra-prima_ on the Anglo-Italian stage, and though she was considered
from the first charming, even 'fascinating' in her simplicity and
grace, was not yet acknowledged as a leading vocalist. The nervousness
and inexperience of a novice, which she showed at that stage of her
career, somewhat lessened the success due to a sweet voice and feeling
style, though the prayer allotted to her character Fenena, was encored
nightly. Fornasari pleased those who remained of his old enthusiastic
admirers, by his emphatic dramatic action and vigorous declamation, and
thus far worked towards the success of Verdi's opera."[5]

The libretto of _Nino_ or _Nabucco_ is based upon the history of the
Assyrians and Babylonians at the epoch when these two nations were
distinct. Ninus, the son of Belus, the first Assyrian monarch, is
engaged in exterminating the Babylonians. He profanes their temple,
insults their faith, and finally falls a victim to the vengeance of
Isis. He goes mad. His supposed daughter, Abigail, obtains possession
of the kingdom, to the exclusion of his lawful heiress, Fenena, who
is about to be sacrificed with the Babylonians, whose faith she has
embraced, when Ninus, repenting of his evil deeds, recovers his reason
in time to save her from death, and the drama winds up with the
submission of the proud monarch and his whole court to Isis.

"This opera," wrote a capable critic at the time, "the first by which
the young composer achieved his exalted reputation, and which has
been received abroad with enthusiasm, is a most remarkable work. It
is characterised by merits of the highest order. This is shown in
the splendid finale of the first act, commencing with the charming
_terzettino_ which has been for some time already a favourite with
English dilettanti; the canon preceding the punishment of Nino, in
the second act; the duet '_Oh! di qual onta_' between the latter and
Abigail in the third act, in which the voices are made to combine in
the most exquisite manner; the charming chorus, '_Va, pensiero_,'
flowing and plaintive; and the final prayer '_Terribil Iside_,' sung
without instrumental accompaniment. These _morceaux_ require to be
studied in detail for their beauties to be fully appreciated; but
they nevertheless produce, at first hearing, an effect which pieces
abounding, as they do, in imagination and remarkable excellence
of construction, do not always obtain. They are more highly
characteristic. The opening chorus, '_Gli arredi festivi giu cadono
infranti_,' is severe and characteristic, and altogether peculiar in
its construction. The first aria of Orotaspe is very remarkable in
point of composition. The first part of the solo of Abigail, which is
much admired, did not produce at first hearing any deep impression
on ourselves; the second part is very good, and characteristic of
the vengeful Amazon. The prayer for soprano at the end of the opera,
'_Oh, dischinso e il firmamento_,' is a charming little bit of melody.
In fine, in the music of the opera the composer has shown himself
possessed of all the legitimate sources of success. It bears the stamp
of genius and deep thought, and its effect upon the public proved that
its merits were appreciated."[6]

This favourable view, however, was far from being endorsed by all the
leading critics--inasmuch as it was with _Nino_ that Verdi experienced
more of his early and remarkable castigations in the English press.

Henry Fothergill Chorley, English musician, art critic, novelist, verse
writer, journalist, dramatist, general writer, traveller, etc., was
musical critic of the _Athenæum_ from 1833 to 1871, a period which
covers Verdi's career down to the production of _Aïda_, and it is fair
to assume, therefore, that the contributions, signed and unsigned,
which appeared in the _Athenæum_ were the views and expressions of
that gentleman--deceased. James William Davison, English composer
and writer (1813-1885), was musical critic of _The Times_ to the day
of his death, so that that gentleman, also deceased, may be credited
with the emanations respecting Verdi and his doings which appeared in
its columns. Now, when _Nabucco_, in its Anglicised form as _Nino_,
was produced here, the former critic wrote: "Our first hearing of the
_Nino_ has done nothing to change our judgment of the limited nature of
Signor Verdi's resources.... Signor Verdi is 'nothing if not noisy,'
and by perpetually putting his energies in one and the same direction,
tempts us, out of contradiction, to long for the sweetest piece of
sickliness which Paisiello put forth.... He has hitherto shown no power
as a melodist. Neither in _Ernani_ nor in _I Lombardi_, nor in the work
introduced on Tuesday (_Nino_) is there a single air of which the ear
will not lose hold.... The composer's music becomes almost intolerable
owing to his immoderate employment of brass instruments, which, to
be in any respect sufferable, calls for great compensating force
and richness in the stringed quartette.... How long Signor Verdi's
reputation will last seems to us very questionable."[7] Of these
remarks we would say that Verdi and his reputation both live to-day!

It need hardly be pointed out that the critical faculty in its
perspicacity and highest degree are wholly wanting in this criticism.
Verdi has shown himself to be a born melodist; his reputation for
his melodies has been great and world-wide, even those of such early
operas as _Ernani_ and _I Lombardi_ are still with us--to wit, that
lovely excerpt "_Come poteva un angelo_" from the latter work; while
the orchestral excessiveness charged to him, thus early, was just the
thing for which thirty years later, when _Aïda_ was produced, he was
by many musical minds declared to be indebted to Wagner, and abused
consequently.

_The Times_ criticism on _Nino_ was less despairing. "The melodies"
(we were told) "are not remarkable, but the rich instrumentation,
and the effective massing of the voices do not fail to produce their
impression, and a 'run' for some time may be confidently predicted."[8]

Mr. Lumley revived _Nino_ (_Nabucco_) towards the close of his
memorable and vicissitudinous management. It was during the 1857
season. Mademoiselle Spezia made a decided mark in the part of Abigail,
but the object of interest was Signor Corsi, who made his _début_ on
the occasion.

"This celebrated singer," Mr. Lumley informs us, "had acquired so high
a reputation in Italy as the legitimate successor to Georgio Ronconi,
in the execution of lyrical parts of dramatic power, that the liveliest
curiosity was excited by his first appearance."[9] Signor Corsi failed,
however, to establish his claim to public favour either as a singer or
actor. Curiously enough, this same season witnessed the production of
the work under the name of _Anato_ by the rival London opera company,
under Mr. Gye, at the Lyceum Theatre.

Nowadays we hear little of _Nabucco_. The world can well afford to go
on with one opera the less, even though it be a good one; but fifty
years have worked a vast change in operatic values, and, although
the revival of _Nabucco_ might not be called for now, it must not be
forgotten that, when it first appeared, it was, as an able critic has
put it, "almost the only specimen the operatic stage has of late years
furnished of a true ideal of the tragic drama."[10]

Much that _Nabucco_ contained demonstrated the fully-trained composer,
the scientific musician, and the able contrapuntist. The splendid
chorus "_Gli arredi festivi_," sung by all the voices, and taken up
by the basses alone; the charming chorus of virgins, "_Gran Nume_,"
beginning _pianissimo_ and swelling up to a glorious burst of harmony;
and the grand crescendo chorus _Deh! l'empri_, these manifested
indisputable originality and learning. Other notable numbers proved
to be the chorus "_Lo vedesti_," and the "_Il maledetto non ha
fratelli_" movement; while the _canone_ for five voices, "_Suppressau
gi'istanti_," the _scena_, "_O mia figlia_" (which Fornasari was wont
to render so feelingly), and the duet "_Oh di qual onta aggravesi_,"
are remarkable examples of characteristic musical composition, sure
indications of greater artistic triumphs by their author. Among the
many orchestral points of _Nabucco_, the harp accompaniment in the
Virgins' chorus, and the employment of the brass instruments in the
great crescendos are particularly novel and effective. Little wonder
that such a work struck the keynote to Verdi's future greatness.

[Footnote 4: Dr. Villiers Stanford in _The Daily Graphic_, 14th January
1893.]

[Footnote 5: _Reminiscences of the Opera_, p. 145 (Lumley).]

[Footnote 6: _Illustrated London News_, 14th March 1846.]

[Footnote 7: _Athenæum_, 7th March 1846.]

[Footnote 8: _The Times_, 4th March 1846.]

[Footnote 9: _Reminiscences of the Opera_, p. 416.]

[Footnote 10: _Musical Recollections of the last Half-Century_ (1850
Season), May 31.]



                               CHAPTER IV

                 SUCCESS AND INTRODUCTION INTO ENGLAND

Verdi's position assured--Selected to compose an _opera d'obbligo_--The
   terms--_I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata_--Its _dramatis personæ_ and
   argument--Reception at La Scala--A new triumph for Verdi--_I
   Lombardi_ in London, 1846--_Ernani_--Political effect of
   _Ernani_--Official interference--Verdi first introduced into
   England--Mr. Lumley's production of _Ernani_ at Her Majesty's
   Theatre--The reception of the opera--Criticism on
   _Ernani_--_Athenæum_ and _Ernani_.


Now, at the age of twenty-nine years, was Verdi's future practically
assured. His ambition had been to produce an opera that would win the
applause of his countrymen. This was attained sooner, perhaps, than
Verdi expected it. With this desire more than fulfilled, the son of the
obscure innkeeper of Roncole was being talked of in the same breath as
the _maestri_ Donizetti, Mercadante, and Pacini. Would that his beloved
wife and children could have been with him to have shared this success!

A great honour was now to be his. By the vote of the La Scala Theatre
direction, Verdi was chosen to be the composer of the _opera d'obbligo_
for the Carnival time--that new opera which an _impresario_ is
bound, by the terms of his agreement with the municipality, to find
and produce during each season. Merelli conveyed the news to Verdi,
tendering him a blank agreement form and saying, "Fill it up; all that
you require will be carried out."

Verdi consulted Signora Giuseppina Strepponi, the young and attractive
tragédienne who had performed so admirably as Abigail in _Nabucco_ (she
afterwards became Madame Verdi). Her advice to the composer was to
"look out for himself," but to be reasonable, suggesting similar terms
to those paid to Bellini for _Norma_. Verdi asked, therefore, eight
thousand Austrian liri (£272 sterling), and the bargain was struck.

Within eleven months Verdi was on La Scala boards with his fourth
opera, a work which deserves lengthy notice because of the hold it has
always had over English audiences. Signor Solera had prepared what,
from an Italian point of view, was an excellent libretto, based upon a
poem by Grossi, covering the epoch of the First Crusade. The _dramatis
personæ_ of _I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata_ ran:

Pagano, Arvino, sons of Pholio, the Prince of Rhodes; Viclinda, wife
of Arvino; Griselda, daughter of Arvino; Acciano, tyrant of Antioch;
Sofia, his wife; Oronte, his son; Prior of the city of Milan; Pirro,
armour-bearer to Arvino; monks, priors, people, armour-bearers, Persian
ambassadors, Medes, Damascenes, and Chaldeans, warriors, crusaders,
ladies of the harem, and pilgrims.

The scene of the first act is laid in Milan; the second in and near
Antioch; the third and fourth near Jerusalem.

Briefly, its story or argument is this. Pagano and Arvino are the sons
of one of the Lombard conquerors of Rhodes. Pagano, deeply enamoured
with Viclinda, and enraged at her preference for his brother, attacked,
wounded him, and then fled his country. As the curtain rises, the monks
and the people are seen assembled before the Church of Ambrose, in the
island of Rhodes, to celebrate the return of the pardoned culprit. He
arrives, and his injured brother cordially forgives and embraces him.
But in the heart of the latter the same unquenchable feelings still
rankle. He once more meditates the destruction of his brother and the
possession of his sister-in-law. At night he invades, with an armed
band, his abode; but in the dark he mistakes his victim, and kills his
own father instead of his brother. Remorse takes possession of his
heart, and he flies to a wilderness in Palestine to expiate his crime,
and under the garb of a hermit he acquires a great reputation for
sanctity. Years of repentance have elapsed; it is the moment when all
Christian knights and princes have been summoned to the First Crusade,
and Arvino and his followers have landed in Palestine, obedient to
the call of Peter the Hermit. Here he soon hies to the holy recluse
(Pagano) in his mountain retreat, seeking from the hermit counsel and
consolation in his sorrows, for the Saracen chief of Antioch, in the
conflict, has carried away his daughter. Pagano, concealed by his garb,
promises a termination to his brother's sorrows which he knows he can
effect; for Pirro, formerly his squire and confidant, now a repentant
renegade, has promised to yield Antioch, where he holds a command,
to the Christian bands. In that city Griselda is immured; she is in
the harem of Oronte, but protected by his mother, Sofia (secretly a
Christian), and passionately loved by her son, who, under the double
influence of love and conviction, determines to become a convert to
her faith. Griselda forgets her Christian friends, and listens but
too fondly to the vows of her Saracen lover; but Antioch is betrayed
to the Christians, led by Arvino and Pagano; all the Saracens are put
to death; and Griselda, by her lamentations over the fate of her true
lover, brings down on her head the wrath of her father. In the retreat
where she has taken refuge from his anger, her lover, Oronte, who has
escaped from his enemies, reappears in the disguise of a Lombard.
The lovers fly together, but being pursued by the Christians, Oronte
receives a fatal wound; Pagano comes and takes him to his cell, and
there the Saracen prince dies a Christian convert; whilst Griselda in
her despair, through divine interposition, is consoled by a vision of
Paradise. Pagano, who has become the guardian spirit of his injured
brother, accompanies him to the siege of Jerusalem, and is wounded to
death in defending him. As he dies, he removes his cowl and reveals his
name. His death forms the final catastrophe of the opera.

On the 11th February 1843, crowds were flocking to the Milan Theatre
to hear _I Lombardi_--the new opera by the composer who had driven
the remembrance of Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini from the heads of
the Milanese. Unusual interest was aroused because the authorities,
suspecting political suggestions, had sought to stop the representation
of the opera. The people even brought their provisions with them, and
when the moment for the performance came, a frightful odour of garlic
pervaded the theatre! The patriotic subject pleased everybody, and
the rendering had not proceeded far before undoubted expressions of
approval issued from all parts of the house. The feverish audience
detected readily exact analogies to their own political circumstances.
Verdi, "saviour of his country," as some would have it, had kept up the
sentiment of the _Nabucco_ music--a sentiment which had an unmistakable
revolutionary flavour and ring, soon to be mightily emphasized--and the
issue was never in doubt. Soloists, chorus, and orchestra quickly had
their feelings echoed by the Milanese public at large.

Another triumph. Moved by the stirring music and the unstinted
exertions of the principal singers, Signora Frezzolini and Signori
Guasco and Derivis, the auditors were so overcome that they re-demanded
number after number. The clamouring for the quintet was such that the
police interfered and would not suffer it to be repeated; then the
chorus, "_O Signore dal tetto natio_," in the fourth act brought the
listeners once more to their feet; nor would they be appeased until
they had heard it three times.

If only for its fortuitous association with the awakening of
Lombardo-Venetia to a sense of national unity and independence, this
opera must always be interesting. But _I Lombardi_ abounds in vocal
treasures, and contains some of Verdi's best early work. Take, for
instance, the lovely tenor _cavatina_ "_La mia letizia infondere_," and
the _cabaletta_ "_Come poteva un angelo_," which Oronte sings in scene
2 of the second act, and which Signor Gardoni used to render with much
charm and beauty of voice. Little wonder that such melodies and music
predisposed the Italians towards the new young musician.

_I Lombardi_ was certainly an advance upon _Nabucco_. Apart from its
political associations, it contained vocal and instrumental attractions
which the public were justified in expecting from the composer of
_Nabucco_. It met with a _succés d'estime_ only on its production
in London, but this had more to do with party feeling in operatic
matters at the time than with the actual merits of the work. The new
and striking properties which distinguished _Nabucco_ were still more
marked in _I Lombardi_--so much so, indeed, that it has survived many
operas and can be listened to with pleasure to-day.

In the 1846 season--Tuesday the 12th March--Mr. Lumley gave the
subscribers of Her Majesty's Theatre _I Lombardi_, with the artists
Grisi, Mario, and Fornasari, and scenery and dresses which at the time
were considered unsurpassed. It was the first performance of Verdi's
new opera in this country.

"Here was again a success!" writes Mr. Lumley; "nay, a great and noisy
success--but yet a doubtful one. After the comparative unanimity with
which _Nabucco_ had been received, it seemed necessary for the forces
of the opposition to recommence the attack against a school which
now threatened to make its way with the town. Party spirit on the
subject was again rife. Whilst, by the anti-Verdians, _I Lombardi_ was
declared to be flimsy, trashy, worthless, the Verdi party, and the
adherents of the modern Italian school, pronounced it to be full of
power, vigour, and originality. The one portion asserted that it was
utterly devoid of melody--the other, that it was replete with melody of
the most charming kind; the one again insisted that it was the worst
work of the aspirant--the other, that it was the young composer's
_chef d'œuvre_. And in the midst of this conflict--so analogous
to the old feud between the parties of Gluck and Piccini--public
opinion, as usual, seemed undecided and wavering, uttering its old
formula of, "Well, I don't know." The music, too, was weighed down by
a rambling, ill-constructed, uninteresting libretto; and it is really
difficult, under such conditions, to sunder the merit of the musical
"setting" from the merit of the text. _I Lombardi_, however, was played
frequently, and to crowded houses."[11]

_I Lombardi_ speedily travelled over Europe. As we have seen, it soon
reached England, and having been adapted for the French stage, it was
produced on the 26th November 1847 at the Grand Opéra of Paris under
the title of _Jérusalem_. In its new garb, it was a failure, despite
splendid singing and effective scenery. What a farcical proceeding,
then, to attempt to foist this version upon the Italians under the name
of _Jerusalemme_!

It is not surprising that Verdi was now sought after by _impresarii_
and managers, ever on the outlook for talent and a work that may
restore the too often distorted fortunes of a theatre. More than one
European manager was beseeching him; but eventually the management
of the Fenice theatre secured Verdi's next opera. This proved to be
_Ernani_, produced on the 9th March 1844. Verdi chose his own subject,
and entrusted Victor Hugo's drama to Piave, who subsequently became
the composer's permanent librettist. The result was a tolerably good
book, which Verdi set in happy vein. Its first night decided its
fate. _Ernani_ was received with unstinted admiration and approval.
The artists who created the parts were Signora Loewe (Elvira), who
quarrelled with Verdi about her part; Signor Guasco (Ernani); and
Signor Selva (Silva), the latter a singer whom the noble who owned
the Fenice thought unworthy to appear on his boards, despite Verdi's
recommendation, because he had been singing at a second-rate theatre!

During the nine months following the first performance of _Ernani_, it
was produced on no less than fifteen different stages.

One or two episodes--amusing, if vexatious--attended its production.
The police got wind of some exciting element in the opera, and stepped
in at the last minute, objecting to several numbers, and refusing to
allow a sham conspiracy to be enacted on the stage. Verdi had to give
way and face the additional work and trouble; yet, after all, the
Venetians got political capital out of the work, and when the spirited
chorus, "_Si ridesti il Leon di Castiglia_," burst forth, their
patriotic feelings overcame them. Another incident had to do with
artistic principle. In the last act Silva had to blow upon the horn;
but a susceptible aristocrat could not bear the idea, and remonstrated
with the composer, urging that it would desecrate the theatre!

_Ernani_, as we have remarked, was the work by which Verdi was first
introduced to the British public; and it is, therefore, of especial
interest to English readers. It involved a dispute among musical
people such as has only been equalled by the famous Gluck and Piccini
feud (1776) just referred to, or that great controversy engendered by
Wagner's music and doctrines, the wrangle that gave us the term "music
of the future," that spiteful innuendo which the enemies of the master
invented to indicate the fit location of his music, and which epithet
Wagner himself adopted as exactly describing an art and teachings which
a debilitated and distempered age was too feeble to understand.

No one was more concerned in this musical stir than the zealous and
assiduous Mr. Lumley, who had his heart and fortune in the affairs of
the opera-house, Her Majesty's Theatre:--

    Industrious importer! who dost bring
    Legs that can dance, and voices that can sing,
    From ev'rywhere you possibly can catch 'em;
    Let others try, they never yet could match 'em.

The stumbling-blocks were the bigoted lovers of the old school, who,
dissatisfied with all that had been given them, were, like that hero
in fiction, always clamouring for "more," which, when obtained, they
always pronounced unsatisfactory. "The season," states Mr. Lumley, "was
announced to open with the _Ernani_ of Verdi, a composer as yet unknown
to the mass of the musical English public. But he had been crowned
triumphantly, and had achieved the most signal successes in Italy.
_Ernani_ was generally pronounced, at that period, one of the best, if
not the best, of his many applauded operas. It would have been strange
if the announcement of the first production of one of Verdi's works
upon the Anglo-Italian stage had failed to excite the attention and
interest of the musical world. At all events, it was the duty, as well
as the policy, of the management to bring forward the greatest novelty
of the day. Novelty sure to be called for with indignant remonstrance
if _not_ laid before the subscribers, however it might be scouted
(according to custom) when it did make its appearance.

"After some unavoidable delay, the season opened on the 8th March
(1845) with the promised opera of _Ernani_. That it excited the general
enthusiasm awarded to it so lavishly in Italy cannot be asserted;
that it was a failure may be emphatically denied. The general result
of this first introduction of Verdi to the English public was a
feeling of hesitation and doubt; or, as some one drolly said at the
time, the 'Well, I don't know's' had it! The English are tardy in the
appreciation of any kind of novelty, and the reception of Verdi's opera
was only in accordance with the national habit. It is well known that a
taste for this composer's music has survived all the opposition of an
earlier period, and that he is now generally popular among the musical
amateurs in this country. Whatever their intrinsic merits, his operas
have achieved a widely-spread success, as provincial theatres and
music-halls can testify throughout the land; and there can be no doubt
that, whatever his alleged shortcomings in some respects, he has at
command passion, fire, and strong dramatic effect.

"On the first production, then, of _Ernani_, the public seemed as yet
unprepared to give a verdict of its own as to the merits of the young
composer, now first placed in England on his trial."[12]

The principal singers at this first representation in England
were--Madame Rita Borio, _prima donna_; Moriani, the tenor; Signor
Botelli, baritone; and Fornasari, as the old Castillian noble. The
audience, if not the critics, were delighted with the work. The
characters so musically individualised, the new and attractive
orchestration, the _motivi_ distinguishing the singer, the perfect
_ensemble_, the well-proportioned whole opera--all these thoroughly
Verdinian characteristics were seized upon and admired. "Encore
followed encore from the rising of the curtain.... Solos, duets, and
trios were applauded with equal fervour, but the concerted pieces
created the most surprise and admiration.... The _ensembles_ possess a
novelty and an impassioned fervour unprecedented."[13]

In a retrospect of the season's opera, a talented critic wrote of
_Ernani_ as follows:--"We were then introduced to a composer engaging
in Italy surprising popularity, one whose works have been brought out
at almost all the great continental theatres, whose productions in his
native country met with the most enthusiastic admiration--Verdi. It
cannot, therefore, be wondered at that the present able management of
Her Majesty's Theatre should have fixed upon the works of this composer
to bring before the English public. _Ernani_ did full justice to its
brilliant reputation. It presents the real type of the lyrical tragedy,
where feeling finds its appropriate expression in music. Musical judges
allotted to it the palm of sterling merit, but the leaning of public
taste was against the probabilities of its obtaining here the high
favour it has elsewhere enjoyed.

"The meritricious sentimental style of the modern school to which, of
late years, we have become so accustomed was a bad preparation for the
full appreciation of such work as this. _Ernani_, however, at first
only half understood, gradually worked its way into the public favour,
and was given a greater number of times than any opera of the season;
finally, it might be pronounced completely successful; but yet, on the
whole, the result of the production of this opera was not such as to
encourage the management to substitute another work of this composer,
_I Lombardi_, for more established favourites. We are sorry for this;
we grieve to see in the English musical public so little encouragement
for novelty in art, and an unwillingness to patronise works which
have not received the sometimes questionable fiat of approbation from
the audiences of former seasons, not a whit more infallible than the
present. English audiences will rarely judge for themselves in matters
of art. They wail that Fashion should have openly set her seal on works
which should claim a fair and unbiassed judgment.

"At present Verdi is the only composer of real and sterling merit in
that land of song (Italy); for though Rossini still lives, his pen is
idle, or only occasionally employed on short compositions of a totally
different nature from those with which he has for years delighted the
world.... Donizetti, his successor, is silent. Should _Ernani_ or any
other work of this young composer be brought forward next year (1846),
its success will probably be far more decided; for attention has become
awakened on this point, and a purer musical taste is gradually forming
in England, as elsewhere."[14]

_Ernani_ was brought forward in the following year, when one among the
few critics not antagonistic towards Verdi wrote as follows:--

"It was with much pleasure that we heard _Ernani_ again. This opera is
of that stamp which constantly gains upon the mind. The two _finales_
of the first and second acts are _chef d'œuvres_ of composition.
When the ear has become sufficiently accustomed to their sounds to
follow the varied melodies introduced to them with such wonderful
skill, the effect is indescribable. The sensations called forth by
such music as this, when listened to with unswerving attention, are
far more profound, though of a different nature, than those elicited
by the hearing of the most pleasing melody. Combinations of the human
voice and of instruments must always, if skilfully managed, produce
a powerful effect, and this is especially the case with these two
_finales_, in which every bar has a meaning, and in which consequently,
at each hearing, some fresh beauty is revealed.... The duet between
Ernani and Elvira, the trio at the end of the opera, and the aria
'_Ernani involami_' are also deserving of much admiration."[15]

_Ernani_ was conceived in much the same vein as _Nabucco_ and _I
Lombardi_. It was on the continental Italian opera lines, as seen in
the operas of his countrymen before him. The personality of Verdi was
somewhat more emphatic, but the national model had not been left either
in form or in expression. "Full of plagiarisms as was every number of
that opera," records one of the divided, distracted critics, "it took
more or less with the public because of the large amount of tune with
which it abounded, whilst the constant succession of passage after
passage in unison excited some degree of curiosity on account of its
novelty."[16]

Undoubtedly _Ernani_ was an advance upon _Nabucco_ and _I Lombardi_.
In 1848 this opera came again under the notice of the censor of the
Athenæum, but it did not tend to alter his views respecting Verdi
musically.

"It is not many years," we read, "since Signor Verdi was in this
country, among the myriad strangers who are attracted by the 'season,'
struggle vainly for a hearing, and retire unnoticed.... For new melody
we have searched in vain; nor have we even found any varieties of
form, indicating an original fancy at work as characteristically as
in one of Pacini's or Mercadante's or Donizetti's better cavatinas.
All seems worn and hackneyed and unmeaning.... '_Ernani! Ernani!
involami_,' is a song of executive pretension, written apparently for
one of those mezzo-soprano voices of extensive compass which poor
Malibran brought into fashion. There is a good deal of what may be
called pompous assurance, both in the _andantino_, and in the final
movement, and an accomplished singer could doubtless work an encore
with it. Signor Verdi's concerted music strikes us as a shade worthier
and more individual than his songs.... We cannot conclude these brief
remarks, incomplete for obvious reasons, as a judgment, without saying
that flimsy as we fancy Signor Verdi's science, and devoid as he seems
to be of that fresh and sweet melody, which we shall never cease to
relish and welcome, there is a certain aspiration in his works which
deserves recognition, and may lead him to produce compositions which
will command success."[17]

This could hardly be styled encouraging criticism on a work which had,
and has since been received with the greatest success throughout Italy,
in Paris, and in London, and which has enjoyed a legitimate and fairly
enduring popularity, remembering always how changeable a thing opera at
its best is. Adolphe Adam, writing of _Ernani_ in Paris, has said, "Of
all the operas of Verdi represented in Paris, _Ernani_ is the one which
has obtained the most success. I cannot say why, for I am quite as fond
of the others, and I do not think this success is to be attributed
especially to the excellent execution it has received."[18] The obvious
and only conclusion being that the music itself was the true operating
force.

[Footnote 11: _Reminiscences of the Opera_, p. 148.]

[Footnote 12: _Reminiscences of the Opera_, p. 102.]

[Footnote 13: _Illustrated London News_, 15th March 1845.]

[Footnote 14: _Illustrated London News_, 23rd August 1845.]

[Footnote 15: _Illustrated London News_, 21st March 1846.]

[Footnote 16: _Musical Recollections of the Last Half-Century_, vol.
ii. p. 162.]

[Footnote 17: _Athenæum_, 26th February 1848.]

[Footnote 18: _The Life and Works of Verdi_ (Pougin--Matthew), p. 169.]



                              CHAPTER V

                          FIRST PERIOD WORKS

_I Due Foscari_--Its argument--Failure of the opera in Rome, Paris,
   and London--_Giovanna d'Arco'_--A moderate
   success--_Alzira_--_Attila_--More political enthusiasm--_Attila_
   given at Her Majesty's Theatre by Mr. Lumley--Its cool
   reception--_The Times_ and _Athenæum_ critics on
   _Attila_--Exceptional activity of Verdi--_Macbeth_--_Jérusalem_ in
   Paris--_I Masnadieri_ first given at Her Majesty's Theatre--Jenny
   Lind in its _caste_--Plot of the opera--The work a failure
   everywhere--The critics on _I Masnadieri_--Mr. Lumley offers Verdi
   the conductorship at Her Majesty's Theatre--_Il Corsaro_--_La
   Battaglia di Legnano_--_Luisa Miller_--Mr. Chorley on _Luisa
   Miller_--Its libretto--Reception of the work in Naples, London, and
   Paris.


_I Due Foscari_ was Verdi's next opera. His _collaborateur_ Piave had a
libretto well seasoned with that sensational element characteristic of
the Italian dramatic lyric stage. Here is its story:--

In 1423 Francisco Foscari was raised to the ducal chair of Venice,
notwithstanding the opposition of Peter Lorredano. The latter
constantly opposed him in the Council, and that in such a manner,
that on one occasion Foscari, irritated, exclaimed, "He could not
believe he was really Doge so long as Peter Lorredano lived." By a
fatal coincidence, a few months afterwards, Peter and his brother Mark
died suddenly, and public report said they had been poisoned. James
Lorredano, Peter's brother, believed the tale, and sculptured the names
of the Foscari on their tomb, and inserted them in his ledger as his
debtors for two lives--waiting with the greatest _sang-froid_ for the
moment when he should be enabled to make them pay. The Doge had four
sons; three died, and Jacopo the fourth, husband to Lucretia Contarini,
being accused of receiving presents from foreign princes, was
imprisoned according to the laws of Venice, first at Naples in Romania,
and afterwards at Treviso. It happened in the meantime that Ermolaus
Donato, chief of the Council of Ten, who had condemned Jacopo, was
assassinated on the night of the 5th November 1450, on his return to
his palace, from a sitting of the Council. As Olivia, Jacopo's servant,
had been seen at Venice a few days previously, and on the very day
after the crime had been committed he had publicly mentioned it at the
Mestra boat, suspicion fell on the Foscari. The master of the boat and
Jacopo's servant were immediately carried to Venice, where they were
put to the torture, but in vain; they were then banished for life to
Candia. For five years in succession had Jacopo sought for his pardon
without obtaining it, and, unable longer to live without revisiting
his beloved country, he wrote to the Duke of Milan, Francisco Sforza,
begging of him to intercede with the Council on his behalf. The letter
fell into the hands of the Ten; and Jacopo, being taken to Venice and
tortured, confessed that he had written it with the sole desire of
revisiting his country, at the risk of being sent back to prison. He
was condemned to remain for life in Candia, to be closely confined for
the first year, and threatened with death if he wrote any more letters
of the same description. The unfortunate octogenarian Doge, who had
conducted himself with Roman fortitude at the judgment and torturing
of his son, was allowed to see him in private before his departure, to
advise him to be obedient and resigned to the will of the Republic.
In the meantime Nicolo Errizo, a Venetian nobleman, died, and on his
death-bed acknowledged himself the murderer of Donato. He wished his
confession to be published to exculpate Jacopo Foscari. Several of
the principal senators had previously felt disposed to plead for his
pardon, but unhappily, while this was taking place, he breathed his
last in his Candian prison.

The miserable father lived in solitude with a heart full of sorrow; he
was seldom seen at the Council. Jacopo Lorredano, in the year 1457,
was raised to the dignity of Decemvir, and believing that his hour of
vengeance had arrived, carried on his plots so secretly that the Doge
was forced at last to abdicate his ducal chair. Twice in the course of
the time he held the office Foscari had wished to resign it, but so
disinclined were they to yield to his wishes that they obliged him to
swear that he would die in the exercise of his power.

Notwithstanding this, he was compelled to leave the ducal palace, and
returned, as a simple individual, to his private residence, refusing a
large pension offered to him from the public purse.

The 31st October 1457, while listening to the sound of the bells
announcing the election of his successor, Pascal Malpiero, he was
so violently affected that he expired. He was buried with as great
splendour as if he had died a Doge, while Malpiero was attired merely
in the simple dress of a senator. It is said that Jacopo Lorredano,
when this took place, wrote in his ledger opposite the words we have
already mentioned the following sentence--"_The Foscari have paid me!_"

Out of this argument was evolved a serious opera in four acts, which
was produced at the Argentine Theatre at Rome on the 3rd November
1844. It proved a complete failure. Though composed immediately after
_Ernani_, it possessed little of the spontaneity and freshness of that
work; so little that the Romans were astounded, and stayed away from
the theatre.

In 1846 the work was given in Paris, when Signori Mario and Coletti,
with Madame Grisi, sought to establish the opera; but the work would
never "go."

The year following Mr. Lumley introduced it at Her Majesty's Theatre
for the opening night of the season. "The opera given for the first
time in this country, the _Due Foscari_ of Verdi, and the singer,
Madame Montenegro, a Spanish lady of good family, with a clear soprano
voice of some compass, and an attractive person, pleased, without
exciting any marked sensation. Coletti, in the character of the _Doge_,
one of his most famous parts, was, by general accord, pronounced to
be an admirable, not to say a great, artist; while Fraschini, by his
energy and power, contributed to the effect of the _ensemble_."[19]

Yet again was the work a failure. The English operatic public, however,
did not want a new opera just then. What it sorely needed was Jenny
Lind!

_Giovanna d'Arco_, produced at La Scala Theatre, Milan, on the 15th
February 1845, and in which Erminia Frezzolini appeared, "in all
the brilliancy of her radiant youth, of her patrician beauty, of
her incomparable voice, and of her marvellous talent,"[20] followed
_I Due Foscari_. It was a temporary success, owing to the admirable
exertions of the Tuscan cantatrice, whose personal and musical charms
considerably aided the exalted part of the heroine. She inspired not a
little fervour, something akin probably to that remarkable enthusiasm
prompted by the woman-soldier of France, whose imperishable doings
saved the throne of Charles VII.

The opera contained several fine numbers, but although the Milanese
received it kindly, nay, went out of their way to _fête_ its composer,
it never really "took." Some of Verdi's best writing is to be found in
_Joan of Arc_, yet it was not born under a lucky star. Its overture was
rescued, and this Verdi (Handel-like) affixed to his operas _Les Vêpres
Siciliennes_ and _Aroldo_.

_Alzira_, produced with indifferent success at the San Carlo Theatre at
Naples on the 12th August 1845, succeeded _Giovanna d'Arco_, and then
came _Attila_. This was Verdi's most successful work since _Ernani_.
The management of the Fenice had bargained with Verdi for another
opera, and _Attila_ was the result.

The scene of the opera is placed principally at Aquileja, a Roman
colony on the Adriatic, which from its grandeur was honoured by the
ancients by the appellation of "Roma Secunda." Attila, having overcome
and desolated this great city, amidst his rejoicings is surprised by
a band of Aquilejan virgins led by Odabella, daughter of the Lord
of Aquileja, who has been killed in the battle. She defies Attila,
who, struck by her beauty, asks what boon he can bestow upon her. She
claims his sword, intending to avenge her father's death--to behave, in
fact, as Judith did to Holofernes. But she falters, and returns to the
barbarian camp, the object of Attila's admiration. Her lover, Foresto,
and Ezio, the leader of the defeated Romans, reappear, and plan the
poisoning of Attila, for which purpose the services of Odabella are
sought. She, however, has consented to share Attila's throne, but
hardly are the nuptial rites celebrated than she is upbraided by
Foresto and Ezio. Then a revulsion of feeling overcomes her; she thinks
of her father, her lover, and her country, and in a fit of despairing
anger she stabs Attila to the heart.

Poet Solera supplied the libretto, and when, on 17th March 1846, an
expectant audience thronged every part of the theatre, it was to listen
to the unfolding of an excellent work. The warmth of its reception
surpassed that accorded to _Nabucco_, and again was political fire
aroused within the Venetians.

The opera soon went the round of the Italian stages, and two years
later (1848) _Attila_ was brought to London. Mr. Lumley at Her
Majesty's Theatre was straining every nerve to provide attractions
that would interest his critical (also let it be added, hypercritical)
subscribers, and counteract the opposition from the rival "Royal
Italian Opera" enterprise at Covent Garden Theatre. For his ante-Easter
season he paraded _Attila_--"the opera" as he says, "in which I
had first heard and been charmed with the rich voice and dramatic
qualities of Sophie Cruvelli at Padua. This was, in fact, the opera
in which she first appeared upon any stage. None, perhaps, of Verdi's
works had kindled more enthusiasm in Italy or crowned the fortunate
composer with more abundant laurels than his _Attila_. Its fame was
great in the native land of the composer. In catering for novelty,
therefore, the director of Her Majesty's Theatre must be held to have
done well in producing a work of so great repute, and in placing
before his subscribers the leading opera of the day upon the Italian
stage. To prove with what good will this was done, the opera had been
'mounted' with great scenic splendour, and with every 'appliance'
likely to produce effect. _Attila_ was produced on Tuesday the 14th
March. Cruvelli sang '_con fuoco_.' Her fine, fresh, ringing voice
'told.' Beletti displayed unusual histrionic talent, besides all that
steadiness and excellence of 'school' which helped to earn him his
reputation in this country. Gardoni was in the cast, whilst Cuzzani
accepted a second tenor part. On every side were zeal, talent, and
good-will employed successfully to execute a work which many cities
of Italy had pronounced to be Verdi's masterpiece. But although Verdi
had already commenced to make his way to English favour, and this by
means of that vigour and dramatic fire which unquestionably belonged
to him, the public displayed an unwonted unanimity of sulkiness upon
the production of _Attila_. They would have 'none of it.' Consequently
_Attila_ proved a failure. Music and libretto displeased alike."[21]

"This is one of Verdi's more recent operas," wrote a critic, "and met
in Italy with the success which works of his (almost the only composer
of eminence left to that land of music) are sure to command. The
work itself possesses the beauties and defects peculiar to Verdi--a
certain grandeur of conception and power of dramatic effect is even
more striking here than in many other of the _maestro's_ compositions.
There is a warmth, spirit, and energy in the music which carries away
the listener, which excites and inspires; at the same time there is
a want of softness and repose which is, in this opera, more than
usually perceptible. The too frequent use of the drums and the brass
instruments is the great fault we have to find in this work."[22]

The _Attila_ music was as horrible to the senses of the _Athenæum_
critic as was that of _Nino_. "As for the music," we are informed,
"were we to carry out and apply Charles Lamb's principle of being
'modest for a modest man,' the fit review thereof would be a
charivari. The force of noise can hardly further go; unless we are to
resort to the device of Sarti's cannon, fired to time his Russian 'Te
Deum' on the taking of Ocsakow, or imitate the anvil chorus which
Spontini, we have heard, introduced in one of his operas. It is
something to have touched the limits of the outrageous style; but
this, we think, we have now done, unless the more recent _Alzira_ and
_Macbeth_ of the composer contain double parts for the ophicleides or
like extra seasonings.... The melodies are old and unlovely to a
degree which is almost impertinent, and _I Masnadieri_ itself was not
more devoid of the discourse which enchants the ear than this Gothic
opera. May we never hear its like again."[23]

Again we find _The Times_ less "sweeping" respecting _Attila_, albeit
not detecting promise of that grand future which was before Verdi, and
which his great genius, his own unaided efforts--amid such remorseless
critical opposition--have enabled him to attain.

"Less excelling in melody than any Italian composer of name," we read
of Verdi, "he has always chosen to rely rather on the effect of the
ensemble than on the isolated displays of the principal singers. His
love of ensemble is, however, not attended by any great contrapuntal
knowledge. The effects that he produces rather arise from an increase
of the mass of sound than from skilful harmonious combination....
That the arias, duets, etc., should be commonplaces, mere repetitions
of Donizetti and Bellini and Verdi himself, was naturally to be
anticipated, as he is rarely strong in such _morceaux_. But there is a
want of dramatic colouring, even in his ensemble; and for the most part
we discern little apprehension of character, and little regard to the
peculiarities of situation."[24]

In the light of subsequent events such criticism is not perspicuous. If
Verdi had no "contrapuntal knowledge" and "lacked dramatic colouring"
power at the age of thirty-two, after learning his art, when and where
did he acquire all that tremendous wealth in these departments as seen
in _Aïda_, _Otello_, and _Falstaff_, and even in earlier operas? Is it
not probable that Verdi knew more about the matter than the critics,
and understood better than they what the public wanted, what it could
swallow, and composed accordingly? Was the musical taste in this
country such, for instance, fifty years ago, that opera-frequenters
would have relished even _Otello_? Verdi was probably right in giving a
sick patient a pill, not a horse-ball.

In 1847 a spell of unusual industry overtook Verdi. Opera after opera
came with remarkable rapidity. _Macbeth_ was produced at Florence in
March 1847, and immediately proved a success. It was Verdi's first
effort with a Shakesperian subject. The Florentines were unanimous
in their approval of the music, the interpretation of which was
considerably aided by an admirable Lady Macbeth--Signora Barbieri-Nini.
The score was taken to Milan, and pleased so much that the Milanese,
among other doings, represented Verdi practically as having crushed
all other Italian composers; while poor Rossini in particular was,
dragon-like, under the foot of his great rival! Subsequently, the work
was given in Venice, where it met with a reception which Verdi himself
could scarcely have expected. It was just before the Revolution of
1848, and when Palma, as Macduff, sang the air:--

    "_La Patria tradita
    Piangendo c'invita_";

it so excited the Venetians that they joined in to the full of their
voices and showed such other manifestations of uncontrollable feelings,
that not only the police, but the military had to be called in.

The composer was now due with an opera for Mr. Lumley; a work to be
written expressly for England, and _I Masnadieri_ was the result. That
persevering and to-be-pitied _impresario's_ version of the affair runs
thus:--

"Of the expected new operas to be produced on the stage of Her
Majesty's Theatre, that of Verdi alone remained available. For many
years I had been in correspondence with the young Italian composer,
for the purpose of obtaining from him a work destined for the London
boards. An opera on the subject of "King Lear" had already been
promised by Verdi, the principal part being intended for Signor
Lablache. But, on that occasion, the serious illness of the composer
had prevented the execution of the design. Verdi now offered his
_I Masnadieri_, composed upon the subject of Schiller's well-known
play, _Die Raüber_, and with this proposal I was obliged to close. On
Thursday, 2nd July 1847, _I Masnadieri_ (after wearying rehearsals,
conducted by the composer himself), was brought out, with a cast that
included Lablache, Gardoni, Coletti, Bouche, and, above all, Jenny
Lind, who was to appear for the second time only in her career, in a
thoroughly original part composed expressly for her. The house was
filled to overflowing on the night of the first representation. The
opera was given with every appearance of a triumphant success; the
composer and all the singers receiving the highest honours--indeed,
all the artists distinguished themselves in their several parts. Jenny
Lind acted admirably, and sang the airs allotted to her exquisitely.
But yet the _Masnadieri_ could not be considered a success. That by
its production I had adopted the right course was unquestionable. I
had induced an Italian composer, whose reputation stood on the highest
pinnacle of continental fame, to compose an opera expressly for my
theatre, as well as to superintend its production. More I could not
have done to gratify the patrons of Italian music, who desired to
hear new works. It may be stated in confirmation of the judgment of
the London audience, that _I Masnadieri_ was never successful on any
Italian stage. The libretto was even worse constructed than is usually
the case with adaptations of foreign dramas to the purpose of Italian
opera. To Her Majesty's Theatre the work was singularly ill-suited.
The interest which ought to have been centred in Mademoiselle Lind was
thrown on Gardoni; whilst Lablache, as the imprisoned father, had to do
about the only thing he could not do to perfection--having to represent
a man nearly starved to death."[25]

Poor Mr. Lumley! For the benefit of a generation who will not set
eyes on Signor Lablache, it should be stated that he was of Herculean
proportions, a giant in height, and so portly that he made a superb
Falstaff. His voice shook the walls of Her Majesty's Theatre, and he
had a heart as big as some men's bodies.

It is well to know something of this "excessive" book. Two brothers,
Carlo and Francesco, are the sons of Maximilian Moor, an old Bohemian
noble. The younger brother Francesco is envious of the fortunate
first-born, and poisons his father's heart against him. Carlo driven
from home, joins a robber band, and Francesco impatient to reap the
fruits of his wickedness seeks to accelerate the old man's death by
telling him that his first-born has met with his death. Francesco's
next scheme is to implore Amalia, the betrothed wife of Carlo, to
marry him, but she resents his odious suit. Quite by chance she meets
Carlo, to whom she tells everything, and as he, in one of his raids
in the forest, has discovered his father almost starved to death in a
cave, the desire for vengeance cannot be restrained. He summons his
co-outlaws, who swear to avenge the wrongs of the infamous Francesco.
This done, Carlo reveals himself to his father and bride, but the
horrible revelation that he is a robber does not hinder their sympathy
and tenderness towards Carlo. Amalia offers to marry him just as he is,
bound by oath to outlawry. This is impossible. Maddened by despair,
he thrusts his poniard into her bosom, and thus meets her appeals for
relief by death. Thus ends this most tragic story; the music keeping
pace with the varied emotions of horror, of melancholy, and tenderness,
which the subject alternately excites.

There were beautiful numbers in _I Masnadieri_, or "The Brigands,"
notably the grand scena "_Tu del mio Carlo al seno_," with its
_cabaletta_ "_Carlo Vive_," which Jenny Lind could sing entrancingly;
the duet between Amalia and Francesco; the air "_Lo, sguardo_,"
deliciously accompanied by the wind instruments; the quartet "_Tigre
feroce_"; the tenor air "_O mio castel paterno_," wherein Gardoni's
beautiful voice, and manner, were so noticeable; the trio in which the
superlative powers of Jenny Lind, Gardoni, and Lablache were united;
and, to name one more number, the air "_Volasti alma beati_," with its
beautiful harp accompaniment. Notwithstanding many attractions, it
was a dead failure, and only kept the boards two or three nights. "_I
Masnadieri_," an authority afterwards wrote, "turned out a miserable
failure, as it deserved to do, since it could but, at all events, as
was rightly said, increase Signor Verdi's discredit with every one who
had an ear, and was decidedly the worst opera that was ever given at
Her Majesty's Theatre, the music being in every respect inferior even
to that of _I Due Foscari_."[26]

All the critics did not decry the opera. Writing of _I Masnadieri_ the
_Illustrated London News_ said of it:--"The story is in many respects
a horrible one; it represents passions and crimes which, if they are
unhappily not untrue to human nature, are yet better excluded from
theatrical representation, and cannot be considered as within the
scope of the tragic art; with all this, however, for the groundwork
of an opera it is exceedingly effective, and admirably suited to the
character of Verdi's music, which is here dramatic in the extreme,
and somewhat excels the masterpieces of Meyerbeer and other composers
of the German "Romantic School" of music.... The opera was highly
successful. The talented _maestro_, on appearing in the orchestra to
conduct his clever work, was received with three rounds of applause.
He was called before the curtain after the first and third acts, and
at the conclusion of the opera amidst the most vehement applause.
The house was crowded to excess, and was honoured by the presence of
Her Majesty and Prince Albert, the Queen-Dowager, and the Duchess of
Cambridge."[27]

_I Masnadieri_ gave the leaders of public musical taste another
chance--a legitimate opportunity which they did not fail to embrace.
The opera was one of those decided failures which occur betimes in
every walk of art, very often giving the lie direct to the maker's
estimate of his work. Gounod, for instance, used constantly to
express, and has done so within our hearing, that _Mireille_ was his
best opera. Yet the public has set its seal upon _Faust_, a work that
has brought more money to impresarial coffers than any other opera
that could be instanced. Who has heard _Mireille_, compared with the
thousands who have listened to the beautiful and picturesque music of
_Faust_, elevating in its very loveliness? _I Masnadieri_, to quote
the _Athenæum_, "at all events, must increase Signor Verdi's discredit
with every one who has an ear. We take it to be the worst opera which
has been given in our time at Her Majesty's Theatre.... There is not
one grand concerted piece--a condition hard upon a composer whose only
originality has been shown in his concerted music.... The performance
must be recorded as the failure of a work which richly deserved to
fail, in spite of much noisy applause."[28] "Since our last," continued
the _Athenæum_ in a subsequent notice, "_I Masnadieri_ has been played
and sang twice. Surely the question of our good (or bad) taste in
rejecting _Il Maestro_ as an authority is finally settled, and the
field is left open for an Italian composer. Signor Verdi has left
England."

Our comment upon this piece of prophetic egotism is that the master is
to-day admired by the artistic universe, is unrivalled by any living
master of music, and for a while, at least, will be unsurpassed, if
ever closely approached, by a composer of his own country.

_The Times's_ notice of _I Masnadieri_ was more favourable. To find
some glimmering of good, therefore, in a Verdi score of this period
affords, certainly, relieving reading. Jenny Lind's singing is
particularly noted, and strangely enough, airs, duets, _cabalette_,
etc. (involving that melodic fancy and invention said to be so wholly
wanting in Verdi), are expressly cited as "points" of the opera, to
wit--"The duet with Gardoni in the third act was another piece of great
effect, and the pleasing _cabaletta_ '_Lassu resplendere_' earned the
singers a call."[29]

Verdi rushed from England disgusted with the critics; but to be fair
to that sagacious regiment, in this instance, their verdict was well
found; for nowhere was _I Masnadieri_ successful, not even when as
_Les Brigands_ it was produced in France in 1870. This took place at
L'Athenée Theatre, when Mademoiselle Marimon filled the part of Amalie.

The failure of _I Masnadieri_ did not lessen Mr. Lumley's unbounded
faith in Verdi; and when Signor Costa threw down the _bâton_ (this
opera being the last he conducted at Her Majesty's) to assume the post
of _chef d'orchestre_ at the rival Covent Garden house, Mr. Lumley
offered the young Italian _maestro_ the vacancy. A tempting offer of
a large salary, a three years' engagement, and the right to put a new
opera of his own composition upon the stage each year was made. What
tremendous art issues hung in the balance! A consent from Verdi, and
his later works might never have been written, for the turmoil of
a conductor's life knocks out of a man all energy for composition;
besides which, when once the _bâton_ is taken up, the creative faculty
invariably disappears. Fortunately, the _maestro_ could reply only in
the negative, since he was pledged to write two new operas for Lucca
the publisher, and a theatre engagement would prevent his fulfilling
this contract, the cancelling of which Lucca would not entertain.

The end of this business was that Verdi, on the _ne sutor ultra
crepidam_ principle, stuck to his last, and instead of turning
conductor remained composer.[30]

In a short time there appeared _Il Corsaro_ and _La Battaglia di
Legnano_, which advanced their composer's reputation but little. _Il
Corsaro_ was first given at the Grand Theatre, Trieste, on the 25th
October 1848. It had words by Piave, based upon Byron; and Lucca, the
publisher, paid Verdi £800 for the score, but it was never a success. A
somewhat better reception fell to _La Battaglia di Legnano_, produced
at Rome in 1849, because it afforded the sensitive Italians a further
political outlet. The libretto was patriotic in its drift, and Verdi,
true to himself, had imparted to the music an ardent aggressive
character, which had already won political friends.

Verdi's next opera, however, was to make amends for these scores. The
management of the San Carlo Theatre at Naples, the exchequer of which
was not in a healthy state, had arranged with Verdi for a new opera,
the price for which was to be £510. The libretto was by M. Cammerano,
and has been adjudged as one of the best of opera books. It tells of
Luisa Miller, the daughter of an old soldier, who has two lovers, the
favoured one being Rudolpho, the son of Count Walter, the lord of the
village, of whose rank, however, she and her father are ignorant until
the latter is informed of it by Wurm, the Count's Castellan, Luisa's
rejected suitor, who out of jealousy also informs the old Count Walter
of his son's attachment. The Count, on hearing the news, is enraged,
and insists upon his son marrying his cousin Federica, the widow of the
Duke of Oldstheim, to secure which he imprisons the old soldier Miller,
only releasing him upon Rudolpho's threatening to divulge a murder
which his father has committed. In the second act Wurm is met urging
Luisa to write a letter renouncing Rudolpho, the conditions upon which
the Count will release her father, which letter is to prefer the choice
of Wurm, and to be witnessed. The document is then taken to Rudolpho,
who, maddened, challenges Wurm; while the Count, to accentuate matters,
pretends that he is now willing for his son to marry Luisa, but that,
as she has betrayed him, he should show his revenge by marrying the
Duchess. All advanced tenor singers will recall the fine recitative,
"_Oh! fede negar potessi agli occhi miei!_" and aria, "_Quando le sere
al placido_," in which Rudolpho's anguish is expressed at this crisis
of the story. The third act introduces Luisa in the greatest despair,
praying for death as a relief to her grief. Here Rudolpho appears, and
learning from Luisa's own lips that she wrote the letter, puts poison
into a cup, drinks it himself, and offers it to Luisa, who takes a
draught. Knowing that her last hour is come, she reveals the plot, when
Rudolpho's cries of despair are so intense that Miller, villagers,
and Wurm rush to the scene. Suddenly Rudolpho stabs Wurm, and then
lays himself down to die by the side of Luisa. The whole is a shocking
story, but not more horrible and repulsive than the _Rigoletto_,
_Traviata_, and _Trovatore_ libretti.

Verdi finished the score, and leaving Paris, where the cholera had
broken out, he reached Naples in time to find the San Carlo house in a
state of bankruptcy. The production of, as well as the payment for, the
opera was delayed; but eventually, _Luisa Miller_ came out on the 8th
December 1849. Verdi was present at the first performance, and while
standing on the stage surrounded with friends, had a somewhat ominous
experience. A side scene suddenly fell, and would have crushed Verdi,
but for his presence of mind in throwing himself back. A superstitious
story attributes the accident, and the cold reception of the last act
of the opera, compared with the boisterous triumph of the others,
to the influence of an evil genius--_jettatore_--in the person of
one Capecelatro, who, evading vigilance, had gained admission to the
theatre and to the presence of the composer, just as he had succeeded
in doing when _Alzira_ was so coolly received.

It has to be observed that the Neapolitans are renowned for their
superstition, and that Capecelatro was credited with possessing the
evil eye.

Withal _Luisa Miller_ was a success at Naples, if not later on in
London and Paris. Madame Gazzaniga took the part, singing the music
superbly, and on all sides it was agreed that the composition was one
of Verdi's grandest efforts. Later opinions have somewhat confirmed
this, while not a few connoisseurs have regarded _Luisa Miller_ as the
most coherent and consistent of the composer's works, excepting always
his latest operas.

_Luisa Miller_ was another of the operas which Mr. Lumley produced
during his unfortunate reign at Her Majesty's Theatre. Here is the
account of its introduction:--

"On Tuesday the 8th June (1858) was given for the first time on the
Anglo-Italian boards, Verdi's opera of _Luisa Miller_, and both
Mademoiselle Piccolomini and Madame Alboni were included in the 'cast.'
Of this work some Italian critics had been accustomed to speak as the
_chef d'œuvre_ of this favourite composer. But the production of
_Luisa Miller_ did not greatly benefit the management. The 'Little
Lady' (Piccolomini) displayed all her attractive qualities as an
actress, and as an actress reaped her harvest of applause. But by
general accord, on the part of Verdi-ites, the opera was declared to be
the weakest of his many productions. It was considered to be wanting
in melody, a charge seldom brought against Signor Verdi. There were
no particular salient points to be looked forward to as the _grands
bouquets_ of Signor Verdi's musical fireworks, as is the case in most
of his other operas. The libretto, also, founded upon Schiller's
early tragedy of _Kabale und Liebe_, a subject, it might be thought,
highly favourable to lyrical working out, had lost so much of its true
dramatic metal in passing through the crucible of the Italian _poeta_,
that it had come out a mass of unattractive and unsightly ore. Passages
of interest and passion could not be altogether wanting with a subject
in which the dramatic instincts of the composer could not be utterly
silent; but the true element, both musically and dramatically speaking,
was evidently absent, at least to English minds. Signor Giuglini sang
the one pleasing _romanza_ to the delight of a crowded audience;
and Alboni poured forth her mellifluous notes in an interpolated
_cavatina_; but _Luisa Miller_ failed to win the suffrages of the
frequenters of Her Majesty's Theatre. It lingered, hoping for success
'against hope,' on the boards of Her Majesty's Theatre for a very few
nights, and then fled them to return no more."[31]

An able critic, writing of this feature of the 1858 season, says:--

"The only real novelty that Mr. Lumley ventured to mount and bring
forward was Verdi's _Luisa Miller_ ... the result of which was
unequivocal failure, for dull and mawkish as is the work itself,
Mademoiselle Piccolomini had not the slightest pretension to have been
thrust into the leading character, and Madame Alboni made nothing of
the small part of the Duchess Fredrica, although she evidently tried
to do so, by substituting a _cavatina_ for the original duet of the
opera. Giuglini alone was appreciated, the music being somewhat suited
to his style; but he began to manifest the bad taste of relying upon
long breaths, loud A's, and other meretricious devices, instead of
singing legitimately and sensibly. Beneventano, Vialetti, and Castelli,
who undertook the other parts, trenched so closely upon the grotesque,
that they produced amusement rather than pleasure. In spite of its
being said that _Luisa Miller_ had thoroughly succeeded, its immediate
withdrawal from the bills positively enough proved the contrary."[32]

_Luisa Miller_ found no favour in the eyes of the _Athenæum_ critic.

"There is little from first to last in the music to reconcile us to the
composer.... As regards the solo music, _Luisa Miller_ contains nothing
so good.... The heroine might be Gilda, Violetta, or Abigaille for any
touch that marks her life or her country.... The want of local colour,
however, might be overlooked (in consideration of the master's school
and country), were there any compensating beauty of melody. Everything
that is not trite in the score is unpleasant.... The songs are in the
known Verdi patterns, full of fever, empty of feeling.... The music
of _I Due Foscari_ was meagre and dismal enough, but the music of
_Luisa Miller_, so far as idea is concerned, seems yet more meagre and
dismal."[33]

In these and similar terms did Mr. Chorley dismiss _Luisa Miller_.
Nor was _The Times_ criticism more hopeful, since that summed up the
opera "as an uninterrupted series of commonplaces, pale, monotonous,
and dreary, which may fairly be symbolised as the sweepings of our
composer's study or the rinsings of his wine-bottles.... The music of
_Luisa Miller_ is not worth the consideration to which an ambitious
failure might be entitled."[34]

If Verdi studied his press notices at all attentively--Press Cutting
Agencies were not institutions of those days--he could have been under
no apprehension as to what two at least of the English journals thought
of his endeavours. Yet, here was the opera containing among other
beautiful music that really fine piece of declamatory song-writing,
the recitative and romanza "_Quando le sere al placido_." Any one
fortunate enough to have heard the late Gardoni sing this beautiful
song--neighbours in Duke Street, Portland Place, where Gardoni several
years back lodged in the same house with Pinsuti, often heard it--would
assuredly apply to it some better epithet than "wine-bottle rinsings"
or "sweepings." Thousands of pounds in royalties are to-day being paid
on maudlin, semi-religious, and other songs which, for sterling musical
worth and merit, are no more to be compared with this one song by Verdi
than a rush-light is to be likened to the illumining power of the
glorious mid-day orb.

Not even in his _Recollections_ was Mr. Chorley able to forget his
_bête noir_. Speaking of the 1858 season, he says: "Also there was
presented a third work, new to our Italian stage, Signor Verdi's _Luisa
Miller_.... It has seemed to me that, as one among Signor Verdi's
operas, _Luisa Miller_, taken on its own terms, of fire, faggot, and
rack, is the weakest of the weak. There are _staccato_ screams in it
enough to content any lover of shocking excitement; but the entire
texture of the music implies (I can but fancy) either a feeble mistake,
or else a want of power on the part of an artificer who, obviously (as
Signor Verdi does) demanding situation and passion and agony to kindle
the fire under his cauldron, has, also, only one alphabet, one grammar,
one dictionary, whatsoever the scene, whatsoever the country--one
_cantabile_, one spasmodic _bravura_, one feverish _crescendo_, as the
average tools, by pressure of which the stress on the public is to be
strained out."[35]

Feeble criticism, indeed, so far as the genius of penetration is
concerned, but powerful enough in all conscience in its egotism and
exuberance of etymology.

It was given on the 7th December 1852 at the Théâtre Italien in Paris,
when Mademoiselle Sophie Cruvelli (La Baronne Vigier) took the title
_rôle_, but neither Cruvelli, nor, a few weeks later, the admirable
Bosio, could give wings to the work. As recently as 1874 Madame Adelina
Patti achieved a genuine success with the part, albeit she was badly
supported by her colleagues in the cast. During the London Italian
Opera season of that year, Madame Patti, much to her credit, added this
work to her already extensive _répertoire_.

Two operas--one _Stiffelio_, produced unsuccessfully at Trieste on the
16th November 1850, the other, _Il Finto Stanislas_, belonging to the
same year--require mentioning only, before we pass to the period of
those successful operas which brought Verdi universal fame.

[Footnote 19: _Reminiscences of the Opera_, p. 180.]

[Footnote 20: _The Life and Works of Verdi_ (Pougin--Matthew), p. 92.]

[Footnote 21: _Reminiscences of the Opera_ (Lumley), p. 214.]

[Footnote 22: _Illustrated London News_, 18th March 1848.]

[Footnote 23: _Athenæum_, 18th March 1848.]

[Footnote 24: _The Times_, 15th March 1848.]

[Footnote 25: _Reminiscences of the Opera_, p. 192.]

[Footnote 26: _Musical Recollections of the Last Half-Century_, vol.
ii. p. 195.]

[Footnote 27: _Illustrated London News_, 24th July 1847.]

[Footnote 28: _Athenæum_, 24th July 1847.]

[Footnote 29: _The Times_, 23rd July 1847.]

[Footnote 30: It will be remembered that Michael William Balfe
eventually took Signor Costa's place at Her Majesty's Theatre.]

[Footnote 31: _Reminiscences of the Opera_ (Lumley), p. 442.]

[Footnote 32: _Musical Recollections of the Last Half-Century_, vol.
ii. p. 320.]

[Footnote 33: _Athenæum_, 12th June 1858.]

[Footnote 34: _The Times_, 14th June 1858.]

[Footnote 35: Chorley's _Musical Recollections_, vol. ii. p. 297.]



                              CHAPTER VI

             _RIGOLETTO_ TO _AÏDA_--SECOND PERIOD OPERAS

Turning-point in Verdi's career--The libretto of
   _Rigoletto_--Production of _Rigoletto_ in Venice, London, and
   Paris--Great success of the opera--_Athenæum_ and _The Times_ on
   _Rigoletto_--"_La Donna è mobile_"--A Second period style--_Il
   Trovatore_ written for Rome--The libretto--Its reception at the
   Apollo Theatre--The work produced at the Royal Italian Opera,
   Covent Garden--Its cast and Graziani's singing therein--Lightning
   study of the _Azucena rôle_--_Athenæum_ and _The Times_ on _Il
   Trovatore_--_La Traviata_--The libretto and argument--The first
   performance at Venice a _fiasco_--Judgment reversed--Brilliant
   success of the opera in London--Piccolomini's impersonation of
   Violetta--Mr. Lumley's testimony--The Press and _La
   Traviata_--_Athenæum_ and _The Times_ criticism of _La
   Traviata_--_Les Vêpres Siciliennes_--_Prima donna_ runs
   away--Reception of the opera in Paris and London--Verdi in
   Germany--_The Times_ criticism--_Simon Boccanegra_ a failure--_Un
   Ballo in Maschera_--Trouble with the authorities--Production and
   success of _Un Ballo in Maschera_--Its reception in London--_The
   Times_ on the opera--_La Forza del Destino_ unsuccessful.


We here reach a period in the composer's career where unmistakable
signs of a change in Verdi's musical manner present themselves. Verdi
was a born musician. So too, were Bellini and Donizetti, but Verdi, by
industry and study, has done immeasurably more for Italy's art than
these or any other of her sons. A musical progressivist, he has ever
been on the art march. Not content with writing opera after opera of
the normal Bellini stamp, we find him at this stage improving upon
his model, and engaging in the construction of a series of opera
compositions which, analysts declare, constitute a Second period in
Verdi's artistic development. The first of these works was _Rigoletto_.

Verdi had entered into an agreement with _impresario_ Lasina to write
another opera for the Fenice Theatre, and Piave had prepared a libretto
based upon Victor Hugo's drama, _Le Roi s'amuse_. Everybody knows the
tragedy, and that it was suppressed lest the cap should fit, because
the principal part of _François Premier_ showed a depraved libertine,
whose capers were not unreflected in Royalty. The libretto provoked the
Austrian supervision, and brought in the police. The original title of
the book was _La Maledizione_, but this was dropped. It closely follows
the French play, the locality and the personages only being changed.
There is the deformed jester or fool of the Court, who is prostrated
by a malediction from a father whom he has mocked, and who is punished
for his witticism by Gilda, his daughter, being made the victim of his
Sovereign. This unfortunate girl is then seen giving up her own life to
save that of her betrayer, the Duke having been entrapped into a lone
house to be assassinated by the jester's orders.

Eventually, all points being arranged, Verdi set to work upon
_Rigoletto, Buffone di Corte_, which was produced with signal success
on the 11th March 1851. That world-famed melody "_La Donna è mobile_"
made an instantaneous hit, and has been hummed and sung to death
in every quarter of the globe ever since. To make quite sure that
the public should not get wind of this tune before the night of the
performance, Verdi did not put it upon paper until within a few hours
of the time when Mirate, the tenor, had to sing it.

As soon as it could be arranged, the opera was introduced at London and
Paris, being brought forward at the Italian Opera, Covent Garden, for
the 1853 season, and at the Théâtre Italien in the French capital on
the 19th January 1857. _Rigoletto_ was a brilliant success in London;
indeed, of three operatic novelties which Mr. Gye produced in that
season, it was the only one that proved attractive or profitable.
On this occasion the cast was:--_Gilda_, Madame Bosio; _Duke of
Mantua_, Signor Mario; _Rigoletto_, Signor Ronconi; _Sparafucile_,
Signor Tagliafico; while subordinate characters were represented by
Mlle. Didiée (Magdalen), Madame Temple, Signor Polonini, and others.
Mario's singing was splendid, and the acting of Ronconi was greatly
admired. "Great as was the histrionic genius of Ronconi admitted to
be, his Rigoletto has combined displays of comedy and tragedy that
can only recall the well-known picture of Garrick between Thalia and
Melpomene. Let us instance the scene in the Ducal palace in the second
act" (wrote an eye-witness) "in which Rigoletto strives to smile with
the courtiers, whilst his heart is breaking at the abduction of his
child--an abduction in which he himself has been made, innocently, to
assist. The expression of Ronconi's face in this scene, one-half of the
face a court jester, the other half that of the bereaved father, can
never be forgotten."[36]

In Paris a French translation of _Rigoletto_ was equally well received.

The musical characteristics of _Rigoletto_ were immediately discerned
and discussed. The general drift of the criticism was that in
_Rigoletto_ melody was wanting, that there were no fine concerted
pieces, and that the opera possessed everything save living properties.
The truth was, Verdi was expressing himself in something of a new
language that had yet to be learned.

Here is what an impartial critic thought of _Rigoletto_ at the time of
its production:--

"We have never been the champions nor the detractors of Verdi, and
we recognise in _Rigoletto_ a higher order of beauty than struck us
even in _Ernani_ and the _Due Foscari_, and an abandonment, at the
same time, of his most palpable defects. _Rigoletto_ cannot be ranked,
however, as a masterpiece; it is full of plagiarisms and faults, and
yet abounds with the most captivating music."[37]

The following is what the _Athenæum_ had to say of _Rigoletto_, a work
which, by the bye, was performed at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent
Garden, as recently as last season, when it was received with well-nigh
unbounded applause and real pleasure:--"Such effect as _Rigoletto_
produces is produced not by its dramatic propriety of sound to sense.
There is hardly one phrase in the part of the Buffoon which might not
belong to Signor Verdi's Doge in _I Due Foscari_ or to his _Nabucco_.
The music of combination and dramatic action, again, is puerile and
queer--odd modulations being perpetually wrenched out with the vain
hope of disguising the intrinsic meagreness of the ideas, and flutes
being used for violins, or _vice versâ_, apparently not to charm
the listener but to make him stare. Thus, the opening ball scene,
accompanied throughout by orchestras on the stage, the abduction
_finale_, the scene between Rigoletto and the courtiers, and the storm
in the last act, are alike miserable in their meagre patchiness and
want of meaning.... Signor Verdi is less violent in his instrumentation
in _Rigoletto_ than he was in his earlier operas; but he has not here
arrived at the music of intellect and expression, which is French or
German, as distinguished from the music of melody, which is Italian....
The air of display for Gilda in the garden scene, called in the
published copies of the music a _Polacca_, though in common tempo, is
as ineffective a mixture of commonplace and eccentricity as it ever
fell to the lot of a _prima donna_ to deliver."[38]

_The Times_ spoke thus of _Rigoletto_:--"The imitations and plagiarisms
from other composers are frequent, while there is not a single
elaborate and well-conducted _finale_, or even _morceau l'ensemble_. In
aiming at simplicity, Signor Verdi has hit frivolity. In other operas
he has often, with a certain degree of success hidden poverty of idea
under a pompous display of instruments; but in the present, abandoning
that artifice, and relying upon the strength of his melodic invention,
he has triumphantly demonstrated that he has very few ideas that can
be pronounced original. In short, with one exception (_Luisa Miller_),
_Rigoletto_ is the most feeble opera of Signor Verdi with which we have
the advantage to be acquainted, the most uninspired, the barest, and
the most destitute of ingenious contrivance. To enter into an analysis
would be a loss of time and space."[39]

And yet, after forty years or more of musical progress, a crowded
fashionable house, to say nothing of the wisdom of the management,
will assemble to give its time, attention, and money to listen to an
opera which, if we are to believe these two sapient leading critics of
a past age, was scarcely worth the paper upon which it was written!
Both old and new journalism to-day appears to have everything to say
in favour of _Rigoletto_! Instead of the opera dying, it has proved,
we repeat, one of the most admired of Verdi's early works, and we who
are living the years of this closing nineteenth century can see what
a fitting connecting link _Rigoletto_ forms between Verdi's First and
Third period works. The composer bridges us quietly over from impulsive
musical youth to a ripe artistic fulness which, natural as it all
seems to us who can look back upon Verdi's gradual development towards
perfection of style, must have bewildered his closely scrutinising
contemporaries. No previous work of his had shown similar masterly
force and originality. Apart from the evergreen "_La Donna è mobile_"
air, such attractive numbers as the soprano romance, and the soprano,
tenor, and bass duos in the second act, are beauties of the opera that
will always tend to keep it on the stage; while no praise would be too
much to bestow upon the quartuor in the last act, a piece of concerted
music which competent judges are agreed would of itself be sufficient
to stamp Verdi as a composer of rare fancy and imagination.

Since its style and merit were maintained in several works that
followed it, this opera well lends itself as the starting-point of a
Second era in Verdi's career as a leading composer for the Italian
lyric stage.

_Rigoletto_ was the first of a series of fine examples of dramatic art,
which brought world-wide fame and ample profit to Verdi, lifting him,
at the same time, into the first rank of operatic composers. In the
face of its alleged defects--absence of melody and concerted pieces,
together with a subdued, restricted orchestration--the audiences
accepted it, the general feeling being that it stood unsurpassed by any
Italian opera. Every _habitué_ of the opera-house to-day is familiar
with the sparkling beauties of _Rigoletto_, and fittingly enough, the
opera finds a place in almost every season's programme. The strongest
proof of its merits, however, is the fact that performances of the
work, extending over a period of forty years, have neither diminished
its attractiveness nor prejudiced a new and rising generation against
either the book or the music. Several of Verdi's early operas have
weathered the test of time and fashion bravely, especially if we
remember the evanescent nature of opera generally; but not one, not the
_Trovatore_ among his early works, is more highly regarded by musical
people to-day than is _Rigoletto, the Court Jester_.

With the composer's next opera we meet Verdi the melodic universalist.

It was at the Apollo Theatre in Rome that the _Trovatore_ first saw
the light on the 19th January 1853. Cammarano the Italian poet found
subject in _El Trovador_, a brilliant drama by Guttierez, a talented
Spanish author of only nineteen summers. The story, a revoltingly
horrible one, is well known. A gipsy woman put to death by a nobleman
on a charge of witchcraft, has a daughter to whom she bequeaths the
task of avenging her death. The daughter steals the Count's younger
child, and brings him up as her own, instilling into his mind a
hatred of his own brother, whom he knows not to be such. The brothers
become rivals in love; the reputed son of the gipsy (who has risen
to distinction) being preferred by the object of their passion. The
quarrel becomes deadly; the younger brother falls into the hands of
the elder, who orders his execution. The gipsy witnesses the death of
her supposed son; and when the axe has fallen, turns exultingly to the
Count exclaiming, "My mother is avenged; you have murdered your own
brother!" The lady who is beloved by the rival brothers, unable to save
her lover's life, swallows poison. The epoch is the fifteenth century.

Undaunted by frailties of his _collaborateur_, the _maestro_ went to
work, and in a short time _Il Trovatore_ was clothed in musical garb.
What that harmonious garment proved the world well knows--too well, say
some who, like the late Mr. Babbage, mathematician and calculator, have
been almost driven to death by organ-grinders. Whatever was confused
and improbable in the book was amply atoned for by the music, for Verdi
set it to some of his most passionate-human melody and harmony.

The first representation was awaited with feverish excitement, akin to
the musical sensibilities of the Italian people. The day proved wet and
cold, but not sufficiently so to damp the ardour of the enthusiastic
Romans. At early morn the theatre doors were besieged, and as the
hour of the performance drew near the pitch of fervour was intense.
Eventually the crowd got into the theatre, packing it from floor to
ceiling with marvellous rapidity and dangerous discomfort. Then amid
alternate periods of strained attention and agitation, the opera was
performed. Each scene and situation brought down thunders of applause
until the very walls echoed with the shoutings. Outside, the people
took up the cry, and there arose such shouts of "Long live Verdi!"
"Verdi and Italy!" "Italy's greatest composer!" "Viva Verdi!" as could
be heard again inside the theatre.

The artists at this memorable performance were Signore Penco (Leonora)
and Goggi; and Signori Grossi (Manrico), Baucarde, Guicciardi, and
Balderi.

The spread of the _Trovatore_ music was electrical. Theatre after
theatre produced the work, so eagerly did subscribers and patrons
clamour. At Naples three houses were giving the opera at about the same
time.

It was at this time that Verdi was meeting with a determined opposition
from a brother craftsman from whom better treatment might reasonably
have been expected. "In Naples," states an eye-witness, "Mercadante
reigned supreme. He would not listen to the sound of Verdi's name.
He declared even _Rigoletto_ was bosh,--you know I was then singing
_Gilda_ at the Teatro Nuovo;--he had the Court and the highest society
for his patrons, and managed to set everybody against poor Verdi.
Things went so far that he organised a cabal against him at Court,
and when _Trovatore_--which by the way, after Rome, the people would
have--was brought out at San Carlo, Mercadante had so ingratiated
himself with the censor Lord Chamberlain, and I don't know who else,
that they only allowed two acts of _Trovatore_ to be sung, and there
was a perfect revolution in the town until the third and fourth acts
were accorded by the management. I was the first one to sing the full
score at little Teatro Nuovo. The subscribers who were three nights at
San Carlo were the other three nights at my theatre; and to my dying
day I shall never forget the success it had! Happily Teatro Nuovo was
the first in the field with the complete opera.... It is impossible to
conceive the tricks and cabals against Verdi put up by old Mercadante.
One would have thought that as he was old and nearing his grave, and
as his last opera at San Carlo had been a failure, he would have had
some consideration for the young and struggling artist; but, on the
contrary, he kept Verdi out of Naples as long as he could. The people
finally wouldn't stand it any longer; they weren't going to put up even
with Mercadante at his best when there was a fresh new composer taking
Italy by storm--when every Italian capital was singing his operas, and
Naples, according to all, the very seat of fine arts, the only city
deprived of hearing Verdi and acclaiming his works."[40]

Not only in Italy did the _Trovatore_ "take." It went the round of the
European capitals in an unprecedentedly short time, and nowhere was
it admired more than in that stronghold of contrapuntal prejudice,
Germany, where its alluring melodies proved simply irresistible.

In 1854 it was given at the Paris Théâtre Italien, and the following
year saw its production in London. The management of the Royal Italian
Opera, Covent Garden, brought it forward on Thursday, 11th May,
when it was received with warm applause, which increased with every
representation. On this occasion the principal parts were filled by
Madame Viardot[41] (Azucena), Mdlle. Jenny Ney (Leonora), Signor
Tamberlik (Manrico) and Signor Graziani (Conte di Luna), who did full
justice to Verdi's captivating music.

Referring to this remarkable performance, an experienced writer says:--

"The favourable impression Graziani had made in the _Ernani_ induced
the management to put him forward in another of Verdi's operas, _Il
Trovatore_, a work which has brought more money into theatrical
treasuries than any other production of modern times. If Graziani
had sung nothing else in this opera than the air '_Il balen del suo
sorriso_,' as the Conte di Luna, he would have permanently established
himself; yet whoever witnessed the clumsy manner in which he 'loafed'
down to the footlights as the symphony of this air was being played--as
he still does--could by no means have anticipated anything else than
a manifestation of the most positive vulgarity, instead of hearing
the beautiful voice and suave _cantabile_ with which he invested that
somewhat commonplace, yet not the less popular, invention. Mdlle. Ney
was the Leonora on this occasion, and was singing and acting with care,
according to the habit of German stage usage, but nothing more. The
event of the evening, however, was Madame Viardot's Azucena, the part
she had 'created' in Paris, and one of the most remarkable performances
of its time. The savage, credulous, restless Spanish gipsy, strong in
her instincts, but whose reason amounts to little beyond a few broken
ideas of revenge, was manifested in every word, look, and gesture.
Since Pasta and Rubini left the stage, nothing of nicer vocal finish,
and nothing in dramatic utterance more true and beautiful than her
delivery of the _andantino_, '_Si la stanchezza_,' had ever been
listened to. The Royal Italian Opera had never, indeed, heard such
singing as hers in such music, which lay thoroughly within her compass,
the middle portion of which had gained both body and sweetness.
Tamberlik undertook the part of the Trovatore, and gained ground with
his audience as the opera proceeded; but his magnificent voice gave
unwelcome evidence of wear and tear in its diminished resonance, when
he desired to use it to advantage in the most exacting passages."[42]

It will be allowed, we suspect, that no dramatic-lyric work is so
well known, or has enjoyed a more amazing popularity than has Verdi's
opera of _The Troubadour_. Whatever may be its merits and demerits,
it is unquestionably a work which has delighted a generation fast
passing away; while it bids fair to afford equal pleasure to a new
and rising one, judging by the hearty reception given to the opera
at recent performances. For long and long have ominous words been
uttered predicting the decline and death of _Il Trovatore_, with all
Italian opera of its kin. But behold it is alive and well! Thanks to
the efforts of "apostles" of music like Hullah and others, musical
education has gone on apace since _Il Trovatore_ first appeared here;
but with all this, and all the classicism which it has been fashionable
to ape in music, there yet remains something in Verdi's opera that
still attracts, not merely the "mob," but educated people. This
suggests merit of some kind. What said critics forty years ago:--

"By the choice of his subjects," says the _Athenæum_, "we sometimes can
gauge a composer, as well as by his melodies. Bellini may have known
even less of the scientific processes of composition than Signor Verdi
(whom report declares to be a thoughtful, cultivated gentleman, as
anxious according to his measure of light for dramatic reality in opera
as Herr Wagner himself), nevertheless Bellini contrived to appropriate
two of the best Italian books ever written, those of _Norma_ and _La
Sonnambula_.... But in _Il Trovatore_, as throughout every opera by
the master with which we are acquainted, these gleams of purpose and
intelligence are relieved and contrasted against a general ground of
commonplace, than which little more monotonous in its mannerism can
be conceived. The dash which may be found in the _cabaletta_ '_Ditale
amor_' with its _staccati_ and its sighs and sobbings, and its snatch
at high notes by way of brilliancy, is as old as _Ernani_. The
_cantabile_ for the tenor, in 3/4 time, and with a plurality of flats
for key, has been written for tenor and baritone one hundred times, if
once, by Donizetti. The movement of the _stretto_ to '_Cruda Sorte_'
in Signor Rossini's _Ricciardo e Zoraide_, the employment of principal
voices in unison, whether it be placed or misplaced, are anew resorted
to here, with a coolness nothing short of curious, in one who believes
that he has a mission and professes to write a 'system.'"[43]

_The Times_ notice of _Il Trovatore_ was more appreciative than
usual. There was a desire to find something good in the musician, and
although the criticism hardly conveys the idea that the work referred
to would ever attain the extraordinary popularity which it has done, a
popularity extending to this hour, yet it must, in justice, be noted
that certain favourable points in the work did appeal to, and were duly
chronicled by the critic. Not that we can admit that the notice was
one to induce the composer to feel at ease. A spirit of antagonism to
Italian art still reigns, and throughout it seems to ring out the old
familiar theme, that no good thing could come out of Italy. Nor could
it have greatly served Verdi's art-progress.

"_Il Trovatore_," to quote a few of its strains, "though it exhibits
Signor Verdi in his best holiday attire, is hardly destined to raise
him in the estimation of real judges.... The kind, and degree of merit,
the direct influence of his music, and its chance of outliving an
ephemeral reputation are questions apart.... He is neither a Rossini,
nor an Auber, nor a Meyerbeer; far from it; but he is not, as some
would insist, a nonentity, almost as far indeed from that as from the
other.... The weaker part of the first act" (we are told) "is the
trio, where the Count (Signor Graziani) surprises the troubadour in
the presence of Leonora, which is rambling and incoherent, and after
all but an apology for a trio, since the tenor and soprano are in
unison almost throughout. The last movement is vulgar and commonplace,
ill-written for the voices, and extremely noisy."[44]

This is what the _Illustrated London News_ thought of _Il Trovatore_:--

"The production of _Il Trovatore_ at the Royal Italian Opera has
been attended with complete success.... On its first performance (on
Thursday) it was received with warm applause, and on the Saturday and
Tuesday following its reception was more and more enthusiastic. It
is evident that the _Trovatore_ will be a permanent addition to the
_répertoire_ of the theatre. We expected this. Verdi's latest opera
had not only been received with acclamations in his own country; it
had achieved triumphs in the principal theatres of Germany; and, last
of all, in Paris; and it was not likely that London would reverse
the judgment pronounced by the most authoritative tribunals of the
Continent. Verdi has long been popular as a dramatic composer; and
his popularity has been literal--gained by the voice of the multitude
in opposition to that of criticism. While writers learned in musical
lore have been labouring to prove that Verdi is a shallow pretender,
his operas have been giving delight to thousands in every part of
Europe."[45]

Wherever performed, in Italy, France, Germany, Russia, or England, the
tale has always been the same respecting the _Trovatore_. It has been
truly enjoyed by the public who have flocked to hear it; and those
pieces which are favourites now were favourites from the first. It did
not pretend to be a classic, but times and oft it has done the trick
for managers in filling their coffers; and after all, any legitimate
work which accomplishes this for many years together must not be
lightly regarded. Even to-day, forty years and more after its first
production, _Il Trovatore_ when well presented never fails to make a
deep impression upon audiences. In the 1895 season it was given (May
18) at the Covent Garden Opera with Signor Tamagno in the title-role,
when the entire opera was listened to with breathless attention. The
enthusiasm was unbounded, and the favourite old work roused as much
excitement as if it had been a brand new opera.

_La Traviata_, a name familiar almost as the _Trovatore_, was the title
of the composer's next opera. The _maestro_ had witnessed younger
Dumas' _La Dame aux Camelias_, that none too delicate play, which, in
its day, startled even the Parisians, and he suggested the work to
Piave the librettist as an opera book. _The Traviata_ was to satisfy
an engagement with the direction of the Fenice Theatre, and by working
double tides, _i.e._ during the while he was composing _Il Trovatore_,
Verdi had the score ready for production on the 6th March 1855, some
ten weeks after the _Trovatore_ "first night."

Opera-goers are familiar with the pathetic story and the sorrows of
the erring, interesting heroine. La Traviata, _i.e._ the outcast or
lost one, is a youthful beauty and reigning favourite, who gives a
splendid entertainment at her house. Among the gay company is a young
gentleman, Alfredo by name, who really loves her, and who inspires her
with a similar attachment. Actuated by a pure and mutual passion, they
retire to the country, where they live together in happy seclusion. One
day, in Alfredo's absence, Violetta receives a visit from a venerable
old gentleman, who announces himself as the father of her lover.
He represents to her the ruinous consequences of his son's present
course of life, and urges her to save him, by consenting to leave him.
Resolving to sacrifice her own happiness for the sake of his welfare,
she departs on the instant for Paris, leaving him in the belief that
she is faithless, and has forsaken him for another. She returns to her
former life, and afterwards meets her lost lover at a party given by
one of her friends. Alfredo is furious at the sight of her, insults her
grossly, challenges the man whom he considers his successful rival, and
the poor girl is carried fainting from the apartment. Her heart is now
broken, and nothing remains for her but to die. In the last scene, she
is in her bedchamber, extremely weak, but sustained by hope, for her
lover's father moved by her sufferings has written to say that he will
bring his son to her. They arrive. The lover flies to her and for a
moment there is rapture; but the shock is fatal. The dying flame goes
out, and she dies of joy in his arms.

The success of _Il Trovatore_ had brought Verdi immense popularity
throughout Europe. Great things therefore were expected at this
performance of _La Traviata_. Signora Donatelli was the Violetta,
Signori Graziani and Varesi filling the parts of the lover and the
father respectively. The work was a failure!

"_La Traviata_ last night was a _fiasco_. Am I to blame, or the
singers? Time will prove," wrote Verdi to friend Muzio. The _fiasco_
might have been avoided had all the contributing circumstances been as
evident as the astonishing disparity that existed between the imaginary
Violetta and the lady filling that _rôle_, who to a commanding stature
added a splendid physique with _embonpoint_, weighing some twelve
stone, which made it madness to imagine that the ravages of a galloping
consumption had left her but a few short hours to live! Of course, the
house burst into a roar, and went off into an uncontrollable fit of
laughter that drove everybody off the stage.

Verdi was distracted, but felt confident that this judgment could be
reversed. He made alterations, substituted Louis XIII. costumes for
"swallow-tail and white choker" dress, and with a new cast, including
a Violetta that could be encompassed, the work was given at the San
Beneditto Theatre. The _éclat_ was immense, _La Traviata_ that had
been hissed and hooted was acclaimed to the skies. Speedily it spread
over Italy, and in the following year was brought to London. The
irresistibly affecting story--one which the sternest moralist could
barely listen to unmoved--was chosen by Mlle. Piccolomini for her
London _début_ in the 1856 season. To quote Mr. Lumley's own words:--

"Mlle. Piccolomini, a young Italian lady of high lineage, made her
curtsey on the boards of Her Majesty's Theatre on Saturday the 24th
May in Verdi's opera _La Traviata_, since become so famous and (it
may be said at once, in spite of all that may be stated hereafter) so
great a favourite, but produced for the first time on that occasion on
the Anglo-Italian boards. The enthusiasm she created was immense. It
spread like wildfire. Once more frantic crowds struggled in the lobbies
of the theatre, once more dresses were torn and hats crushed in the
conflict, once more a mania possessed the public. Marietta Piccolomini
became the 'rage.' From the moment of her _début_ the fortunes of the
theatre were secured for the season."[46] "Opera and singer both were
new," continues Mr. Lumley. "Curiosity and interest were excited both
for the one and the other. There was an overflowing house. As through
the coming season, so through her first night was the charming young
lady's success unquestionable. After a warm reception, such as English
audiences are wont to give by way of welcome to a meritorious stranger,
Mlle. Piccolomini was to be heard and judged, and (what, as it turned
out, was more to the purpose), she was to be seen. Applause followed
her opening efforts. The charm of manner had begun to work. The second
act produced at its conclusion a burst of genuine enthusiasm. At the
end of the opera it was a frenzy. The whole house rose to congratulate
the singer when recalled. The charm was complete. The vivacity of
acting (especially in the death-scene of the _finale_) had worked
their spell. Marietta Piccolomini was adopted at once as the pet (and
afterwards how much petted!) child of Her Majesty's Theatre.

"Verdi's music now shared the same fate as its fortunate exponent.
It pleased, it was run after, it became one of the most popular
compositions of the time. It is true that musical 'purists' cavilled
and criticised severely; that anti-Verdists denounced it with all
the epithets of their stereotyped vocabulary as 'trashy, flimsy, and
meretricious'; but, in spite of opposition and of bigotry, it not
only attracted (perhaps even more than any other of Verdi's operas)
countless crowds when the favourite 'charming little Piccolomini'
was its exponent, but achieved a marked and lasting popularity at
other theatres, as well as in every music hall throughout the land.
Notwithstanding the accusation that the '_Traviata_ was weak and
commonplace,' the 'catching' melody and, above all, the dramatic force
and expression of a composer whose principal merit consisted in the
peculiarity that he really was dramatic, gained upon the masses. It
attained considerable popularity, moreover, in spite of a dangerous and
equivocal subject; one which was denounced from the pulpit, denounced
by mighty authority in the press, denounced even at one time by popular
sentiment itself."[47]

Quite a contrast to the state of things when the work was howled at by
the merry Venetians!

On the night of its first performance in this country, the _caste_
included, besides Mlle. Piccolomini, Signori Calzolari and Beneventano,
who filled the parts of the lover and father respectively.

A critic, one by no means usually ill-disposed towards Verdi, wrote of
the performance as follows:--

"A new production from the prolific pen of _Maestro_ Verdi is a thing
to which we are pretty well accustomed, and it happens that the new
production in question, _La Traviata_, is the weakest, as it is the
last, of his numerous progeny. It has pretty tunes, for every Italian
has more or less the gift of melody; but even the tunes are trite and
common, bespeaking an exhausted invention, while there are no vestiges
of the constructed skill, none of the masterly pieces of concerted
music, which we find in the _Trovatore_ or in _Rigoletto_."[48]

A section of the English press made a dead set against the opera, but
the test of time has given the lie to detractors. Despite the heroine's
damaged reputation, the music has proved sufficiently good, lasting,
and attractive to keep the opera on the English boards, not to mention
Continental theatres, for full forty years. The "highly immoral" story
did not prove destructive to England's youth and age. The British
character survived it!

When _La Traviata_ was ready to be played before the British public,
there was a great outburst of moral indignation. Mr. Lumley gives
his version of the affair: "Permission was in vain demanded of the
Lord Chamberlain to allow adaptations of the drama to appear upon the
English stage. That this prohibition should have been enforced on a
stage where _George Barnwell_, and more especially _Jane Shore_ (the
heroine of which old tragedy is also a sympathetic Traviata, who dies
a miserable death), are upheld as 'fine old legitimate' plays, and
were once produced on the chief assemblage of the youth of the age at
Christmastide, did not appear very consistent or even logical; and
the _Traviata_ appeared. And a considerable surprise (in spite of all
previous minor 'grumblings') fell upon the public when it found its
favourite opera morally crushed to the earth by the mighty thunder of
the press. The 'foul and hideous horrors' of the _Traviata_ were held
up as proper objects for 'deep and unmitigated censure' in the leading
journal. One clap of thunder followed on the other. In a long letter
I published an elaborate defence of my opera against the accusation
of its blatant 'immorality.' This letter appeared duly in the columns
of _The Times_, as an appendix to a still more crushing denunciation.
Minor journals flashed their own smaller lightnings in sympathetic
response to this storm from the 'Thunderer.' But the public was not
to be lectured out of its treat. It would not consider its morality
endangered. It still flocked to Verdi's opera, and the fascinating
Piccolomini."[49]

_The Times_ easily disposed of Verdi's share in the work. "The book,"
the criticism runs, "is of far more consequence than the music,
which, except so far as it affords a vehicle for the utterance of
the dialogue, is of no value whatever, and, moreover, because it is
essentially as a dramatic vocalist that the brilliant success of Mlle.
Piccolomini was achieved.... For the present, it will be sufficient to
treat _La Traviata_ as a play set to music. To Dumas fils, who invented
the situations, and Mlle. Piccolomini, who delineated the emotions of
the principal character, belong the honours of a triumph with which the
composer has as little to do as possible."[50]

The _Athenæum_ lost no time in "going for" Verdi over _La Traviata_.
The first process was an examination of the "arranged score of Signor
Verdi's setting of the _Dame aux Camelias_," whereupon the critic was
in a position to say: "It seems written in the composer's later manner,
grouping with his _Rigoletto_ and _Trovatore_, without being equal to
the latter opera; to demand from its heroine a less extensive soprano
voice than Signor Verdi usually demands; to contain in the _finale_ to
its second act a good specimen of those pompous slow movements in which
the newer Italian _maestro_ has wrought out a pattern indicated by
Donizetti; also throughout an unusual proportion of music in triple, or
waltz _tempo_.... The masquerade music is _fade_ and trivial.... There
is some of Signor Verdi's effective instrumentation in the opening of
the final _terzetto_. All these good points summed up, the new opera,
as a whole, is poor and pale--consumptive music, which can only be
relished in the absence of some healthier novelty."[51]

Subsequently, when the Lord Chamberlain of the period came down upon
_La Traviata_ on account of its questionable story, we read: "Neither
Signor Verdi's music (which is Signor Verdi's poorest) nor Mlle.
Piccolomini's singing (which every one concedes is on a very small
scale) have made the fame and the _furore_ of the opera, and the
lady.... The music of _La Traviata_ is trashy; the young Italian lady
cannot do justice to the music, such as it is. Hence it follows that
the opera and the lady can only establish themselves in proportion as
Londoners rejoice in a prurient story prettily acted ... granted that
_La Traviata_ at her Majesty's Theatre has been the poorest music,
poorly sung, which has been allowed to pass for the sake of its 'dear
improper story,'" etc.[52]

Whatever the story, whatever the music of _La Traviata_ it still lives
as an opera, and is among the best of its class. This is due again,
we believe, to the quality of the music, not to the nature of the
story, for surely Londoners did not, forty years back,--nor would they
now--betake themselves with their wives and daughters to the theatre
to enjoy a lustful, itching story. The _Traviata_ contains much of
that warm, emotional, melodic profuseness which the public likes, and
which it demands, when it throws off its working garb to take a little
pleasure, sadly as, we are told, it takes this. The popular nature of
the music, its freedom from technical and theatrical perplexity, which
the public at large is glad to be without, its ever-changing colour,
variety and expression--all this contributes to the vitality of _La
Traviata_. Has it been, too, the sensuous nature of the story which has
led so many nervous _débutantes_, highly attuned in temperament, to
select the _rôle_ to win an artistic fame in, perhaps, the highest, as
it is the most difficult of all art pursuits? We believe not.

Poor _Traviata_! Troubles did not end with Mr. Chorley, for three years
after that gentleman's decease we read:--

"How many Traviatas of how many countries have died on the lyric stage
since the lugubrious and equivocal three-act opera was produced at
Venice in March 1853?... It would be a curious calculation to count the
number of _prime donne_ who have taken to this disagreeable part....
A nice discussion as to the degree of sauciness or of bashfulness
with which the vocalists who enact the Traviata should invest the
consumptive lady, who coughs _pianissimo_ and sings _fortissimo_ in her
death-scene."[53]

_Les Vêpres Siciliennes_ was produced at the Grand Opéra, Paris, on
the 13th June 1855; so that this composition, with the _Trovatore_ and
_La Traviata_, must have been occupying Verdi's mind at one and the
same period. This was Verdi's first work written expressly for the
French stage, and it was the more strange, therefore, to find him, an
Italian composer, choosing as a subject the massacre of the French by
the Sicilians; yet Verdi could scarcely refuse Scribe's story of the
wholesale slaughter of 1282.

An amusing incident delayed the production of the work, for Mlle.
Sophie Cruvelli, for some unexplained reason, ran away and could not be
found. When at last she was traced, it was to the Strasburg theatre,
where the runaway was captured and quietly escorted to Paris. A _warm_
reception awaited her; but it so happened that her first words on her
_rentrée_ were those of Valentine in _Les Huguenots_: "Tell me the
result of your daring journey,"--an _à propos_ which fairly defeated
those who were going to hiss and hoot! They laughed heartily and
cheered instead, reflecting over some fresh announcement of _Les Vêpres
Siciliennes_. At length this came. Month after month had been spent in
rehearsals, but at last all was ready. The reception given to the opera
was of the most enthusiastic description, Mlle. Cruvelli receiving a
perfect storm of applause for her efforts in the representation. Other
artists in the cast were Mlle. Saunier and Messieurs Gueymard, Boulo,
Bonnehée, Obin, and Coulon.

_I Vespri Siciliani_--to give the opera its Italian title--pleased the
French immensely; but the Italians cared not greatly for its music,
even when adapted to a new poem entitled _Giovanna di Guzman_.

In the year 1859 it was brought to London, and presented at Drury Lane
Theatre (27th July), being mounted with great care and creditable
splendour. The principal artists, who performed with great effect,
were Madame Titiens and Signori Mongini and Fagotti, and at the time
the opera was adjudged by the _dilettanti_ one of the happiest efforts
of its composer; although, as events have proved, the later English
judgment has not set a particularly high value upon this work.

Writing for the Parisian stage, Verdi appears to have deemed it
necessary to copy the grandiose style of the Grand Opéra, to which
he sacrificed that vein of sweet, natural, Italian melody which had
won him his success. "Several _morceaux_," wrote a critic of this
London introduction, "were much applauded, but the performance went
off heavily as a whole; and we hardly think that those who sat it out
will feel much tempted to do so again. Five acts of a ponderous French
_tragédie lyrique_ are generally too much for English patience, unless
sweeping measures of curtailment are resorted to; and this might be
very advantageously done in the case of the _Vêpres Siciliennes_."[54]

One who was present thus writes of the circumstances: "But one novelty
was given--_Les Vêpres Siciliennes_--which I had heard four years
previously at the Grand Opéra, Paris, with Mlle. Cruvelli as the
heroine. It failed here, as elsewhere, to maintain the reputation
which Verdi had won by his _Trovatore_, _Traviata_, and one or two
other works of minor importance. In the absence of Mlle. Cruvelli, who
had retired from the stage, Mlle. Titiens undertook the part of the
heroine; but although she laboured conscientiously to make something of
it, it completely beat her, and she has been wise enough never again to
waste her powers upon crudities that betray nothing else than leanness
and want of resource by reason of their noise and eccentricity."[55]

_The Times_ was good enough to allow next day that the work was
produced "with incontestable success." In criticising the music
subsequently, _The Times'_ critic said: "Though the piece of itself, in
spite of its melodramatic and spectacular character, appears somewhat
heavy and spun out, it is enriched with many of Signor Verdi's happiest
thoughts.... In short, it may reasonably be concluded that the _Vespri
Siciliani_ will maintain its place amongst the best operas of its
composer."[56]

Verdi, perhaps, made obeisance for such appreciation from _The Times'_
critic, who from the first, it should in fairness be remarked, had
spoken less disparagingly of Verdi's prospects as a musician than
had the _Athenæum_ critic. The prediction, however, that _I Vespri
Siciliani_ would maintain its place among the best operas of its
composer, was singularly unfortunate as a piece of critical forecast,
inasmuch as it has been sadly falsified. The reasons for this need not
be discussed; suffice it to say that thousands who know and delight in
the _Trovatore_, _La Traviata_, and _Rigoletto_ music, have not heard
the _Sicilian Vespers_. Thousands more could not even distinguish the
opera by its name.

The score that followed _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_ was _Simon
Boccanegra_. The management of the Fenice theatre sought another work
from the first Italian master of the day, and _Simon Boccanegra_ was
the consequence. Once more the libretto was by Piave. This opera,
produced on the 12th March 1857, proved a failure, a result that was
attributed partly to the unsuitability of the leading singers, and
partly to the feeble book. Later on, an attempt was made by Boito and
Verdi to recast it; but neither Milan nor Paris would lend ears to the
opera. Yet the following year it was given at Naples with enthusiasm.
"Its first performance took place," wrote a critic, "on the 28th
November 1858, and was crowned with the most complete success. The
audience was densely crowded, and so brimful of enthusiasm that the
_maestro_ was called for seventeen times in course of the evening."[57]
One of its best vocal numbers is the scena, "_Sento avvampar
nell'anima_," with the aria, "_Cielo pietoso, rendila_," a thoroughly
characteristic Verdinian song, and one which might well be found in
every tenor vocalist's _répertoire_.

Let it not be thought that Verdi was waning. Only a few months elapsed,
and the _maestro_ was ready with a work, _Un Ballo in Maschera_, which
was to prove another triumph.

The original title was _Gustave III._, but the police, watchful of
Verdi, and freshened by the Orsini attempt upon Napoleon III.'s life,
positively refused to permit an assassination scene to be played.
Verdi was furious, and declined to adapt his music to other words,
whereupon the management of the San Carlo Theatre at Naples (who had
originally contracted for this work) sued Verdi for 200,000 francs
damages. Soon the public learned the news. Then was there something
resembling a revolution; thousands of excited Neapolitans followed the
musician wherever he went, shouting "_Viva Verdi!_" So heated did the
feeling grow, steeped as it was with virulent political animosity, that
the situation became dangerous, and eventually the authorities were
glad to allow Verdi to depart "out of their coasts" with his opera
under his arm. It next turned up at Rome. Jacovacci, the _impresario_
of the Teatro Apollo, wanted a novelty, and hearing of the squabble
at Naples, sought Verdi and offered to take the opera. The official
element insisted upon _some_ alteration, but finally the opera was
produced on 17th February 1859, and met with a splendid reception, once
more sending Verdi's name and tunes over all Europe. The artists were,
Mesdames Julienne Dejeau, Scotti, and Sbriscia, with Signori Fraschini
and Giraldoni, but Verdi was not satisfied with their interpretation of
his score.

On the 15th June 1861, _Un Ballo in Maschera_ was produced at the Royal
Opera, Lyceum, and met with an enthusiastic reception. The subject
is the same as that of Auber's celebrated opera _Gustavus III._--the
assassination of the King of Sweden at a masked ball. Undoubtedly it
is one of the best of Verdi's Second period operas. The audience were
delighted with the music, and all good judges perceived that the work
was in every sense a grand opera.

_Un Ballo in Maschera_, when produced for the first time in England,
brought _The Times_ again to the fore. "It presents enough," the review
ran, "to show his (Verdi's) talent still ripening, and his inventive
faculty in its prime; but it cannot be regarded as 'his _Guillaume
Tell_,' _Rigoletto_ being out of all comparison a better work, while
_Il Trovatore_ and _La Traviata_ (to say nothing of those earlier
compositions _Nabucco_ and _Ernani_) contain isolated passages of
marked superiority.... Unquestionable as are the merits of his score,
piece after piece demonstrates his musical inferiority to Auber.... To
describe the opera scene after scene would be a work of supererogation.
Its pretensions as a whole are not of a sort to call for technical
analysis, or even to bear a very close scrutiny; while the beauties by
which it is enriched (and they are frequent) _se déroulent_, as the
French say, so easily, reveal themselves with such complacency, start
out from the canvas, in short, in such bold relief and endowed with
so marked an individuality, that they render themselves familiar at a
glance, and put that into shade which, after all, is scarcely worth
bringing to light--we mean the general framework in which they are
set. Those pieces which are not the most likely to become popular, but
which in the majority of instances are also, from a musical point of
view, decidedly the best, may be summed up in a 'catalogue' not over
_raisonnée_."[58]

This criticism, unmarked though it be by any evident sympathy with
Verdi's muse, might pass as a somewhat favourable estimate of an effort
of Verdi's. But it is illogical. Upon reference to what appeared in
_The Times_ eight years before, respecting _Rigoletto_, we fail to
trace a good word. "A very few (words) will suffice to recall its
beauties. Its faults we have not space to describe. The continental
critics have informed us that _Rigoletto_ presented a transformation in
Signor Verdi's style as complete as that of Beethoven when the Second
Symphony was succeeded by the _Eroica_. A very attentive hearing,
however, left us convinced that Signor Verdi's style in _Rigoletto_
was much the same as in his other operas. There is certainly no
difference.... Verdi is as essentially Verdi as in _Nabucco_ and
_Ernani_, with the proviso that in _Nabucco_ and _Ernani_ there are
stirring tunes and flowing melodies which are nowhere to be met with in
_Rigoletto_."[59]

Such language, and that which appears on page 110 is plain,
unmistakable, emphatic. How, then, shall we read the line of
comparative comment upon _Un Ballo in Maschera_--"_Rigoletto_ being out
of all comparison a better work"?

One more opera, and we must close this chapter. This was _La Forza del
Destino_, the libretto of which by Piave was borrowed from a Spanish
drama entitled _Don Alvar_. The work was a commission from the Imperial
Theatre of St. Petersburg, and was produced there on the 10th November
1862. It was only a _succés d'estime_, the Court of Russia and the
Muscovite populace not being greatly moved by it. Yet it was well
rendered by Mesdames Barbot and Nautier-Didiée, with Signori Tamberlik,
Graziani, Debassini, and Angelini. Precisely the same fate that
attended the work in the Russian capital befel it at La Scala, Milan,
in 1869, as well as at the Paris Théâtre Italien seven years later.

There was not a little that was restless and novel in _La Forza del
Destino_, which probably accounts for its cool reception from those
who were ready enough to welcome another of the old and approved Verdi
operas. That change of style which was, later on, to show itself so
unmistakably in _Aïda_, _Otello_, and _Falstaff_ was beginning to
possess the composer's mind. Sufficient of the new manner oozed out
in _La Forza del Destino_ for critics and analysts now to point to
that opera as the work in which Verdi's Third style first begins to
be traceable, and it can scarcely be surprising that an unprepared
public failed to be impressed with the first hintings at a new style
which had yet to be placed before the musical world in a matured and
comprehendable state.

With this work, Verdi appeared to bid farewell for ever to the operatic
stage; but, as all the world knows, a long artistic silence meant
merely a retirement for the gathering up of resources that were to
burst forth and bring Verdi into a perfect blaze of popularity.

[Footnote 36: _Illustrated London News_, 21st May 1853.]

[Footnote 37: _Illustrated London News_, 21st May 1853.]

[Footnote 38: _Athenæum_, 21st May 1853.]

[Footnote 39: _The Times_, 16th May 1853.]

[Footnote 40: _Verdi: Milan and "Othello"_ (Roosevelt), p. 49.]

[Footnote 41: _Apropos_ of this distinguished cantatrice, sister
to the immortal Malibran, an interesting narrative is related in
connection with the first production of _Il Trovatore_ in Paris, where,
by the way, it soon had no less than one hundred representations.
Verdi himself has told the tale. "The morning arriving for the first
performance, Madame Alboni announced that she was ill, and the opera
could not be given that night. What was to be done? Every one was
waiting; every seat was sold. I was in despair. Happily, I thought of
Madame Viardot. I said to myself, 'She is the only woman in the world
who, at a moment's notice, can take the part, if she will only consent
to do it.'

"I tore off to her house. It was early in the morning. 'Mon cher,' she
said, 'what on earth has brought you at this hour?'

"I hastily told her the cause. 'Alboni is ill.'

"'But what can I do?' she said.

"'You must sing it,' I cried.

"She interrupted, 'I have been so busy, I haven't even seen the music;
I haven't looked at it.'

"'There it is,' I said, producing a roll. 'It is very easy; it will
be nothing to you.' So, laughing and chatting, and protesting that
she couldn't, I sat down to the piano. We ran the music of Azucena
over from beginning to end two or three times. In the afternoon we had
another rehearsal, and that evening she sang the part with overwhelming
success.

"'That is what we call a quick study,' said Verdi, laughing, 'to
learn such a _rôle_ in the space of eight hours, dress it, and go on
the stage and sing it; but then, you must remember there is only one
Pauline Viardot in all this world'" (_Verdi: Milan and "Othello"_
(Roosevelt), p. 49).]

[Footnote 42: _Musical Recollections of the Last Half-Century_, vol.
ii. p. 280.]

[Footnote 43: _Athenæum_, 12th May 1855.]

[Footnote 44: _The Times_, 14th May 1855.]

[Footnote 45: 19th May 1855.]

[Footnote 46: _Reminiscences of the Opera_ (Lumley), p. 375.]

[Footnote 47: _Reminiscences of the Opera_ (Lumley), p. 377.]

[Footnote 48: _Illustrated London News_, 31st May 1856.]

[Footnote 49: _Reminiscences of the Opera_ (Lumley), p. 379.]

[Footnote 50: _The Times_, 26th May 1856.]

[Footnote 51: _Athenæum_, 3rd May 1856.]

[Footnote 52: _Athenæum_, 16th August 1856.]

[Footnote 53: _Athenæum_, 9th May 1874.]

[Footnote 54: _Illustrated London News_, 30th July 1859.]

[Footnote 55: _Musical Recollections of the Last Half-Century_, vol.
ii. p. 325.]

[Footnote 56: _The Times_, 1st August 1859.]

[Footnote 57: _Illustrated London News_, 11th December 1858.]

[Footnote 58: _The Times_, 17th June 1861.]

[Footnote 59: _Ibid._, 16th May 1853.]



                             CHAPTER VII

                _REQUIEM_ MASS AND OTHER COMPOSITIONS

Verdi as a sacred music composer--Share in the "Rossini" Mass--Failure
   of a patchwork effort--_Missa da Requiem_ produced--Splendid
   reception--Performed at the Royal Albert Hall--Structure of the
   work--Von Bülow's opinion--Divided opinions on its style and
   merit--Its character--Modern Italian Church style--Northern
   _versus_ Southern Church music--Verdi's early compositions--E minor
   Quartet for Strings--_L'Inno delle Nazioni_--Its performance at
   Her Majesty's Theatre--Verdi's slender share in orchestral
   music--National temperament involved--Thematic method inconsistent
   with Italian national life.


Verdi must not be overlooked as a writer of sacred music. Hundreds
of composers have contributed more freely than he has to the store
of ecclesiastical music, and although strict Church musicians might
contend that, from many points of view, any consideration of Verdi as
a sacred composer would be unnecessary, yet, withal, there is ample
reason for considering and comparing the religious, as distinct from
the secular, musician in Verdi.

Like his great compatriot Rossini, who, towards the close of his
career, composed a _Stabat Mater_ that has provoked, perhaps, more
criticism than any other piece of Church music, Verdi has signalled his
later years with a sacred composition which has also been the subject
of much discussion.

In order to do honour to Rossini, whose death was being deplored, some
of Italy's sons conceived the notion of a grand Mass to be performed
once every hundred years, on the centenary of Rossini's death, and
nowhere else save at the Cathedral of Bologna. There was, at least,
the charm of novelty in such an idea, and considering the period of
time that was to elapse between the performances, the prospect of the
music ever becoming hackneyed was certainly remote. But the greatest
difficulty, the serious patchwork venture of such a mixed composition,
does not appear to have entered the heads of the promoters. Thirteen
numbers for a Mass were given out to the leading Italian composers,
who entered into the spirit of the plan with an unanimity worthy of a
better cause, and such numbers were duly completed; but when it came
to the tacking together of these pieces, the result was a thorough
Joseph's coat, as vari-coloured as that famous garment, and so
unsatisfactory that the committee decided that it would never do, even
for a once-a-century performance.

Then came the question of a way out of the difficulty. Who should be
entrusted with the commission for a complete work? Now the thirteenth
number--a lucky quantity on this occasion--was the _Libera me_ in C
minor, by Verdi, which so attracted the attention of Signor Mazzucato
of Milan, that he begged Verdi to take upon himself the responsibility
of composing a complete _Requiem_ Mass. This suggestion seems to have
clung to him, for, as all the world knows, he eventually gave us that
_magnum opus_ with which most amateurs in this country are already
familiar. Strangely enough, Rossini's name dropped out of association
with the new mass, which, when it was produced, was to honour the
memory of Manzoni, Italian poet-patriot, who, full of years, joined the
ever-increasing majority on 22nd May 1873.

The first performance of this _Missa da Requiem_ took place in the
church of San Marco at Milan on the 22nd May 1874, to mark the
anniversary of the death of Manzoni, the composer's old friend,
whom--to quote Verdi's own words--"I regarded so much as a writer, and
venerated as a man--one who was a model of virtue and patriotism."
Musicians and _dilettanti_ from all parts of the world attended
this notable performance, which Verdi conducted in person. There
was an orchestra of one hundred executants, and a chorus of some
hundred and twenty singers, while the _soli_ parts were entrusted to
Mesdames Stolz and Waldmann, with Signori Capponi and Maini; and since
these musicians were leading performers, gathered from all parts of
Italy, the effect of such a combined artist-effort was striking and
enthusiastic indeed. The fine mass was splendidly performed, and as
number after number was unfolded before the rapt congregation, its
impressiveness and grandeur held every listener spellbound. The solemn
beauty of the "_Offertorium_," "_Sanctus_" and "_Dies Iræ_" proved
specially noticeable, and must have seriously suggested to the late
Dr. von Bülow, who was present criticising the work, that beautiful
part-writing was an art not altogether unknown to the Italian musician.

The pent-up interest in the score was, however, soon to give vent. In
order to afford many others an opportunity of hearing the mass, and
of expressing their feelings spontaneously, Verdi permitted it to be
performed three times at La Scala Theatre, undertaking, good-naturedly,
to conduct the first performance. Then on Monday, the 25th May, the
theatre was crammed with an audience which--no longer restrained by
sacred surroundings--shouted applause from beginning to end of the
work. Several of the numbers were encored, and more than once the vast
crowd of people rose _en masse_ crying, "_Viva Verdi!_"

In 1874 (4th June) the work was given in Paris, at one of the Salle
Favart "Matinées Spirituelles," when the same solo singers as at Milan
rendered the mass superbly. Later on it was brought to England, and a
memorable performance of it took place at the Royal Albert Hall, when
Verdi himself wielded the _bâton_. This was on Saturday afternoon, 15th
May 1875. The soloists were Madame Stolz (soprano), Madame Waldmann
(contralto), Signor Masini (tenor), and Signor Medini (bass), who
were supported by the powerful choral and instrumental resources for
which this great music hall is famous. The exact complement of the
band was 150, while the chorus numbered some 500 to 600 singers. Upon
making his appearance Verdi, as may be imagined, received a tremendous
ovation, for he had not been in London since 1847, when he attended
the production of his opera _I Masnadieri_ at the Royal Italian Opera.
The master proved a good conductor, his style and method as a _chef
d'orchestre_ being as firm and assuring for his forces as it was
attractive and instructive to the audience that watched his beat.
The performance was in every sense a success, and marked with all
that enthusiasm which the presence of a great artist always provokes,
albeit the effects realised in Milan and Paris were, it was generally
admitted, not attained in so vast a hall. The numbers that seemed to
please most were the "_Lachrymosa dies illa_," the "_Agnus Dei_" duet,
and the double chorus "_Sanctus_."

From this and subsequent renderings of the _Requiem_, the general
English public have formed whatever judgment it may now entertain of
the work. These opinions are not necessarily correct, since they are
based, as unscientific opinions about music generally are, upon the
attractiveness rather than on the intrinsic worth of the music as
Church or ecclesiastical art-work.

The Mass is comprised in the following seven numbers:--

    1. "_Requiem_" and "_Kyrie_" for quartet and chorus.

    2. "_Dies Iræ_"--in four parts, solo and chorus, with trio for
       soprano, contralto, and tenor.

    3. "_Offertorium._"

    4. "_Sanctus_"--fugue, with double chorus.

    5. "_Agnus Dei_"--duet and chorus, soprano and contralto.

    6. "_Lux Æterna_"--trio for soprano, tenor, and bass.

    7. "_Libera me_"--soprano solo, chorus, and fugue finale.

These combine to make up a fairly perfect example of the modern Italian
grand mass.

The late Dr. Hans von Bülow declared this work to be a monstrosity,
and when it was performed at the Paris Opéra Comique, although the
enthusiasm quite equalled that evoked at Milan, the opinion in the
_foyer_ was divided as to whether the mass was a sacred or a secular
work! Here was a serious blot for a great man's composition which
aimed at being sacred, both in intent and tone. Fearlessly the purists
persisted in their charge that the work was purely secular and
operatic in style. Other alleged defects of the mass were subsequently
discovered. For instance, one writer declared that "there are more than
a hundred mistakes in the progression of the parts." Was all this true?

When, at the age of sixty-one, Verdi surprised the musical world
(which, up to that time, had known him only as an opera composer) with
a composition for the Church, anxiety was great to catch the ravishing
melodist as a creator of ecclesiastical music. This done, it was
possible to admit that the style of the great _Requiem_ was elevated,
even pathetic, in its religious expression, replete with youthful fire.
_Soli_, _ensembles_, and choruses were, by their masterly polyphony,
adjudged worthy of Mendelssohn himself. Some ground for such praise
really existed, for here and there Verdi, in the _Requiem_, even
approaches Mozart in depth of feeling, while his manner of expression
is allied to the modern classical school.

Indisputably, however, Verdi's _Requiem_ is an Italian mass, both in
character and colour. Its prevailing features are identical with those
of the _Stabat Mater_ and the _Messe Solennelle_ of Rossini. There is
local colour, the atmosphere of which can never be dispelled; besides,
too, comes a flood of luxuriant, entrancing melody, characteristic
of the Italian operatic school. All southern nations, the Italians
especially, love sound for the sensuous effect it produces. They
love not laboured theoretical art. Is this admissible in Church
music? Rapturous, unctuous music is not permanently strengthening and
soul-raising. Emotionally, it carries to a great height, only to lead
to a reaction, and to some lower estimate of music that captivates
but does not elevate. In the _Requiem_, there is abundant theoretical
workmanship--more such evidence than is usually met with in modern
Italian Church music; yet, although this was the studied purpose of the
musician, it has not enabled Verdi to rid himself of characteristics
which stamp southern musical art as plainly as they do the architecture
and the person. Sensuous and exciting music is acceptable enough in
its way, but it does not constitute good Church music. It is this
character, inseparable from the Italian nature, that forbids an
unqualified acceptation of the _Missa da Requiem_ as a contribution to
the store of best Church music. None but the wildest partisans could
deny, however, that in this mass Verdi has given to the world some of
the finest music he ever wrote; he has, moreover, furnished abundant
proof of his scholarship as a theorist, showing that he really was
able to do more than string tempting melodies together to please the
capacities of the _polloi_.

While approved musical taste remains what it is, and does not
degenerate, modern Italian Church music will not be highly regarded
for use in the sanctuary. Northern and southern Europe are much wider
apart in Church musical style than they are geographically; and all
sound musicians know where to look for that style and expression which
most nearly approach the ecclesiastical ideal. The _stila fugata_
is nobler and sterner than the straightforward melody sumptuously
accompanied, so that the Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven mass, and the
_oratorii_ of Bach, Handel, Mendelssohn, and Spohr, furnish a far more
appropriate, and adequate, sacred musical manner than does anything
that is Italian. With the Teuton style come mysticism and reverence;
with the Italian passion and secularism, the latter ill-suited indeed
to profound doctrines propounded at Church altars. A melody may be as
ample a medium for religious expression as an eight-voice fugue; hence,
it is not imperative that Italian musicians should practise writing
oratorios on a wholesale scale before essaying Church music. It is
not the medium, however, that we are contending against. Some of the
greatest, grandest prayers have been expressed in simplest song. It is
the colouring element, the atmosphere, pervading southern Church music
which, being operatic, renders such music inadmissible by the side of
German and English religious art. This objectionable feature stamps
Verdi's _Requiem_ from beginning to end. The score is impregnated with
the world, and not with the cloister. The Italian worshipper must have
movement and action, rather than reflection, even in his devotional
music. As we think, the contemplative mood rather than the persuasive
is the one to inspire, as well as to promote, a due appreciation of
lofty things, and a religious service. This, Teuton music supplies,
but the modern Italian article does not. The old Italian masters
remembered the altar, not the stage, so that the masses of musicians
like Palestrina, Marcello, Caldara, and Lotti are infinitely more
reverent in tone and reach than their modern successors. Let it not
be forgotten, _en passant_, that the Germans stand indebted to the
Italians for the fugue, transmitted to them in some instances, in as
fully developed a manner as could be desired, and in certain features
unsurpassable in its completeness.

[Illustration: Giovanni Provesi]

If Verdi's _Requiem_, however, does not attain to perfection as Church
music, it is, nevertheless, a grand work, a masterpiece in originality
and scholarly treatment that will always be listened to with
admiration, whether in oratory or concert hall. Like Rossini's _Stabat
Mater_, it will doubtless be rendered from time to time by choral
bodies in quest of effective performing works; but no sound Church
musician will ever seriously regard it as an example of what Church
music should be, or is ever likely to become. Probably it will be one
of the scores that, with his Third period operas, will best preserve
Verdi's name, but it will never carry the _maestro_ into the company of
the world's great sacred composers.

Besides this contribution to sacred music, Verdi composed other works
outside his universally known operas. He was not the busy, successful,
creative musician at one bound. Between the ages of thirteen and
eighteen he wrote several marches for a brass band, some short
symphonies, six concertos, and variations for pianoforte, which he used
to play himself; many serenatas, cantatas, arias, duets, trios, a small
_Stabat Mater_, and some Church compositions. During the three years
that he remained at Milan, he composed two symphonies, and a cantata,
and upon his return to Busseto he wrote a mass, a vesper, and three
_Tantum Ergos_, besides composing music to Manzoni's tragedies. In 1880
a _Paternoster_ for five voices fell from his pen; and an _Ave Maria_
for soprano solo is a cherished composition.

With one notable exception, Verdi, having taken to vocal composition,
never left it for essays in the realm of instrumental music. This
exception is a Quartet in E minor for strings, which has been played
on more than one occasion at the Monday Popular Concerts. It must be
admitted to be an unequal work--the first and last movements having
but little interest, while the second and third are more spontaneous
and attractive. It is not likely to become a classic, however, nor
will interest attach to it so much for its merit and worth as for its
being the single piece of chamber music with which the English public
are familiar from the pen of the famous _Trovatore_ master. But for
an enforced leisure this quartet might never have been written. Verdi
was at Naples superintending the rehearsal of one of his operas, when
suddenly one of the principal singers was seized with an indisposition.
This brought matters to a standstill; when, not to be idle, Verdi set
about the composition of this quartet.

All these early compositions, save the symphonies, the tragedies,
and quartet music, are lost, but as they were probably more adapted
for civic archives, as samples of youthful industry, rather than as
inspirations of genius, this is not to be greatly deplored. It remains
to be added that--with Auber (France), Meyerbeer (Germany), Sterndale
Bennett (England)--Verdi (Italy) wrote the cantata "_L'Inno delle
Nazioni_" for the International Exhibition of 1862; but the work was
not performed at the Exhibition because of some expression of feeling
on the part of the late Sir Michael Costa. The final rejection of
it by the Commissioners gave rise to much comment at the time. It
was subsequently given at Her Majesty's Theatre, 24th May 1862, and
repeated the following Tuesday.

The scene is supposed to be the interior of the new Crystal Palace on
the opening day, when people of all nations are assembled under the
wondrous roof.

Musically its form is a solo rendered by one of the people, to which
the whole gathering join in universal chorus.

"The cantata," we are told, "was admirably got up and performed. The
solo part was magnificently sung by Mdlle. Titiens; and the chorus,
two hundred and fifty strong, included the most eminent members of
the company. On the first night the reception of the performance was
enthusiastic. The whole piece was encored, and repeated with increased
spirit and effect. Signor Verdi was called for several times, and when
he presented himself, led forward first by Mdlle. Titiens, and then by
Signor Giuglini, he was received with reiterated acclamations."[60]

In the instrumental department of music Verdi has accomplished, as
indeed he has attempted, but little. This is in keeping with the habit
of his countrymen. Italians possess neither the industry nor the
application requisite to plan and build a vast orchestral conception.
They bask under an azure sky, while other men slave in the privacy of
their closets and studios. It is reserved for the Teuton, with all his
wondrous plodding, to frame and make grand tone-poems, lavish with
ideal intent and richest colour, which become subjects of admiration
and wonder the more it is realised that orchestral resource alone is
the agent employed. The southern climate does not conduce to exertion
and serious application; and the Italian, necessarily, wants some
rousing to enter the lists with the weather-bound Teuton, in the
construction of laborious examples of art demanding the exercise of
the highest orchestral study and exposition. Further, Italians have
an instinctive tendency towards vocal music. They can create it as
naturally as they sing it, and it is no concern to them to write a
melody, or sketch a lightly-contrived orchestral piece in the snug
corner of a café, or behind the sheltering blind of a sun-pierced
_osteria_. Fugue, canon, double counterpoint, charm not the Italians.
They don't catch the meaning of the term _development_ in theoretical
art, and if they succeed in a distinct rhythm, simply harmonised,
with a well-balanced period, the musical desire is satisfied. Without
development there can be no such thing as a great orchestral structure.
A theme must be taken and worked out in the wondrous Beethoven fashion
ere anything instrumental worth the name of a symphony or overture can
be evolved. All this means musical patience and application, which
Italians have not; otherwise overtures to Italian operas would be
something else than melodies of the opera, announced to the audience
at the outset, in order to acquaint them with choice tunes that are to
follow.

[Footnote 60: _Illustrated London News_, 31st May 1862.]



                             CHAPTER VIII

                         THIRD PERIOD OPERAS

A matured style--Methusaleh of Opera--The last link--_Aïda_--A higher
   art plane--Ismail Pacha commissions _Aïda_--Its
   libretto--Production at Cairo--The argument--Patti as
   _Aïda--Athenæum_ criticism of _Aïda_--_Otello_--Scene in Milan--The
   initial cast--Its production and reception in London and
   Paris--_Athenæum_ review of _Otello_--Its story--Vocal and
   instrumental qualities--_Falstaff_--A surprise
   defeated--Boito--_Falstaff_ produced at La Scala--In
   France--_Falstaff_ at Covent Garden--The comedy and its
   music--_Athenæum_ opinion of _Falstaff_--A crowning triumph.


We venture upon the Third and last, the "mature" period in Verdi's
great career. It forms a truly interesting phase of a long life,
because it has proved productive of his best music. This later work
places Verdi at the head of his profession, and among the most
remarkable men of the century. That, when verging on sixty years of
age, he should submit _Aïda_, an opera abounding in the strength,
vitality, and freedom of youth, constituted a musical event that
was greeted with enthusiasm by the whole artistic world; but it was
regarded as something more extraordinary when, fifteen years later,
the great creative faculty of the master found vent in _Otello_. This
achievement won the admiration of lovers of art and letters throughout
the globe. Yet that stroke was to be surpassed. Five years later,
when the _maestro_ was eighty years of age, to the astonishment of
everybody, _Falstaff_ was given to the world. No wonder that Verdi has
been styled the "grand old man" of music.

The genesis of _Aïda_ was on this wise. Ismail Pacha, Khedive of Egypt,
desired a novelty for the inauguration of the new Italian theatre at
Cairo, and sought a brand-new opera, on the composer's own terms.
Verdi--consulting pupil Muzio--named the sum of £4000 sterling, to
which the Khedive agreed. The feeling was towards a work with local
colour and interest; hence the _Aïda_ book--the joint production of
Mariette Bey, M.C. du Cocle, and Signor Ghislanzoni--was decided upon.

In a few months the score was completed; meanwhile the scenery and
costumes were being prepared in Paris. But there proved to be no
heed for haste. The Franco-German war broke out, and for several
months the art of painter and costumier was locked up in the besieged
city. At length the eventful day for the production of _Aïda_ came
round, however, and the work was given for the first time publicly,
at the Cairo theatre, on Sunday, 24th January 1871. The cast was as
follows:--_Aïda_, Madame Pozzoni-Anastasi; _Amnéris_, Madame Grossi;
_Radamès_, Signor Mongini; _Ramfis_, Signor Medini; _Amonasro_, Signor
Costa; _King_, Signor Steller, with Signor Bottesini as conductor,
because Verdi, having a horror of the sea and given to _mal de mer_,
could not be induced to make the journey to Cairo. The final rehearsal
lasted from seven in the evening until half-past three the next
morning, while the performance itself was one of the most gorgeous
that had graced even the Egyptian capital. Crowds were turned from the
doors, and those who had seats might have sold them, to use a common
and hardly accurate expression, for their weight in gold.

Notabilities of every country were there, sharing the evident
enthusiasm of the Khedive, who, when the representation was concluded,
sent a telegram to Verdi congratulating him heartily upon the success
and excellence of the work. The excitement was immense, and the salvoes
of applause that greeted number after number of the opera were easily
heard outside the walls of the theatre. There was only one opinion
about _Aïda_. On all sides it was adjudged a masterpiece, the finest
work that had been issued from the master's pen. From Cairo _Aïda_ was
taken to La Scala Theatre (17th February 1872), and subsequently it was
presented at the Théâtre Italien in Paris, where in three successive
seasons it had some seventy representations. In 1876 it was produced
for the first time in England at Covent Garden Theatre; and a French
version of the opera was also given at the Paris Opéra on 22nd March
1880.

The scene of the opera is laid at Memphis and at Thebes during the
rule of the Pharaohs over Egypt. Aïda, daughter of Amonasro, King of
Ethiopia, having fallen into the hands of the Egyptians, is brought
back a prisoner into Egypt, where her grace and beauty win for
her a place as slave to Amnéris, the Egyptian king's daughter. In
this association she is seen by Radamès, a captain, and eventually
commander-in-chief of the Egyptian troops. Amnéris, entertaining a
secret affection for this young soldier in her father's service,
becomes alarmed on finding that the bearing of Aïda shows her to be
similarly affected. Her jealousy is aroused, and she vows vengeance on
her rival. Amonasro then comes into prominence. A prisoner in one of
the battles between the Egyptians and the Ethiopians, he is brought
to Egypt, no one save Aïda knowing his rank, for he was fighting as
an officer merely. As a reward for his martial services, the Egyptian
king offers Radamès his daughter's hand in marriage, which, seeing
that he is deeply in love with Aïda, places him in a difficult
position. Amonasro meanwhile gets scent of the affection between Aïda
and Radamès, and discovering their trysting-place, urges his daughter
to induce Radamès to betray his country. This he does, and being
seized, is tried, found guilty, and condemned by the sacred council
to be buried alive. Amnéris, the king's daughter, secures for him her
father's pardon, on his consenting to abandon Aïda for ever. This he
refuses to do, for he prefers the slave to the mistress. On the stone
being lowered which is to immure him in a living tomb, he is seen with
Aïda by his side, she having contrived to penetrate into the dark vault
of the Temple of Phtha in order to prove her constancy and love, by
sharing his fate, and like Romeo and Juliet, dying together. Such is
briefly the story of the _Aïda_ libretto.

A close study of the plot shows it to be neither strictly logical
nor consistent; at the same time the book abounds with striking and
sensational situations, appreciated alike by musicians and dramatists.

That empress of song, Madame Patti, created the principal character in
_Aïda_ when it was first given in this country on the 23rd June 1876.
The other principal singers were Mdlle. Ernestina Gindale (Amnéris),
Signori Nicolini (Radamès), Graziani (Amonasro), Capponi (Ramfis),
and M. Feitlinger (King of Egypt). As every frequenter of the opera
who can recall that eventful night will remember, it was a brilliant
night. The Royal box was fully tenanted, including the Prince and
Princess of Wales, with the Princes Albert Ernest and George Frederick.
The cantatrice thrilled the audience by the purity and tenderness of
her singing, notably in her delivery of Aïda's agonised soliloquy
in the third act. In no previous part had she shown greater powers,
and the assumption of the part placed her in the front rank of lyric
_tragédiennes_. On all sides it was admitted that Verdi had achieved
a great and unexampled success. The main topic was the new order of
Verdi's music in _Aïda_, of which more in another chapter.

In 1876 something much like a change of front takes place on the part
of the _Athenæum_. It no longer gives Verdi his _congé_, but blames the
English directors for allowing four years to elapse before producing
_Aïda_:--"The reputation of Signor Verdi ought to have induced the
directors to bring out, as promptly as possible, any new opera by
him."[61] Referring to _Aïda_ the notice runs:--"The consecration
scene, in which Radamès is invested with the command of the Egyptian
army, is highly dramatic; still finer is the _finale_ of the second
act. Here are found the most telling points, for the composer revels
in the expression of extreme emotion; he has varied and conflicting
passions to set; there is the glorification of the return of a
victorious general with his army; there is the lament of the Ethiopian
prisoners; there is the exultation of Amnéris at her father, the King,
having awarded her to Radamès as the prize for his valour; there are
the suppressed tones of vengeance of Amonasro, who is not recognised
as the Ethiopian monarch and warrior in his thraldom; and there is the
deep despair of Aïda at losing Radamès, and her grief at her father
being in the hands of his enemies. The effect of the _ensemble_ is
most imposing; the parts are well and distinctly defined, and to the
individual bursts are added the choral and orchestral combinations.
This _finale_ is the grandest number in the entire score; there is
no other situation in which there is such variety and power. There
are no less than six duets in the four acts, but in no one of them
is there consistent and coherent writing; there are isolated breaks
of beauty, such as passages here and there in the duet between Aïda
and Amnéris, 'Amore! amore!' in the second act, in which the Egyptian
princess discovers that she has a rival in her Ethiopian slave, who is
a prisoner; and in the two duets in the third act, the first between
Aïda and her father Amonasro, in which she is forced to turn spy in the
subsequent _duo_ with her lover Radamès, and induce him to disclose
the secret pass by which his troops may be attacked by the enemy. The
two duets in the last act--the first in which Amnéris endeavours to
persuade Radamès to sue for pardon, and the second in the vault under
the temple between Aïda and Radamès, 'Morir! si pura e bella'--are also
excellent. There are few solos. The first is for the tenor, 'Celeste
Aïda'; the second is the _scena_ of Aïda, 'L'insana parola,' when she
learns that Radamès is to be the chief to attack her father's army; the
third is the _romanza_ of Aïda in the third act, 'O cieli azzurri,'
recalling the beauties of her own country; and the final solo is that
of Amnéris while listening to the trial and condemnation in the vault
of Radamès for his treason. The characteristics of these solos are
peculiarly those of Signor Verdi, but their finest features forcibly
recall airs which he has composed from other operas--thus the Miserere
theme of the _Trovatore_ is paraphrased more than once. The work is
very heavily scored--over-instrumented in the brass particularly, and
it would exact double the number and twice the tone of the strings
at Covent Garden to counterbalance the blatant effects. But there
are also some remarkably interesting parts in the orchestration; the
prelude or overture is short, but it conveys the notion of the Eastern
story which follows. It is dreamy and charmingly coloured; the March
is magnificent, and is sure to be played by our military bands even
if they do not possess the six long Egyptian trumpets used by Signor
Verdi.... It is true that the composer in seeking for scientific
combinations has not shown his former spontaneity, and that his themes
are at times commonplace, while his instrumentation generally is too
ponderous; but there are redeeming features in the elaborate score
sufficient to prove that he still maintains that peculiar ascendency
over the sympathies of audiences which asserts itself in striking
situations so vividly. In short, Signor Verdi has the faculty, amidst
trivialities, of never writing an opera in which there is not some
display of emotional and sensational power."[62]

Of this criticism it is but fair to the _Athenæum_ to state that, as
regards the "excessive orchestration," it is consistent with one of the
late Mr. Chorley's old charges; but in all other respects the apostate
Verdi appears now to have claims both for the fullest admiration and
attention.

A curious episode in connection with the publication of _Aïda_ was the
provocation it gave to one Signor Vincenzo Sassaroli, who was most
surprisingly perturbed because of the success of the opera and the
_Requiem_ mass. He could not conceive how publisher and public could
see anything in such music, and he went so far as to write to Ricordi
challenging a setting of the _Aïda_ libretto, which he would undertake
upon certain conditions. The avowed object of the challenge was to
prove to the world of art that the book could be set better than it had
been!

Passing over _Montezuma_, in five acts, which Verdi completed in 1878,
and which was given for the first time at La Scala, Milan, we come to
the master's next great Shakespearean setting--_Otello_.

_Otello_, a lyric drama in four acts, with a book by Arrigo Boito,
proved the second of the composer's matured period works. It was on
the 5th February 1887 that Milan--Otellopolis, as it had been for
the nonce christened--was all astir because that _Otello_ was to be
positively performed. Soon after daybreak the whole city was a mass of
mixed, excited humanity--faces known and unknown from every part of
the world--all bent on one eternal theme, Verdi and _Otello_. Ere 7
P.M. that evening La Scala was packed from pit to dome with perhaps the
most brilliant audience that had ever filled the famous theatre. Faccio
was to conduct, and no sooner did the distinguished leader appear than
thunders of applause burst from all parts of the house, so feverishly
expectant was every one concerning the music that was about to be
unfolded. No overture, but a few preliminary bars of tempest music,
and the curtain rose to a scene on the island of Cyprus, with Iago,
Roderigo, and Cassio in evidence.

It was an open secret that an excellent libretto had been prepared
by Boito, one to which the strictest of Shakespearean students could
hardly take exception; and as number after number of the music
proceeded, it became equally apparent that another great opera was born
to the world. True, Boito had ignored the first act of the immortal
bard's drama, and thus robbed Verdi of the chance of setting that fine
declamatory passage: "Most noble, grave, and reverend seigneurs"; but
the librettist had to curtail somewhere, and this first act was the
rejected one.

The cast on this eventful night included Signora Romilda Pantaleoni
(Desdemona), Signor Tamagno (Otello), M. Maurel (Iago), with Signori
Fornari and Paroli as Roderigo and Cassio respectively, the part of
Emilia being filled by Mdlle. Petrovich--artists who, on the whole, did
justice to the masterly music put into their mouths. At the conclusion
of the performance Verdi was called forward some twenty times amid
a scene of enthusiasm, and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs,
indescribable. The excited people yoked themselves to the _maestro's_
carriage, and drew him at a vexatiously slow pace (in order that he
might catch the applause) to his hotel; and those who retired to rest
that night did so to the accompaniment of singing and cries for Verdi,
which had not ceased when all good people should have been asleep.
There was a perfect _Otello_-Verdi mania.

Verdi admittedly had written another grand opera, and the great problem
was how, at the age of seventy-four, the composer could produce such
a masterpiece. In design and execution it was equal if not superior
to _Aïda_--far surpassing in construction any of his First or Second
period works. No dissentient voices could be raised in the general
chorus of praise, the opinion being that from first to last the music
was as extraordinary as it was magnificent. There was grandeur, as
there was learning; and when the technical skill did not attract the
attention, it was the surpassing beauty, the seemingly inspired nature
of the music that won both heart and ear.

It is not surprising that all the European capitals clamoured to hear
a work of such masterly force and skill, and it is creditable to our
country's art instincts to find that the opera was given at the Lyceum
Theatre in July 1889, or within little more than two years after
its production at Milan. The chief singers included Signora Cataneo
(Desdemona), with Signori Tamagno (Otello), Paroli (Cassio), and M.
Maurel (Iago). Then an excellent exposition of the work resulted.

On this occasion the _Athenæum_ stated:--"Verdi in _Aïda_ cut himself
adrift from the conventionalities of Italian opera, and produced a
work almost perfectly beautiful, glowing with Oriental colour, and
dependent to a very slight extent upon the special devices of Wagnerian
music drama. In _Otello_ we miss the special characteristics which lend
such a charm to _Aïda_, and are disposed to judge it with severity
on account of the composer's rashness in selecting a Shakespearean
subject.... The first point that strikes the hearer with regard to the
music is its essentially modern character combined with its freedom
from direct Wagnerian influences. Verdi in his latest score has
adopted even less of Wagner's peculiar methods than he did in _Aïda_.
Much has been made of the so-called 'kiss' motive, and we may note
a harsh progression in consecutive fifths and octaves which appears
two or three times, and is apparently intended to suggest the torture
of jealousy, but of _Leitmotiv_ in the accepted sense there is not
one.... From hence to the close the music is fragmentary, but intensely
dramatic, and as impressive as any operatic music ever penned. An
exquisitely touching effect is produced by the use made of the love
theme from the first act, and, speaking generally, this final scene is
a worthy crown to a work which, if not the finest Verdi has written, is
at any rate a splendid example of modern Italian art."[63]

Yet, if such criticism were insufficient to prove that there was, as
there had been all along, something of merit in Verdi and his music,
we find it accentuated two years later when _Otello_ was given at the
Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden. On this occasion we are told:--"If
the score is less equal in inspiration and less remarkable for glowing
picturesqueness than that of _Aïda_, it is worthy to rank with that
beautiful work, and moreover affords ample proof that a composer of
genius can satisfy the requirements of modern opera; that is to say,
give full play to the dramatic flow of the story without slavishly
following the special devices of Wagnerian music drama. In this sense
_Otello_ may be regarded as a model for composers of _opera seria_
apart from its own intrinsic value, which is very great."[64]

On the 12th October 1894 a French version of _Otello_ was given at the
Paris Opéra, when Verdi himself attended, superintended the rehearsals,
and conducted. All Paris was strongly represented on this gala
occasion, and no pains or expense were spared upon the performance.
The presence of the veteran composer in the conductor's seat naturally
gave zest to this performance, and it is doubtful whether a more
enthusiastic reception was ever experienced by Verdi. Applause followed
applause, until it was abundantly clear that Verdi had secured another
triumph, and that Paris, as well as London and Milan, had approved of
the composer's masterly achievements in _Otello_.

Wherever performed, the especially beautiful numbers of the work have
speedily been detected. In the first act, which sounds somewhat on
Verdi's conventional lines, the storm prayer, the festal music, and
a love duet are particularly fine. The second act includes a great
scene for Iago, a duet between Cassio and Iago, and a quartet, the
whole finishing with a stirring duet between Otello and Iago. This
act is full of declamation, which though helped on by the _cantilena_
passages, and beginning with the garden _fête_ to the sound of
_mandolini_, seems a little monotonous. The quartet, however, between
Desdemona, Otello, Iago, and Emilia, is extremely interesting, and
supplies as fine a piece of choral writing as Verdi has ever penned.
In the third act is an abundance of picturesque theatrical music, such
as Verdi could well write, for it is one of his great gifts to know
exactly what the public prefer. An interpolation in the original text
now provides the "handkerchief" trio for Cassio, Otello, and Iago,
which in music and poetry is one of the best pieces in the opera. This
is followed by a pathetic duet between Desdemona and her jealous lord,
and after much fine dramatic writing, suggested in the main by the
masterly additions which Boito has made to the original text in this
act, we reach the conclusion where Iago, with his foot on the Moor's
heart, answers the chorus with malignant triumph. "The lion is here!"
This is a highly dramatic, superb situation in the opera, and never
fails to elicit the loudest applause. Desdemona's "Willow" song, with
its horn and bassoon accompaniment, has rarely been equalled by Verdi;
while the "_Ave Maria_," partly in monotone, and partly in _cantilena_
phrases accompanied by the strings, is of most exquisite heavenly
nature. In the fourth and concluding Act, Otello kills his wife, spares
Iago, and stabs himself, and this is generally acknowledged as the
finest part of the work. It abounds with beautiful, luxuriant music,
in Verdi's choicest vein, while its intense dramatic character is
unsurpassed by anything in the range of opera music. In it, Verdi and
all his vast dramatic-musical powers rise to their fullest height.

Considered as a whole, _Otello_ must be accounted a very fine opera, a
model of _opera seria_ amid all the influence, fashion, and revolution
in modern music. Its various beautiful _soli_ pieces, its bold and
vigorous choruses, the grand finales, the highly finished duets and
quartets, and lastly, but not least, its declamatory music, with
the striking and effective recitatives--all this renders the vocal
portion well-nigh beyond criticism. The orchestration is particularly
remarkable. Here Verdi has surpassed himself, and given us page
after page of dramatic tone-painting of the highest order. Rarely
has any opera composer shown us anything so dramatic as the finale
representing the reception of the delegates from Venice, and the Moor's
insulting treatment of his wife. In the first act, the tempest music is
wonderfully effective and well conceived, and the second act is full
of masterly instrumental device and combination. The grand workings of
the orchestra in the "_Credo_" in this Act could not be surpassed. This
same high standard is, on the whole, maintained throughout the third
act; while the composer's vocal and instrumental work in the fourth
and concluding act is admitted by all judges to be one of the grandest
instances of modern orchestral manipulation.

Great as Verdi had been before the production of _Otello_, and greater
still as he became through _Otello_, there remained yet a further
measure of greatness for the justly-famed Italian art king. Those who
appreciated and wondered at, to say nothing of listening with delight
and amazement to, the superlative musical beauties of _Aïda_ and
_Otello_, had yet greater things in store for them. When the composer
was busy upon the _Otello_ music, the villagers and others in and
around Busseto knew that the master was employed upon serious music. He
wore a troubled look, and the expression of his face was one of tragic
austerity. Brusque, wrapped up, impatient, he was far from pleasant to
deal with, so different from his usual courteous manner and bearing
towards the residents. Later, there was a change. A smile played about
the composer's lips, he was jovial, open mannered, happy. The peasants
and others about the hamlet declared that the composer was in a merry
mood; they surmised, and rightly enough, that he was engaged upon some
comedy music. This was _Falstaff_.

The idea of a lyrical comedy taken from Shakespeare haunted Verdi some
time before he wrote _Falstaff_. He spoke to M. Maurel about it, and
the latter, in 1890, sent him the version of _The Taming of the Shrew_
arranged by Paul Delair for Coquelin the elder. Verdi returned the
manuscript, and wrote from Genoa, saying it was superb, and that he
envied the musician whose lot it would be to compose to it; but, as
far as he was concerned it was too late. Nearly two years afterwards
he told Maurel why it was too late: "Boito and I had planned a lyrical
comedy, now nearly finished. It is to be called _Falstaff_."

Verdi composed the music between 1890 and 1892, and the opera was
produced for the first time at La Scala, Milan, on 9th February
1893. It was hailed, and justly so, with enthusiasm, as one of the
most remarkable works that ever met the ear inside the walls of that
historic opera-house. Musicians from all parts of the world sped to
Milan to hear the score concerning which gossip had long been busy--so
busy, as to be annoying to Verdi, who wished this, his first comic
opera, to burst as a surprise upon the musical world in its complete
and final form, instead of being made the subject of anticipation and
discussion for at least two years beforehand.

Boito's libretto is, perhaps, the best written and planned book ever
presented to a composer. The subject is one of Shakespeare's best, and
the librettist has throughout kept Shakespeare to the front, respecting
the great dramatist in the most laudable manner. There is little new
and little missing in the story, and our old Windsor friends, as jovial
and merry as ever, are with us, even in their quaint, fanciful Italian
language. There is the jovial, noisy, conceited, amorous Sir John; the
villainous, time-serving Bardolph and Pistol; the upright, but jealous
Ford; the fussy Dr. Caius; the sentimental Fenton; the truly sweet Anne
Page; and last, but not least, the gay, joke-loving, "merry wives,"
Mistress Ford and Mistress Page.

In all there are three acts, opening with the interior of the Garter
Inn, and closing with the midnight revelry at Herne's Oak, the
belabouring of Falstaff, etc. Did we state that the music is fully
worthy of Shakespeare's comedy, that would express the matter in a few
words, yet something more needs to be told of a work that may be cited
as a companion opera to Wagner's _Die Meistersinger_. _Falstaff_ is an
astounding _tour de force_, reflecting alike the artistic versatility
of the librettist, and the consummate, matured powers of the composer.
On this point the critics--and it might be added, the musicians--of all
nations are agreed. The Shakespearean spirit has been caught by the
composer in wonderful fashion, and the English flavour is found and
preserved throughout the opera to an unmistakable degree.

One who was present on the eventful night of its first performance
wrote:--

"Even setting aside the Milanese themselves, it would be impossible
to conceive an audience more representative of the best elements in
music, art, politics, and society. Critics were there from all parts
of Europe--indeed, one might almost say from all parts of the world.
The Italian Royal family were represented by the Duke of Aosta and
Princess Letitia; the Government by Signor Martini, Minister of Public
Instruction; the 'new school' in Italy by Signor Mascagni, to whom,
as it was with Verdi himself, honour has come early; and society in
general by MM. Leon Cavallo, Bazzini, Marchetti, Puccini, and a host
of other notabilities. The ladies had done honour to the occasion,
in characteristic fashion, by donning their most elaborate dresses,
and thereby adding immeasurably to the bright and cheerful aspect of
the house. The performance began amid absolute stillness, the more
desirable as, like _Otello_, the new opera has neither overture nor
prelude."

"This is the last work of my life," he said angrily, striding, a tall,
gaunt figure, up and down his large drawing-room, and pushing back the
long gray hair from his wrinkled forehead with an impatient gesture.
"I am writing it for my own amusement; the public would have known
nothing at all about it, had it not been for that _Mefistofole_ of
a Boito." This little joke of his own, more perfect in Italian than
in English, put him into a good humour again, and on my asking him
what his complaint was against his clever librettist, he told me the
whole story. They had been dining at the Hotel Milan with Ricordi, the
music publisher, his wife, and one or two more. When dessert was on
the table Ricordi, turning to Boito, inquired when his "_Nerone_," an
opera for which the Italian public has been waiting for the last five
years, would be ready. Boito replied that it had been laid aside in
view of a work of much greater importance, and then rising, with his
glass in his hand, looked towards Verdi and said, laughing, "Here's
to your fat-paunched hero." Inquiries, of course, followed, and in
this way the subject of the new opera became known. "I should not
have forgiven Boito his indiscretion," Verdi continued, "had he not
written me a first-rate libretto. The music that I have put to it is in
some passages so droll, that it has often made me laugh while writing
it."[65]

The artists entrusted with the first rendering of this _chef
d'œuvre_ were Signora Pasqua (Mrs. Quickly), Signorine Emma Zilli
(Mrs. Ford), Virginia Guerrini (Mrs. Page), and Adelina Stehle
("Sweet Anne"); with Signori Garbin (Fenton), Pini-Corsi (Ford),
Pellegalli-Rosetti (Bardolph), Arimondi (Pistol), Armandi (Caius),
and M. Maurel (Falstaff). Signor Mascheroni conducted, and one after
another the successive beauties of the work were poured forth amid a
scene of excitement such as can only be witnessed in La Scala, and
which was unprecedented even there. The interest of the audience was
arrested from the first scene; but, as climax after climax was reached,
the enthusiasm of the brilliant assemblage began to lose bounds, until,
at the close of the opera, there was such a tumultuous applause, such
calls for Verdi, as to be deafening. No fewer than thirty times was
Verdi called on during the performance.

There was but one admission to make--Verdi, _doyen_ of composers,
past-grandmaster of music, had crowned his artistic career with the
finest, the most scholarly work that ever issued from his pen. Little
wonder that the people almost carried him back to his hotel, that they
cried for him from the crowded streets, that they called him, time
after time, to the balcony of his apartment in order that he might
receive their acclamations.

King Humbert sent the eminent composer the following telegram:--"The
Queen and myself, being unable to attend the first performance of
_Falstaff_, anticipate the applause about to greet this fresh proof
of an inexhaustible genius, by sending you our best wishes and the
expression of our great admiration. May you be preserved for many years
to come, to the honour of art, to our affections, and to enjoy the
recognition of Italy, which, even in her saddest days, found patriotic
comfort in your triumphs."

From that day to this, interest in _Falstaff_ has never ceased, the
point most dwelt upon being the remarkable freshness, the youth and
gaiety, the fun and frolic, on every page of the music. Could it be
old-age work? or, was it that with his decline in physical powers
Verdi's mental capacity was reaching greater perfection, suggesting
perhaps the splendid spectacle of an after condition when, it is to be
hoped for all of us, the mental portion of these sorry frames of ours
will be doing its perfect work undeterred, unhampered.

Paris had the work at the Opéra Comique in April 1894, when the
performance was rendered more interesting by the presence of the
composer himself, who received a tribute of enthusiastic applause
from a crowded house containing two thousand of the most notable
representatives of the Parisian world. The scene was a very striking
one when Verdi, in his eighty-first year, yet carrying his age
exceedingly well, was led forward between Victor Maurel and Mlle.
Delna, the two principal interpreters of this version of the _Merry
Wives of Windsor_.

In May 1894, _Falstaff_ was given for the first time in London, at
Covent Garden, with the Scala _troupe_ of artists, the occasion
furnishing the musical event of the season. The performance was
witnessed by a brilliant audience, royalty being represented by the
Prince of Wales, and the Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and her daughter, while
the general gathering included nearly all the personages of "light
and leading" in the London musical world. The comic masterpiece was a
complete and unqualified success.

Signor Mancinelli conducted, and the principal _rôles_ were filled by
Signorine Kitzu (Meg), Giulia Ravogli (Dame Quickly), Olga Olghina
(Nanetta), and Zilli (Alice); Signor Pessina represented an excellent
fat knight (the part created by M. Maurel in Milan), and Signori
Pellegalli-Rosetti, Arimondi, Armandi, and Pini-Corsi, were capital as
Bardolph, Pistol, and Dr. Caius, and Ford, respectively. The reception
of the opera, from beginning to end, was most enthusiastic, and time
after time the curtain descended amid tumultuous applause, and the
calling forward of the singers.

Where a work is replete with splendid points and brilliant
episodes--uniform in its excellence from opening to close--it is
unnecessary to particularise one number more than another. Yet it is
well to record the most "taking" pieces, even in a composition so
consistently beautiful, both in libretto and in music, as _Falstaff_
admittedly is. The first act opens in the interior of the Garter Inn,
and amid the animated scene which follows, there is some excellent
music to the doings of Bardolph, Pistol, and Dr. Caius. The canonic
"Amen" is amusing, and Sir John's soliloquy upon "honour," gives the
baritone a capital chance of displaying his powers. Another attractive
number, where all is so attractive, is the chattering quartet of women,
at the end of the first act. With the second act, we still are in the
Garter hostelry--and the fun thickens. Mrs. Quickly and Ford, in turn,
"interview" Falstaff, and here, as in the scene in Ford's house, and
the search for the missing knight, the music is of the liveliest,
happiest character. The fat knight's solo, "When I was page to the Duke
of Norfolk, slender of figure," the love duet, and Anne Page's song in
the forest scene are further superlatively beautiful instances among
many in this richly-gemmed work. The opera has been given in Milan,
Berlin, Vienna, Paris, and London--here several times, as recently
as the last season--and whenever performed, the sparkling numbers
enumerated are always encored, and re-demanded.

Critically regarded, the music is unquestionably the best that Verdi
has written. Its leading features are its freshness, spontaneity,
irresistible humour, and youthfulness; yet, its finished character, the
carefully conceived and highly wrought detail, involving much technical
skill and learning, bespeak unmistakably the ripened master-mind. What
a reply, too, it is to all the early critical opposition which made
out that there was nothing in Verdi beyond the power of adapting his
countrymen's melodic commonplaces, and stringing them together suitably
for a speedy oblivion!

"The age of miracles is supposed to be past, but those who declare it
so would do well to consider the miracle of Verdi's persistent artistic
vitality.... When count is taken of the quality as well as of the
quantity of Verdi's achievements, these must be confessed well-nigh
miraculous. The list of his operas is an epitome, one might say, of the
development of operatic music. Trace the steady march of his genius
from the period of _I Lombardi_ to _Otello_, remember the successive
stages typified by _Trovatore_, _Ernani_, _Rigoletto_, _Aïda_,--each a
masterpiece after its kind,--and you find yourself in the presence of
a man who has never swerved from the search after the highest ideal.
Between _I Lombardi_ and _Otello_ there is a gap which it might seem
no one man could span. And yet, however different the methods of
expression which Verdi has chosen in each stage of his development,
the form has always been inevitable, and the man's personality is as
apparent and as potent in one as in the other. _Aïda_ seemed likely to
be his last work; but with _Otello_ came a new apocalypse. He had not
been afraid to modify his method, that it might fit his subject more
completely, and there was not wanting those who (wrongly) saw in it a
confession of conversion to the Wagnerian gospel. No one believed that
the octogenarian composer would find anything fresh to say or any fresh
way of saying it. The miracle has been repeated, for in _Falstaff_,
produced at Milan on the 9th inst., we have a work which proclaims
itself the expression of a phase of Verdi's nature quite unguessed
at. The antiquaries of music, who care less to enjoy a work than to
classify it, will not find the task in the case of _Falstaff_ easy,
for _Falstaff_ does not fall readily into any of the required classes.
It belongs to no school, not even to that of Verdi himself, for there
was little in any of his other operas to show that he possessed the
supreme gift of humour, though indeed we might have remembered that so
exquisite a sense of proportion as his never goes unaccompanied with
humour, and is dependent on it for perfection."[66]

Following this fulsome preamble is a highly flattering detailed account
of Verdi's music to _Falstaff_--which stands in strange contrast to
much that we have read of the _maestro_ in the pages of the _Athenæum_.
Such phrases as the following, to be found in the notice, must indeed
have proved balm to Verdi after his years of castigation at the hands
of this journal:--

"Petulant contempt" (referring to the part where Falstaff harangues
his servants on the point of honour) "is no easy thing to express in
music, but here the difficulty is overcome without effort, and we are
launched, so to say, on that sparkling sea of humour which has yet had
but few successful navigators. The scene ends as Falstaff chases his
chivalrous servants from the room.... Of the music it is enough to
say that the _ensemble_ of the nine voices is treated with consummate
skill, and that the chattering quartet in E major for the women's
voices, unaccompanied, is one of the most delightful passages in the
whole score.... The great scene in which Falstaff is obliged to take
refuge in the buck-basket is handled with immense skill by librettist
and composer alike. Putting aside Wagner's treatment of the street
scene in _Die Meistersinger_, there is nothing in comic music to be
set beside the _ensemble_ of this (second) act, in which Verdi has
brought together with magnificent skill such incongruous elements as
the lovers behind the screen, etc.... In the music to this" (the last
act) "the highest level is reached: poetry, grace, and humour are
balanced and combined with marvellous delicacy. The whole scene is a
triumph; in the matter of sheer beauty of form Mozart himself could
not have surpassed it.... The charm that comes of absolute simplicity
is the chief; and the presence of humour, now broadly laughing and now
quaintly fantastic, need not be further insisted on. The manner is not
less simple than the matter. There is nothing approaching the use of
representative themes; and though no resource of the modern orchestra
is left untried, the outlines of the music are as clear, its colouring
as pure, as is a picture by Perugino."[67]

The score of Falstaff is something of an _alpha_ and _omega_ of a
musical life--there is the young and the old, the youth and the
philosopher present and apparent, in rare harmonious weaving. The
symmetry of the whole is striking indeed; while the clever construction
throughout shows not merely the educated, but also the painstaking
composer. All the music is not of such superlative grace as that
delicious scene where the animated quartet of merry wives are reading
Falstaff's love-letters; or the duet for Falstaff and Ford--the
orchestration of which is so perfect, that even the merry jingling that
accompanies Ford's rattling of the gold bag has not been missed. Such
a standard of artistic excellence could not be maintained throughout
any opera by any master; nevertheless, not a weak or unworthy number
can be pointed to throughout the score. Even the penultimate _tableau_
preceding the _fugue finale_ of the opera--justly declared to be
somewhat poor--suffers more than would otherwise be the case by
comparison with the uniformly high order of the other music in the
opera.

It is one of the most difficult tasks which even a master-musician can
have set him to write comic music that shall be at once original and
humorous. Yet, here Verdi succeeded at his first attempt. True, he has
left _Falstaff_, and the style thereof, until the eve of his artistic
career; yet, what a crowning work it stands! Lyric tragedy occupied the
master's mind for nearly the whole of his long life, until it appeared
almost that he could write nothing else but lyric tragedy. Then to
show that this was otherwise, he went to comedy--he composed one comic
opera. What an example it is! Its proportions are colossal: its comedy
is equal to Mozart; its _technique_, ingenuity, and construction rival
Wagner. No grander piece of work could crown the master's career.
Through Verdi, national opera as made in Italy stands to-day on as
high ground as the lyric drama--the grand opera of France and Germany.
England, unfortunately, cannot yet be considered in the matter.

[Footnote 61: _Athenæum_, 1st July 1876.]

[Footnote 62: _Athenæum_, 1st July 1876.]

[Footnote 63: _Athenæum_, 13th July 1889.]

[Footnote 64: _Athenæum_, 18th July 1891.]

[Footnote 65: _The Daily Graphic_, 14th January 1893.]

[Footnote 66: _Athenæum_, 18th February 1893.]

[Footnote 67: _Athenæum_, 18th February 1893.]



                              CHAPTER IX

                        POLITICIAN AND CITIZEN

A born politician--Attempt to draw Verdi--The revolutionary ring of
   Verdi's music--Signor Basevi on this feature--National and
   political honours and distinctions--An inactive senator--England's
   neglect--The composer's nature and character--Bluntness of
   speech--A dissatisfied auditor--Verdi's alleged parsimony--Verdi
   and the curate--The gossips and his fortune--Life at St. Agata
   villa--An "eighty-two" word-portrait--Verdi's old-age vigour--Love
   of flowers--His hobby at the Genoa _palazzo_--Independence of
   character.


Had Verdi not been a musician, he would probably have proved an ardent,
daring politician. Italy would be loving and honouring him to-day for
his political principles and _amor patriæ_, not less admiringly, not
less fervently, than she now regards him for his vast harmonious gifts.
As it was, he persistently declined to meddle with the tapes and wires
of State matters. An attempt to draw Verdi politically was made in
the spring of 1894, during the rehearsal of _Falstaff_ in Paris. One
of the singers put out a "feeler." "Don't, for goodness' sake," he
answered, "talk to me about politics. I have never paid any attention
to them, and I am not likely to do so at my time of life; I have quite
enough to do with my music." We have seen how his countrymen made him
their political idol, and would assuredly have him know that they were
looking to him as a deliverer from the Austrian yoke, even though
he spoke through a medium that is usually resorted to for peaceful,
rather than for revolutionary ends. The temper of his music was just
to their liking, and Verdi took no pains to hide his sympathy with his
countrymen under their yoke of foreign overlordship, albeit the success
of opera after opera turned upon his peace with the authorities.

In the chorus, "_O mia patria, si bella e perduta_," chanted by Hebrew
slaves in _I Lombardi_, the Milanese saw a reflection of their own
wretchedness. Purposely did Verdi write ardent exciting melodies.
They had power to, and did move the populace; and if at times they
seem commonplace, and even vulgar, they were thoroughly suited to the
singers, auditors, and conditions with which he had to deal. Thus Verdi
was an enlisted chief, an instrument, in the fortunes of the House of
Savoy. _V E R D I_ spelt the name of the composer. The capitals stood
for the initials of "Victor Emmanuel, Ré d'Italia." How the impatient
Lombardians seized hold of what seemed to them to be an inspired
coincidence! Under cover of the name Verdi, avowedly their musical god,
they could shout for Italian liberty and independence, right into the
ears of Austrian spies and sentinels. "_Viva Verdi! Viva Verdi!_" from
the mouths of the populace meant not only a tribute to the patriotic
musician whom they idolised, but was another way of demanding Victor
Emmanuel in lieu of the Archduke Francis. If the police interfered with
the patriots, it was their beloved musician that had so moved them,
and for whom they were shouting! "The streets," says a chronicler,
referring to the time, "were filled with placards in white, red, and
green, the Italian colours: VERDI in such big letters that nothing else
was visible on the posters."[68]

Thus was Verdi, the musician and patriot, entwined inseparably round
the hearts of his countrymen, to the lasting advantage of both, at a
time when Italy stood in great need of the support and succour of all
her sons.

In the eyes of Verdi the national liberty was a thing to be
accomplished, and if he did not shoulder the rifle in the struggles
of 1859 and 1860, which, beginning with the freeing of Lombardy,
ended in a free and united Italy, the clarion he sounded was so
certain that no one would mistake its intent. Directly he began to
sing, the inflammatory ring of his music arrested and stirred the
Venetians. Rossini may well have dubbed Verdi "_le musicien qui a un
casque_" (the musician with a helmet). The first signs were detected
in _Nabucco_, then in _I Lombardi_,[69] and with _Ernani_ there was a
further outburst of the musical liberator's mind. The highest pitch of
enthusiasm followed his ardent strains, and scarcely a performance of
the _Ernani_ went by without political demonstration. _Attila_ fired
a further desire for liberty. The feelings of the Venetians--still
clamouring for independence--when they heard the air, "_Cara patria,
già madre e regina_," knew no bounds, and for a while the performance
could not proceed. At the verse, "_Avrai tu L'universo vesti L'Italia
me!_" the whole audience, seized with frenzy, shouted with one voice,
"_A noi!_" "_L'Italia a noi!_" Then when Palma, the Spanish tenor,
sang his air, "_La patria tradita_," in _Macbeth_, the people were
so reminded of the foreign despotism they were suffering from that
they became uproarious, and the Austrian Grenadiers had to be called
in. _La Battaglia di Legnano_ was purposely pitched in an aggressive
key. Signor Basevi has said--"From 1849 onwards, during ten years of
national strife and protests, Verdi carried on politics in music, as
we have all done in literature and humour. He carried on politics in
music because, perhaps, without himself being conscious of it, he drew
from the restlessness and tumult of his soul a kind of music which
responded precisely to the restlessness and tumult of our minds; but
when these tumults, these spasms burst forth, then he no longer sought
for subjects of the present day to render extrinsic in action the
sentiments which he had divined so marvellously when they were shut up
in the mind of the public for whom he wrote."[70]

Not alone were the eyes of Italy fixed upon Verdi. He was the recipient
of honours and marks of esteem which were far from confined to his
own land. As a member of the National Assembly of Parma, to which the
citizens of Busseto elected him in 1859, he voted for the annexation of
the duchy to Sardinia. The French nation made him Corresponding Member
of the Académie des Beaux Arts in the same year. In 1861 Verdi was
elected a Deputy of the Italian Parliament. Cavour wanted to see in the
first national parliament the real blood and sinew of the country--the
men who, as he said, "had helped to make Italy, whether in literature,
art, or science." The composer hesitated, and at last yielded to the
statesman's entreaty; but he only attended a meeting or two, for, as he
said, he loved and preferred retirement to political excitement. In the
year 1862 Verdi was decorated with the Grand Cross of the Russian Order
of St. Stanislaus, of the Paris Académie des Beaux Arts, being head of
the poll with twenty-three votes. His own country has honoured him.
Knowing how much Verdi had at heart the musical keeping of his country,
the Italian Minister of Public Instruction, in 1871, selected him to
visit Florence, to assume the post offered him for the improvement and
reorganisation of the Italian Musical Institute. Then his sovereign
recognised him. In 1872 he was created a Grand Officer of the Order of
the Crown of Italy, and in the same year the Khedive of Egypt conferred
on him the Order of Osmanie. The offer of the title of Marquis of
Busseto was made to him after the production of _Falstaff_, but he
declined it, preferring to remain plain Signor Verdi.

Following this recognition, Victor Emmanuel (by a decree dated 22nd
November 1874) created him a Senator of the Italian Kingdom. The
musician attended in due course to take the customary oath of office;
but beyond this solitary occasion he attended no meeting of that
solemn body. The honour was not a useless one, however, for one day an
enterprising _entrepreneur_ was found announcing _Aïda_ as the work
of Maestro _Senatore_ Verdi, thinking evidently of his political as
well as of his musical status. With the year 1875 further honours were
bestowed upon the illustrious composer. He was decorated with the Cross
of Commander, and Star, of the Austrian Order of Franz Joseph; and,
being already a member of the Legion of Honour, he was in May of this
same year nominated a Commander of the Legion. The Italian Minister
at Paris was charged to present him with the insignia of the Order,
accompanied by a flattering letter from the Duke Decazes. Many and
various other honours have fallen upon Verdi. When _Otello_ was first
performed in Paris, for instance, the President of the Republic (M.
Casimir-Périer), before the beginning of the second act, invested the
composer with the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour. Only England
has done nothing. Good old insular England, that can distinguish and
single out successful pickle-makers and milliners, but cannot find an
honour to bestow on many a worthy and wondrous slave to Art and Science!

Many and many have been the less public attentions which Verdi has
received at the hands of his fellow-countrymen. An early mark of
recognition was the presentation by Prince Poniatowski of a gold laurel
crown each leaf of which was inscribed with the title of one of his
works. This was upon the occasion of the performance of _Macbeth_ at
Florence. When _Aïda_ was first performed, the artists presented the
composer with an ivory sceptre ornamented with a star of diamonds; the
title _Aïda_ was set in rubies, whilst _Verdi_, worked in precious
stones, stood out on a branch of laurel. A further memento fell to the
composer when _Aïda_ was given at the Paris Opéra. Delegates from the
Italian colony waited upon the distinguished musician and handed him a
crown of pure gold designed of laurel branches, the whole resting on a
velvet cushioned stand, suitably inscribed. The Parisians placed a fine
bust of the composer in the Grand Opéra _foyer_. It was by Danton, who
had already made some capital out of the composer by caricaturing him
at the keys of the piano, with a lion's mane and claws.

We venture the opinion that no better presentment of the famous
composer's features than the full-length portrait at the opening of
this volume has ever been given to English people. It is thoroughly
characteristic of the man to-day. His face is fairly familiar to most
of us. We all remember his thoughtful countenance and well-shaped head,
with its finely-chiselled features, and dark eyes full of the fire of
genius, the whole set off with a liberal gift of hair on the head and
face. The slender build and highly-strung temperament at once arrest
the eye; nor can we fail to be attracted by the tidily-attired exterior
of the master. Verdi is best seen under the ordeal of some operatic
triumph. Then through all the excitement he remains what he is--a
quiet, calm, modest gentleman, one of those intellectual giants who
scorn to trade upon their greatness.

Verdi is a man of deep human sympathy. The loss of his first wife and
his children shrouded him in a sad mood, which he cannot throw off,
and the peculiarly gloomy and tragic nature of many of his operas has
been attributed to his domestic afflictions. Again, when the great
poet and distinguished author of _I Promessi Sposi_ died, Verdi was
quite overcome. Only when he had poured forth his _Requiem_ to his dead
friend's honoured memory, did he feel that his tribute of affection
towards Manzoni had been at all adequately made. Verdi's goodness of
heart is seen in his treatment of his favourite librettist Francesco
Piave, when dire misfortune befell him. The man who had written the
libretti of _I Due Foscari_, _Macbeth_, _Il Corsaro_, _Stiffelio_,
_Rigoletto_, _Traviata_, _Simon Boccanegra_, and _La Forza del
Destino_, was one day discovered unhinged in body and mind, unfit for
every place save the lunatic asylum. Finding his patient poet thus
afflicted, Verdi settled a pension on him for life, and quieted the
poor fellow's mind by undertaking the charge of an only child and
providing for her welfare. Nothing weak marks Verdi's character; on
the contrary, he, like most good musicians, has a firm will, rather
prone at times to be susceptible and suspicious. One day, during the
rehearsal of _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_ in Paris, the _maestro_ received
a slight from the members of the orchestra, who did not relish the
pains which Verdi was taking to secure his points. Upon explaining
to the _chef d'orchestre_, the next attempt was a plain annoyance;
whereupon the master seized his hat, and did not appear again at
the theatre! Stories of his bluntness of speech are plentiful. At a
rehearsal of _Falstaff_ at Milan, the singers and musicians gave him an
ovation when he entered the Opera-house. In response he said, "I thank
you all; but will thank you more if you do better in your performance
than last time." When _La Traviata_ was a failure at Venice, Varesi,
the baritone, and other interpreters of the work, thinking to console
Verdi, paid him their condolences; but he only exclaimed, "Make them to
yourself and your companions, who have not grasped my music." Withal,
the master can enter into the spirit of a joke. When the _Aïda_ was
produced at Milan in 1872, a certain person named Bertoni went from a
neighbouring village to hear it; his outing, including supper, cost
him fifteen francs ninety centimes. He happened not to like the opera.
However, the next day, on finding it praised on all sides, he resolved
to give it another trial. Accordingly, when it was again performed, he
went for a second time to hear it, spent twenty francs, and was more
dissatisfied than ever. Full of anger, he wrote to Verdi, telling him
that the opera was a failure, doomed to early oblivion, and asking
for the return of thirty-five francs ninety centimes, which sum, he
alleged, he had wasted on going to hear it! Verdi was not offended.
He sided with the aggrieved one. Taking a pen in hand, he authorised
his publisher to send Signor Bertoni thirty-one francs fifty centimes,
adding, "It is not quite as much as the gentleman demands, but I
think he could have had his supper at home!" The composer made the
stipulation, too, that the melomaniac should not again attend the
representations of the composer's works at his expense, except upon his
written order. Quite natural too!

He has a great love for his fellow-men, especially the poor people.
Thus he often creates work on his estate in the shape of quite
unnecessary alterations and buildings, chiefly to give occupation to
the poor people. One day the inevitable organ-grinder struck up the
strains of _Il Trovatore_ within hearing of his studio. Carducci, the
Tennyson of Italy, was with him, and seemed irritated. "How do you like
it?" said he. "Let him go on--it pleases me; and besides, we must all
live somehow," was the reply.

Verdi has been charged with being mean, but the above anecdotes do not
tell against him; nor indeed does his long and unbroken association
with his music publishers (the famous house of Ricordi) show that Verdi
has been asking impossible prices for his works. Naturally he fixes
his figure with his publisher; but with a bargain once struck the
matter ends. As a point of fact the _maestro_ is a very benevolent man,
who often sends gifts of money anonymously to those in distress and
poverty. But he has a great dislike to his gifts being made public.

Numerous philanthropic works, and in particular the hospital at
Busseto, owe their existence to Verdi. Thereof an anecdote is told.
The hospital is directed by the Mayor of the Commune. One day he went
to Verdi to complain of the curate, who, as chaplain of the hospital,
took advantage of his position to meddle with all the affairs of the
administration. The curate was of a certain age, and very despotic; and
the Mayor, in order to get rid of him, asked Verdi what he should do.
The _maestro_ grew tired of the long details produced by the Mayor in
support of his complaint, suddenly cut him short, and said, "The curate
is charged with the confession of the patients, and their burial when
they die. If he interferes with anything else, _kick him out of doors_."

[Illustration: A signed photograph of Giulio Ricordi. The inscription
reads "_All' Egregio Signor Crowest Giulio Ricordi_"]

The gossips have been busy with the disposition of Verdi's supposed
enormous fortune. The following is a sample of many tales that have
been the round of the European press: "Verdi is credited with the
intention of doing something both handsome and original with the
fortune which he has accumulated during his lifetime.... Verdi has no
son, and he does not recognise any obligation to enrich any distant
relations that he may possess. He therefore directs that the ten
million lire which he will leave behind him shall be employed in making
happy those who helped him to earn them--namely, musicians and lyric
artists. A magnificent palace is to be built in his grounds, and this
is to form the home of any Italian musicians and singers who may find
themselves in straitened circumstances at the close of their career."

In the summer of 1849 Verdi bought the villa St. Agata, some two miles
from Busseto, which ever since has remained his favourite residence.
The house is well off the high road, concealed from view by large
trees and shrubs--a condition which probably favoured the operations
of the "crack and jemmy knights," who a year or two back succeeded in
burglariously disturbing the peaceful harmony of the composer's home.
Adjoining are all the appurtenances of a country gentleman's estate.
Some years after the loss of his first wife and children Verdi married
Madame Strepponi, who happily is to-day spared to the master. Most
of the year is passed at St. Agata, the winter months being spent at
Genoa, where the climate is more genial.

Certain reports have credited Verdi with living the life of a recluse,
whose only companions are two enormous Pyrenean hounds, while days are
said to be spent by the master in his studio, which is shut off from
the castle, and from which room Verdi is credited with emerging only
for the purpose of obtaining sleep. No one, the wild reports went, was
admitted save those who came by special invitation; so that often a
distinguished personage would make his way to the guarded stronghold
only to be met by the information that there was no admission.
Naturally shy and reserved, Verdi has ever studiously avoided the
public stare, and repeatedly, when he has been petitioned to visit this
or that town, he has firmly but respectfully declined, especially when
he has foreseen that no purpose was to be served beyond that of honour
to himself. The artistic temperament, especially in a great musician,
differs from that of the city man and merchant, and precludes him from
living ostentatiously, often vulgarly, or keeping so-called open house.
All his close artist acquaintances, and many a musical stranger, have
been visitors or guests at either the luxurious villa St. Agata or the
Genoa Palazzo Doria, and there are many living who could testify to the
charm and hospitality of the composer at home.

One of the best word-portraits of Verdi was drawn by the Paris
correspondent of _The Globe_ in 1894, at the time when the _maestro_
was presiding over the rehearsals of his _Otello_, which was to be
produced at the Grand Opéra:--"Verdi, in spite of his great age," the
sketch ran--"he is now close on eighty-two--has preserved, both as
a man and as a composer, the ardour and warmth of his youth. He is
reproached with being short-tempered, and even violent; thus it is
that, in spite of his well-known kindness, it is not always easy to get
on with him. He wears his white hair and beard long. His features are
a little hard, but remarkably intelligent. His customary attitude is
that of meditation. He walks with his head bent down, and with long and
measured steps. Few persons have seen him smile, much less laugh. It
is said he has never been able to console himself for the loss of his
two sons (son and daughter), who died in the same year as their mother.
Neither fortune nor glory has sufficed to make him forget his terrible
bereavements."

The secret of Verdi's wonderfully maintained vitality is the old _mens
sana in corpore sano_ principle. He is an early riser, and after his
cup of black coffee, the early morning finds him about his garden or
farm. Flowers form his favourite hobby. Behind the old _palazzo_ at
Genoa is a terrace with a large garden, beyond which may be seen the
fine expanse of the Gulf of Genoa. This garden is Verdi's care; but
that the attentions of its gardener are often unequal to the energy
of Nature may easily be discerned. Sometimes the lines of pots of
camellias and geraniums on the terrace present rather a dried-up and
neglected appearance. But no one must meddle with them. It is Verdi's
special duty to tend and water these, although they are evidently often
disregarded. No one dare tamper with these flowers, and if a visitor
appropriates a blossom unasked, it annoys Verdi considerably. Yet never
is the musician prouder, or more the grand man, than when presenting
any particular visitor with one of his horticultural specimens. He
rides almost daily, and composes a little each day. Then he lives
sparingly, and is most abstemious, taking, after the Italian fashion,
more cheese and eggs than meat. Verdi cares little for music in his
home, and seldom visits the opera save for business purposes. "At St.
Agata," he wrote to Filippi, the Italian critic, "we neither make nor
talk about music; you will run the risk of finding a piano not only out
of tune, but very likely without strings." To talk "shop" in Verdi's
hearing is objectionable to him, and no act of indiscretion could be
greater than the one of begging a musical question or discussion.
His chief indoor amusement is a game of cards or billiards with his
wife and relations. All reading he leaves until the evening, and this
partakes mostly of poetry and philosophy.

All through life Verdi has been a God-fearing man. Pandering to nobody,
he has maintained a perfectly independent, straightforward method. Nor
has he countenanced any but honest dealings; while to place himself
in the hands of his artists, great or small, has been quite beyond
him. He has demanded only the best efforts of his workers. Thus on the
eve of the production of _Aïda_ he wrote to a friend: "I wish nothing
more than a good, and, above all, intelligent vocal and instrumental
execution and _mise en scène_. As to the rest, _à la grace de Dieu_;
for thus I began, and thus I wish to finish my career."

[Footnote 68: _Life of Verdi_ (Roosevelt), p. 33.]

[Footnote 69: The chorus, "_O Signore dal tetto natio_," from _I
Lombardi_, being sung in the streets of Venice and Milan, fomented the
first demonstration against Austrian rule.]

[Footnote 70: _Verdi_ (Pougin--Matthew), p. 123.]



                              CHAPTER X

                   GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT OF STYLE

Verdi's popularity--An important personality in music--Most successful
   composer of the nineteenth century--Verdi's opportuneness--Keynote
   of future struck in _Nabucco_--Its characteristics--Distinguishing
   features of Verdi's music--Stereotyped pattern operas--Change of
   style imminent in _Luisa Miller_--Altered second period style of
   _Rigoletto_--This maintained in _Il Trovatore_--_La Traviata_
   forebodings--Basevi's charge of an altered style therein--_La
   Traviata_ and _débûtantes_--True Verdi style in _Les Vêpres
   Siciliennes_--_Simon Boccanegra_ and _Un Ballo in Maschera_--Third
   period works--_Aïda_--Alleged Wagner influence--Mistaken
   criticism--Orchestration of _Otello_--Its style and _technique_
   compared with _Aïda_--_Falstaff_--Its position as an opera--A
   saviour of Italian art--The _Illustrated London News_ defends Verdi
   from early critics--Later critics silenced--Verdi vindicated.


There is no need to ask "Who is Verdi?" He is that Italian master
who has put a girdle of melody literally round the world. Not to the
accomplished musician, the cultured amateur, the plodding student, and
the happy home musical circle is he known only, but, to take England
alone, he is familiar by name and tune to thousands of the poorest and
lowest, whose only music is the street organ, and whose main musical
literature is the opera-house announcements on the theatre doors and
public hoardings. Men and women who cannot pronounce the name of
Mendelssohn articulate Verdi, and outcasts and arabs, whose opera-house
is the wide, wide metropolis, and whose only orchestra is engined
by the Saffron Hill fraternity, have the Italian _maestro_, in name
and tune, at their tongue-tips. All this may not be art, but it is
magnificent.

Verdi becomes a great art-study. He stands distinctly an epoch-making
musician. A composer who in 1845 had not been heard in England, and who
at the present time commands the lyric stage of this and every European
country, to say nothing of other continents, furnishes necessarily
solid ground for critical musical inquiry. His artistic career is most
instructive in its steady growth to mature ripeness. His efforts,
too, have been almost entirely confined to opera, and if we examine
Verdi's operas from first to last, it will not be difficult to trace
the change that has taken place in the fashion of opera during the past
three-quarters of a century. This has been as progressive as it has
been emphatic, and no composer's works reflect it so decidedly as do
Verdi's. The man and the musician went on in company. As he matured, so
his art-work ripened. The three periods of his artistic career furnish
a history of nineteenth-century operatic fashion and style.

While the most popular musician of the nineteenth century, he is, of
all Italy's famous exponents of dramatic-musical art, indisputably
the greatest. The land of song has produced many notable musicians,
many wondrous melodists; but not one of them, not even Rossini, has
so modified and influenced the national art as has Verdi. The entire
extent of his impress will only be fully known when the Italians come
to write their country's musical history. Verdi will be found to be the
master who made Italian opera a grand national art-form, something of a
social requirement in this closing nineteenth century.

To win a reputation such as belongs to Verdi, even if some discover
it to be ephemeral only, is, indeed, a great achievement. Other
pre-eminent musicians have laboured in every branch of their
art--sacred and secular, vocal and instrumental, oratorio and opera,
symphony and quartet, song and dance--with all which some of them
have hardly become known during their lifetimes outside the range of
their own country. There seems to be a profound musical problem here,
but the solution is at hand. The greatest of the great composers were
each and all before their time. Bach, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and
Schumann came in an age that was all unprepared for them. Verdi, on
the other hand, whose phenomenal success is unlike theirs, was born at
the moment. The musical world was waiting with open arms for him; for
it had been satiated with opera music of a meretricious order, though
written by his own countrymen, from which any deliverance could not
fail to be a relief. The rescuer proved eventually to be Verdi.

Certain critics seem assured that Verdi copied, imitated, and
transferred Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini, and other composers. If this
be true, then, in a sense, they stand indebted to him; for Verdi is the
best-heard Italian composer to-day. Verdi, however, was something more
than a musical _chef_, with the knack of serving up the _rechauffés_ of
brother musicians.

The public, apt to be blamed for the majority of its judgments, made no
mistake concerning _Nabucco_. Verdi's countrymen were "lifted along"
by the magic music, and, from _Nabucco_ to _Falstaff_--an unparalleled
instance of consistent artistic unfolding--this distinct power of the
master's has acted similarly upon thousands who have flocked to hear
the Verdi operas. Their passion, fire, and strong dramatic character
have proved irresistible.

The Milanese had heard Rossini, Mercadante, and Bellini to the full;
of the melodious phrases of Donizetti they were already tiring, when,
suddenly, a musician with rare force and passionate melodiousness came
upon them. Donizetti, mainly through his melodic prolificness, had
brought Italian grand opera to a level of triviality and mediocrity;
Verdi, with his depth of feeling and breadth of melody, promised an
exactly opposite musical manner. The public, ever ready for some new
thing, seized hold, willing to stand by him only as long as he could
stir and amuse them. This he has ever been able to do.

The natural qualities which characterise Verdi's music so decidedly,
stamped his first work, as they mark his latest. The underlying secret
of it all is furnished in the word _Advance_. It is not only Verdi's
superior, or particular melody and harmony which operate; it is the
common-sense, up-to-date way in which the composer has always regarded
his subject. By intuition, he took a greater and a deeper view of
Italian opera than any of his predecessors, and he went on advancing
with the times. His countrymen had melody mainly at their pen-tips.
Verdi used this and much more, and, while Wagner, for example, came
along "great guns" with his German national opera, Verdi was proceeding
to show that Italian grand opera could be brought to equal importance,
musically and materially. Verdi, in his first work, unquestionably gave
the lovers of opera something more than they had ever had before. That
"something" was below the surface, and did not affect the outward forms
so much as the hidden soul of the music. It was, however, discernible
enough. In this direction mainly did Verdi's early operas differ from
other Italian dramatic musical compositions. His later works, dating
from _Aïda_, are illustrations of the new Italian national operatic
art-form, which can never be surpassed, and will rarely be approached
in Italy.

_I Due Foscari_, a colourless, tame work which followed _Nabucco_,
did not enhance its composer's reputation. Of all Verdi's operas, it
would be difficult to find one showing fewer traces of his undoubted
steady development of style than this. _Giovanna d'Arco_, _Alzira_,
_Attila_, _Macbeth_, _I Masnadieri_, _Il Corsari_, _La Battaglia di
Legnano_, were all on the accepted Italian lines of Bellini and his
predecessors; but in _Luisa Miller_ there came a decided and suggestive
advance. There was a greater heightening of the dramatic interest,
while many of the vocal and instrumental combinations had never been
equalled in Italian opera. Certainly, Verdi was already doing more
than perpetuating the accepted Bellini-Donizetti method. It was yet
early to give the world an _Aïda_; but Verdi, we shall believe, was
feeling his way towards a more perfect Italian opera-form. What did
the country's opera lack that was so distinctly a born quality in him?
Dramatic fire, continuity, oneness of conception,--a whole, instead of
a piecemeal dramatic-musical composition. The first strivings after
this--a perfection that has been so undoubtedly attained in Verdi's
most advanced operas--were apparent in _Luisa Miller_.

Therein the choruses are exceedingly attractive with their striking
contrasts, while the brilliancy of, say the _bravura_, "_Lo vedi_," and
the pathos and fire of other solos and concerted pieces, combine to
produce a truly fine opera. Verdi has also so developed the situations
and heightened the interest, that a climax of overwhelming effect is
reached in the last act. The orchestration is replete with richness
and variety. The whole style of _Luisa Miller_ is musician-like to
a degree, despite occasional reflections of his own and other men's
compositions. The alleged defect of _Luisa Miller_ was a lack of
melody. None of the fervour and force that were heralded in _Nabucco_
were wanting, but the composer's melodic vein appeared to be drying
up! So thought the critics. Not quite! Verdi was contemplating greater
things, and in a while was to step into a new plane of creative musical
art. His first opera had been unrestrained melodic settings--after
the Italian fashion--of morbid and gloomy stories. He was to curb all
this; and what in _Luisa Miller_ were merely indications of this change
became realities in _Rigoletto_.

In a critical examination into Verdi's artistic development,
_Rigoletto_ occupies an important place. In it the composer, throwing
off his early First style, adopts a less popular mould, which, while
new in the history of Italian operatic art, was more characteristic of
himself. As it has been well put--"Verdi is the rough, fiery composer
no longer. Charm and grace are more to him now than mere noise and
hubbub. In _Rigoletto_ and _Trovatore_ he gets rid of all that.
Consequently we, who have often blamed him, have now only praise to
bestow upon him--a change that he himself has brought about, and on
which we congratulate him sincerely."[71]

This criticism describes exactly the situation. Not only was melodic
exuberance stemmed in _Rigoletto_ for a mixture of tune and recitative
or _musica parlante_, but the orchestration had met a chastening
process. While vocally the score was adjudged poor in melody and
entirely deficient in _pezzi concertanti_, the orchestration was
decidedly less noisy--its general character being uniformly calm and
tranquil.

The _Trovatore_ music is an excellent embodiment of Verdi's Second
period style. It is less studied and more spontaneous than _Rigoletto_,
but it sustains the advance in style. Uninviting as the libretto
was, it had striking situations, with its black story and its gross
improbabilities, which afforded Verdi scope for passionate expression
and effect in more than one vivid scene. It found the people's favour
immediately, and continues to hold audiences, despite the dinning
suggestions that it is "not popular," "is dying out," and should be
"placed on the retired list."

Though the public stamped _Il Trovatore_ with the _imprimatur_ of its
approval, it did not altogether please the critics. There has ever
been an endeavour to depreciate the opera, probably because so vast a
success was gained by such simple means. Thus it has been described
as "from beginning to end a direct plagiarism of Beethoven,"[72] as
if such a charge could be sustained either to the discredit of Verdi,
or to the credit of the Bonn master. Notwithstanding censorship, the
work has proved one of those few operas that have been "the rage" all
over Europe, and we repeat it still possesses the power to charm and
attract large, if not fashionable, audiences. Yet, what a span divides
it from _Otello!_ No two of the master's works show his change and
development of style more distinctly than these operas. To say nothing
about conception and construction, the vocal and instrumental music in
one and the other is as removed as a storm is from the rippling of a
rivulet. The two works have to be heard in the same week--as they were
at Covent Garden during the 1895 season with the hidden orchestra--to
realise and appreciate rightly, the mighty step (especially in the
instrumental department) between the two operas. _La Traviata_
foreshadowed something of what was to be accomplished in _Aïda_,
_Otello_, and _Falstaff_. There was the familiar appeal to the popular
ear, through that never-failing and ever-welcome channel--melody;
and the construction was similar to the _Trovatore_; the treatment
orchestrally and vocally, if curtailed and controlled, being much
after the old Verdinian manner. There was undoubtedly a lessening of
excessiveness, due more to the melancholy nature of the book probably,
than to a striving for a fresh style.

Basevi, the Italian critic, has thus written of _La Traviata:_ "It is
a composition which, by the quality of the characters, by the nature
of its sentiment, by the want of spectacle, bears semblance to a
comedy. Verdi has discovered a third manner, which in several points
resembles the French method of the Opéra Comique. This style of music,
although it has not been tried on the stage in Italy, is, however, not
unknown in private circles. In these latter years, we have seen Luigi
Gordigiani and Fabio Campana making themselves known principally in
this style of music, called _da camera_. Verdi with his _Traviata_ has
transported this chamber-music on to the stage, and with happy success,
to which the subject he has chosen well lends itself. We meet with
more simplicity in this work than in the others of the same composer,
especially as regards the orchestra, where the quartet of stringed
instruments is almost always predominant; the _parlanti_ occupy a
greater part of the score; we meet with several of those airs which
repeat under the form of verses; and, finally, the principal vocal
subjects are, for the most part, developed in short binary and tertiary
movements, and have not in general the extension which the Italian
style demands."[73]

That the music indicates another and Third style in Verdi's musical
manner we prefer to forget; such a classification would need to rest
upon this single score, and would involve us in a Fourth style, if we
wished to classify the operas of the composer's closing years. Three
periods in which to locate Verdi's art-progress and work are quite
sufficient. Wagner was yet not influencing Verdi! No one will doubt
that its music gave the opera its permanent position. Not only the
nervous _débutante_, but every _prima donna_ has seen in the character
of _Violetta_ a _rôle_ admitting of the finest touches and varied
emotions which a leading lady can be called upon to express in the
exercise of her art. From the day when Piccolomini roused the excited
_habitués_ of Mr. Lumley's house to a fever enthusiasm, a long list
of singers--including a Patti, Nilsson, and Albani--have studied and
played the part with varying advantage and delight, and whatever the
verdict has been, the grace and charm of the music has always commanded
the admiration of opera-singers, whether _soli_ or chorus. And
vocalists are as a rule better judges than are reporters and critics of
what music should be.

Notwithstanding criticisms, good, bad, and indifferent, the fact
remains that _La Traviata_, like _Il Trovatore_, is still with us; and
although we have long been warned that it is "declining in popularity,
like other operas of its period,"[74] it defers its final departure!
Why does the music continue to please the public?--the uneducated
section let us say. How is it that the cantatrice and queen of song
loves the part still? The answer is found in the natural and graceful
character of Verdi's music, and in nothing else. To us it has always
seemed a more original and satisfactory opera than _Il Trovatore_. More
equal throughout in quality, it contains some of the most touching
natural music that has ever been heard from the opera stage.

Spontaneous beauty and brilliant period were not wanting in _Les Vêpres
Siciliennes_, or in _Un Ballo in Maschera_, albeit the master-mind
appears disturbed. No Italian opera music could be more thoroughly
Verdi's than the numbers, "_Giorno di Pianto_," a reflection of the
_Donna è mobile_ canzone, and "_Ma se m'e forza perderti_" romanza in
_Les Vêpres Siciliennes_ and _Un Ballo in Maschera_ respectively.

As has been already suggested, in _La Forza del Destino_ and _Don
Carlos_ came unmistakable traces of a change in Verdi's manner.
Although in these operas his habit of portraying human passions at
their strongest pitch--in their noblest and sometimes their basest
moods--still remains, Verdi's mature or Third period works embody to
the fullest extent all that was generating in his mind nine years
previously. _Aïda_ in form and conception is clearly based upon _La
Forza del Destino_ and _Don Carlos_. Strikingly successful as the
master has been with his First and Second period operas, they were
not productions that reflected the fullest power of the high-minded
musician. Profitable financially they had indeed proved to their
composer; but they did not take Italian art one great step onwards.
Verdi was keenly sensible of this. The desire to achieve something
that would really advance his country's art taking possession of him,
therefore, and what was more, finding grand, speedy expression at
a time of life when most successful men seek repose--all this was,
indeed, most admirable and artist-like.

The instant _Aïda_ appeared, critics discovered much that was novel
in its style. It was a combination of old and new--the accepted
Italian opera mixed up with the best and latest in French and German
Grand opera. No one expected it of Verdi, yet here it was before
the world's eyes. On its production, doubts were freely expressed
concerning its permanent qualities. "It is easy to see that the work
will never achieve the lasting success of _Rigoletto_, the _Trovatore_,
and the _Traviata_," wrote one critic. Another said, "Except as a
spectacle, that it will be preferred by Verdi's old admirers to some
of his earlier and less pretentious works, or that it will gain for
him new disciples, we cannot think is in any high degree probable."
Unhappily for these predictions, the work saw something like a hundred
representations in Paris within the next three or four years!

A score of years and more have now passed, and yet _Aïda_ draws crowded
Royal Italian opera audiences, from which we conclude that the work
has always possessed real musical merit--merit which the critics, as
a body, first failed to recognise and acknowledge. The splendid opera
also, has proved one of a triad which have raised Verdi considerably in
the estimation of every right-minded musician. Before _Aïda_, _Otello_,
and _Falstaff_, he was dubbed by critics the "sanguinary Italian
melodist," the "morbid imitator of Meyerbeer," the "sensational,
commonplace composer," with other similarly inelegant, inaccurate, and
offensive epithets. Those who have lived long enough, however, have
discovered something more than the musical blackleg in Verdi.

The opera of modern times must possess merit as a drama; it does not
suffice for it to be but a peg, hanging upon which is a series of
pretty tunes. The old-fashioned plan of chopping up each act into a
series of recitatives, airs, duets, etc., is now discarded in favour
of more musical declamation. In the new opera there are less frequent
repetitions of the words, and consequently the dramatic action gains
in continuity. The orchestra too plays a more exalted part, being
resorted to not only to accompany and illustrate the text, but to
provide a general local colour throughout. All this Verdi supplied in
_Aïda_, and the cry at once raised was that he had been Wagner-hunting.
Critics in the musical profession and out of it--critics who know a
little about music, and a considerably larger number who knew nothing
of the art--declared that Italy had at last gone over to the German
musical method. But thirty years previously we were told that "Signor
Verdi's _forte_ is declamatory music of the highest passion"; also
that "the composer's music becomes almost intolerable, owing to his
immoderate employment of brass instruments." Undoubtedly in _Aïda_
the master adopts a deeper and more dramatic character than had been
usually shown by Italian masters; but he could have as easily done this
had Wagner never lived. The ambition of a master-mind like Verdi's
would be to raise his country's art to the level of other countries;
and the crowning life-work of Verdi has been to place Italian opera on
a higher plane, and to furnish an example of Italian national opera
that would compare with that of France and Germany. To accomplish
this the Bellini-Donizetti type of opera needed to be newly planned,
orchestrated, and shaped into a far more comprehensive homogeneous
whole. It was all this that _Aïda_ pretended to meet; and it, _Otello_,
and _Falstaff_ have left their composer's mind thoroughly at ease
probably concerning the place of Italy in dramatic music for the
future. Certainly they should have done.

In composing _Aïda_ Verdi had something more in view than pleasing
the ears of the Khedive and his Egyptians. He had before him the
operatic universe; and it was to arouse this that he sat him down to
write when almost a septuagenarian. To cut himself adrift from the
conventionalities of Italian opera, and place before the public a
grand and beautiful dramatic lyric work, comparable with any opera
that had preceded it, was indeed a great proceeding. With its modern
characteristics the first alarm raised by musical public and critics
alike was Wagner; but after many years' experience and trial of the
work it is discovered that there is very little, if any, Wagner device
or manner in it!

In the nineteen numbers of which the opera consists there is much that
is musically novel and beautiful. The descriptive music, especially
when removed from the tragic parts of the work, shows the composer
in his happiest mood. The emotional (even sensational) nature of the
music too is very marked, and this is where the master, retaining his
country's manner, rises triumphantly over French and German dramatic
music. The vocal music is thoroughly characteristic of Verdi. There are
few solos, yet the charm of such pieces as "_Celeste Aïda_," "_L'insana
parola_," and Aïda's romance, "_O cieli azzurri_," wherein she recalls
the beauty of her own country, makes ample amends in quality for
the absence of quantity. The duets, of which there are six, are not
unusually striking, but the _finales_ are exceedingly fine, and the
effect of the ensemble is most imposing. The vocal and instrumental
combinations are undoubtedly happy and effective.

It was the orchestration of _Aïda_ mainly which led public and critics
away concerning Verdi's supposed conversion to the Wagner or some
other "ism." No sooner were heard the grand choral and orchestral
combinations in the finales of the work,--movements remarkable alike
for their breadth, grandeur, and dramatic reality,--than it was
bellowed forth that Verdi had been imitating Berlioz, and the host of
modern manipulators of the orchestra. The ponderous instrumentation,
some say too much so, carried all minds at once to Wagner, when,
really, Verdi could still be Verdi if, exercising his privilege,
he elected to blow his theatre down with brass. "The work," wrote
a critic, "is very heavily scored, over-instrumented in the brass
particularly, and it would exact double the number and twice the
tone of the strings at Covent Garden to counterbalance the blatant
effects,"[75]--from which we are to believe, we suppose, that in this
opera the talented, experienced composer had taken leave of his senses!
Quite an unlucky hit, coming as it did at a time when the musical world
was only too ready to see in such criticism a hidden suggestion of
Wagnerian influence. It was unfortunate, too, inasmuch as the charges
of "over-instrumenting" and "undue declamation" were arraigned against
Verdi as far back as 1846, when _Nabucco_ was produced--long before
Wagner was heard of. "As we have had occasion to remark more than
once,"[76] wrote the _Athenæum_ critic, speaking of _Nino_, _i.e._
_Nabucco_, "its composer's music becomes almost intolerable, owing to
his immoderate employment of brass instruments." Again, "Signor Verdi's
_forte_ is declamatory music of the highest passion."

Yet, thirty years afterwards, these very characteristics are traced
to some recent French or German influence! Some few think otherwise.
The _Aïda_ subject, in its Eastern origin and character, calls for an
excess of broad, semi-barbaric effects, as any one acquainted with
oriental manners, life, and literature knows. Brass instruments convey
this admirably, better than all the "string" and "wood" in the world.
It is from this profuse employment of brass instruments, particularly
the six genuine Egyptian trumpets used in the triumphal march of
Radamès and his army, that the charge of imitating Wagner, or of
becoming "Germanised," has probably arisen. But if the truth be told,
this Verdi development has as much to do with Wagner as with Adam,
the departures being a consequence of the master's desire to write a
thoroughly up-to-date national opera, which his talent and learning
fully warranted him in doing. Both vocal and instrumental music aimed
at that illustrative local colour which the book and situation needed;
hence the lavish use of oriental scales, Persian songs, the dance of
black boys, with all the resplendent paraphernalia of Eastern temple,
pagoda, and palace.

With all its "new style," the effort to get away from old methods by
the employment of theoretical devices, novel and extreme harmonies,
abundant recitative, curtailed melody, magnificent finales, and
unlimited stage resources, _Aïda_ is still distinctly Verdinian. The
solos are peculiarly in Verdi's vein, and frequently suggestions of
_Trovatore_ and other works crop up, while the entire opera abounds
in dramatic, passionate expression peculiar to Verdi. All this is as
it should be from the Verdinian point of view; but if the result of
this laudable attempt to formulate a modern Italian opera must be to
brand it with some guiding influence or subject-model, then, instead of
making Wagner that power, it should be Meyerbeer. If Verdi has followed
any model at all, which we do not admit, it is the sumptuous richness
and picturesque variety of the composer of _Les Huguenots_, _Le
Prophète_, and _L'Africaine_. But Verdi wanted no model. At a distance
of twenty years we can look back and discover that Verdi had something
more in his mind when composing _Aïda_ than the slavish imitation
of this or that composer. He was about to crown his career with an
opera, or more, of a style which many circumstances debarred him from
attempting earlier.

All told, there is ample evidence in this first great work of Verdi's
Third period to show that the composer is still wholly himself. That
faculty, which was particularly Verdi's, of expressing extreme emotion,
and of raising his audience to the highest pitches of sensational
excitement, is present, notably in the finale of the second act. Then
the composer's old command of melodious imagery and pathos, together
with the expression of varied and conflicting passions, stamp the
work from beginning to end--the love duet in the second act, between
soprano and tenor, a romance in the third act, a soprano and contralto
duet, a quartet and chorus, and all the music, from the consecration
of Radamès down to his victorious return with Aïda's captive father,
being particularly Verdinian. Even the composer's supposed weaknesses
are present in _Aïda_. The whole subject is melodramatic; the principal
characters are killed, as usual; his alleged morbid preference for
dismal dirge-music finds ample vent in the funeral of the lovers, and
other tragic parts of the opera; from beginning to end can be heard
melodic suggestions recalling the old familiar operas. All this, and
page after page of imaginative, fancy tone-painting, _Aïda_ contains,
and yet we have been asked to believe that it is not Verdi!

The student of comparative musical science will see in _Otello_ a
further development of style. The composer confirms _Aïda_, and
while further stultifying the detractory criticism passed on _Aïda_,
furnishes ample proof of a marvellous vitality, and a freshness and
originality, with depth of learning, which his greatest of admirers
could scarcely have expected. Even with _Aïda_ thrown in (as a sort of
operatic abnormalism) many still regarded Verdi as the mere seductive,
melodramatic Italian melodist; the profound musician never. _Otello_
settled matters. The majesty, power, inspiration, and learning, the
command of theoretical device, and orchestral _technique_, were
overwhelming. Nobody expected it from Italy, still less from Verdi.
Quite a surprise! Here was a work wherein all the lights and shades
of human passion were depicted with a truthfulness and reality which
no living musician could equal. The greatest of the world's poets and
dramatists was set in a fashion to dispute which, or to disparage,
would be useless. There could be no other conclusion, and whether
performed in Italy, France, or in England, one opinion only has been
possible as to the _Otello_ music. This must be held to be a great
triumph for the justly famed, though long abused, musician, especially
when, as we contend, this perfected art-style is Verdi's own--the
man's musical genius, characteristics, and great learning at their
highest pitch, uninfluenced, unaffected (save in that legitimate
manner which experience brings) by any foreign composer or school. The
developed mind and man in Verdi's case gives us the splendid spectacle
of the developed musician, particularly _en evidence_ in _Otello_. If
we delight to watch the growth and ripening of Verdi's genius from
_Oberto, Conte di S. Bonifacio_, to the _Missa di Requiem_, we can
become still more interested in pondering over the _nuova maniera_
which marked _Aïda_, a manner which is heightened in the _Otello_
masterpiece, and accentuated in _Falstaff_.

_Otello_ is a perfectly modern opera, thoroughly up-to-date in design,
material, and construction. Of its four acts, the last is distinctly
the most masterly; the second being a little inferior to the third.
The initial act is marked with Verdi's matured manner less than either
of the others. Though somewhat fragmentary in places, the opera holds
together with perfect homogeneity, and it must be regarded as a wholly
uninfluenced score, more so than _Aïda_. The "Love duet" and Iago's
"Credo" are the only pieces in the opera that recall Wagner, and they
have too much of the Verdi and the intensely Italian about them to be
mistaken. No! _Otello_ is an opera which only an Italian could write;
a work which will always rank as a brilliant example of latest Italian
grand-opera. In advanced thought and reasoning, together with depth of
learning and exercise of the declamatory branch of vocal art, it is
somewhat superior to _Aïda_, but it is doubtful whether it will ever
become as popular, because it lacks the glorious picturesqueness and
inspiration of that grand work.

Had Verdi's career ended with _Otello_ there would have been no
difficulty in determining his place--a very forward one--in the
world's history, and notably in the world of dramatic music. With the
production of _Falstaff_, however, the wonderful vitality, resource,
and inspiration of the giant mind broke out afresh, bewildering
everybody concerning the art-possibilities that were still in store
behind the more than octogenarian composer. It is the swan-song perhaps
of the illustrious master, and a great song it indeed is. To think that
such a score should be the easy pleasurable outcome of the brain of a
man bordering upon his eightieth year was, at the time, one of the most
extraordinary features in connection with the production of _Falstaff_,
and the fact will ever stand amongst remarkable efforts in musical
annals. _Il Trovatore_ is a monument of melody, a standing example
of what passionate tune can be and is as an element of art; _Otello_
was an extraordinary development in breadth of style and usage, vocal
and instrumental; but _Falstaff_ surpassed all. It sums up all that
is best in Verdi's musical mind and method, and will ever serve as a
standard of Italian national art, _nemine dissentiente_. It is the
most brilliant, the most masterly, of all his operatic productions.
Gorgeous in its wealth of invention and consummate skill, it places
Verdi on his highest artistic pedestal. Like _Aïda_ and _Otello_ it
is pre-eminently a musician's work, and shows the widened style of
the composer, which used to be regarded as a Wagner imitation more
than either of its predecessors. With all its delightful, unceasing
humour the work does not appeal readily to the popular mind, the fact
being that to understand and enjoy it the taste must be educated. Like
Wagner's operas, _Falstaff_ is a score that taxes the critical sense,
and the more musical and highly cultivated the listener is, the more
will Verdi's latest music command attention. Nor does this mean that
the opera will not live. On the contrary, as musical knowledge becomes
more and more spread, _Falstaff_ and _Otello_, the advanced handiwork
of Verdi, will prove to be music of a far more satisfactory nature
than that luxuriant passionate sort which abounds in _Trovatore_,
_Traviata_, and other young Italy operas.

If the music of _Falstaff_ proved a revelation to those who first heard
it, it was also a revolution. Nobody had ever credited Verdi with the
preponderating quality in this opera; it was Mozart come to life again!
The humanity of the man who had ever depicted the morbid, treacherous,
worst-passioned natures was suddenly reflected in the light-hearted,
innocent frolic of youth, music as light and babbling as a child's
speech. All that was so cheerful in _Le Nozze di Figaro_, the fun of
the _Barbiere di Siviglia_, with much of the Verdi characteristic,
shot out in _Falstaff_ in a way that simply electrified the musical
world. The tragic, melodramatic Verdi was no more: in his place stood
the exalted, the chastened master of art. No other composer had ever
made such a change of front, a change that brought him on good terms
with the whole musical world. _Falstaff_ was indeed a new apocalypse.
Perhaps the most striking feature of the _Falstaff_ music after its
jovialness is its consistent character--one of high quality and
finely detailed workmanship. It is not a case of sandwiching a good
tune, dramatic chorus, or an overwhelming _ensemble_, between a mass
of meagre indifferent writing, but from first to last the music is
of a most elevated, high-pitched order--tune, harmony, scholarship,
_ensemble_--these abound; but the whole is so well balanced and
dexterously planned, as to make the opera a delightful study for the
theatrical musician as well as for the careless listener. As has
been well said, "_Falstaff_ is not a mere string of pretty tunes,
_ensembles_, and choruses of every-day pattern, but a colossal work,
a mass of intricacy, such as musicians alone can dive into and
comprehend whilst uncultivated listeners can yet find enchantment upon
the surface. For to the cunning of a Wagner has here been allied the
simplicity of a Mozart."

Undoubtedly _Falstaff_ is the most remarkable example of the master's
genius, and when we reflect that while it was being evolved there
was a gaping world, with ears all open, waiting to learn how much of
Wagner would resolve into Verdi, it becomes truly astonishing that its
composer has steered so clear of any appreciable influence or model.
It is the unaided work of the one master-hand. Assuming that Verdi has
anywhere imitated Wagner, then in _Falstaff_ the Italian is certainly
further removed from the German than in any other of his operas. There
is hardly a recurring theme in the whole opera; and the everchanging,
constantly varying tints of emotional expression, the brilliant
_ensembles_, the ingeniously contrived pieces, where three and more
rhythms are expressing chattering views and sentiments at one and the
same time; beautiful solo pieces, duets, and notably an accompanied
quartet--all these, and the highly dramatic and well-judged _finales_,
have no more to do with Wagner, or any other composer save Verdi,
than they have with Homer. As a whole, _Falstaff_ is an astounding
masterpiece. In form, construction, scholarship, and musicianly result,
it is the finest opera Verdi, or any Italian, has written. Its vocal
and instrumental play and device are such as were never thought to be
in Verdi, and, like its two immediate predecessors, it places Verdi in
the first rank of the world's operatic composers. _Falstaff_ must ever
be regarded as a wondrous specimen of humorous music, constructed upon
perfectly legitimate and classical lines. No nobler work could crown
an artist's life-efforts; no other work shows so well the advanced and
chastened style of Verdi's Third and matured period. _Falstaff_, as a
creation, has immortalised Verdi. It has done more. _Finem respice!_ It
has saved artistic Italy in this _fin de siècle_ age. This last work of
Verdi's furnishes the culminating point in the history of Italian opera.

How then can the punishment which Verdi received at the hands of
his first English musical critics be explained? How came it that a
composer, who had lovingly placed many splendid tributes upon the high
altar of his art, was so estimated, by at least one responsible critic,
as to merit severe castigation of such a character as this:--

"Signor Verdi is the one prophet of Italian opera, and since this
paragraph was penned, the waning of the coarse light of his star is
pretty distinctly to be observed. It is hardly possible to imagine his
violence outdone by any successors; yet this would seem to be the law
of Italian movement in such shows of art as are to be popular."[77]

Thirty and forty years ago, music here was hardly deemed worthy of
criticism in newspaper columns, albeit a journal here and there--the
_Athenæum_, for instance--recognised the art. If, however, there were
then few musical representatives of the English Press, the disadvantage
appears to have been atoned for by the character of the criticisms.
Some few of the musical scribes deigned to notice, and were deemed
capable of considering, Verdi. These began, from the first, to hunt
him _à outrance_, neither discerning nor expecting any good from the
Italian. Never was there a more abused man than Verdi. If "best things
are moulded out of faults," then to distinguish "faults" in such a
musical renegade was out of the question. The whole was, according to
certain critics, hopelessly unregenerate!

"Verdi's career in this country has been curiously chequered. If
artistical anathemas could have annihilated his fame, then would he
have long since ceased to have been heard of; but he appears to enjoy
a cat-like vitality amongst our amateurs. Never was there one of his
works produced, either at Her Majesty's Theatre or at the Royal Italian
Opera, but he received a terrific castigation from criticisers, and
the musical public were assured, after these awful denunciations of
indignant journalism at the performance of such 'unmitigated trash,'
that the name of Verdi could be no more uttered in this musical
metropolis. And yet the thus extinguished composer--on paper--the very
next season was sure to be brought forward in the shape of a revival
of one of his 'failures,' or in the representation of his latest
continental novelty. What then is the key to this anomalous state of
things, wherein it is found that Verdi's defenders, amongst writers,
are so few, and his partisans still more rare, and still Verdi is
not shelved? Is it that amongst opera frequenters there is a fiat in
his favour, which is sufficiently strong to maintain his name in the
repertory? Or is it that the general body of amateurs feel that the
dead-set against the only composer left in Italy is based on prejudice,
intolerance, and injustice?

"Whatever may be the solution of these questions, it is, at all events,
satisfactory to find that the spirit of justice is sufficiently
powerful amongst English audiences not to be carried away by mere
clamour; and _Rigoletto_, the three-act lyric drama, put on the stage
for the first time on Saturday, with such magnificent resources, will
secure an impartial hearing from those _connoisseurs_ who are not led
away by proper names only."[78]

Thus wrote one critic who possessed good sense and courage which
enabled him to look calmly on, while the pen-and-ink slaughter raged
fast and furious, for several years following Verdi's advent here.
Coming from a journalist representing a leading, influential journal,
the comment is, at least, suggestive.

As it bears, moreover, upon an interesting aspect of present-day
journalism, it may, at this long removed period, well be reviewed,
if only in justice to Verdi. That the composer long since vindicated
himself there can be no doubt; but this does not do away with a
present-day question of how far public criticism should influence those
who read it, or to what extent hostile censorship has operated, or
may do, to crush the artistic aims and possibilities of those for the
encouragement of whom, and not for their annihilation, journalistic
comment is supposed primarily to exist. Perspicuity should be the first
law of criticism.

The writer of the above quoted remarks had in view, among others, such
contemporary journals as the _Times_ and _Athenæum_, which papers,
especially the latter, had been particularly endowed, as it would
appear, with the mission of "slating" Verdi, until there could be
reached what in pugilistic parlance is known as a "knock out." Not for
a moment do we doubt that all that was written and published had in
view the possible interests of Art.

It is not difficult for us, living in these closing years of the
Nineteenth Century, to assure posterity that the suggestion of an
"ephemeral reputation" for _Il Trovatore_ has been sadly belied;
and Verdi has demonstrated in the broad light of day that neither
Rossini nor Meyerbeer nor Auber accomplished for dramatic lyric art
what he has done. "Mission" or no mission, "system" or no system, _Il
Trovatore_ has braved the battle of managerial cupidity for nearly half
a century; it has replenished theatre coffers, and it still "draws"
crowds who enjoy listening to it. What more is wanted? If Music does
these things, then, surely some of the first conditions of Art are
fulfilled. The most modern of modern music can accomplish little more,
unless it be to vex the mind with its abstruseness, and to tax the
brain in divining the whereabouts of this or that theme, and the entry
and passage of some particular "subject" phrase. This revelling in the
region of theory, the perpetual expectation for progressions of fugal
enterprise and cleverness, are well enough in their way, and provide
admirable occupations for musical "cobwebs"; but is it a congenial
employment for the rank and beauty of Society? If attendance at the
opera is to involve some trying brain-study for the audience, the boxes
and stalls must soon be empty. Music for the stage must ever be of a
nature to give enjoyment; when it ceases to be this, and becomes a
study--a something that even the πολλοί themselves cannot
understand--then its existence is jeopardised.

What means the latter-day revival of _Il Trovatore_, _Rigoletto_, and
other old familiar operatic acquaintances? Is it a reaction in favour
of the old at the cost of the new in art? Let it be borne in mind that
the present is, for the most part, a new generation listening to and
admiring Verdi's Second period strains. The audiences are not made up
entirely of old fogeys in green spectacles and drab sparrow-tails,
whose waning physical powers are overcome by emotional memories of the
past. Is it true after all that the _Trovatore_ music has long been
declining, and is all but dead; that now and then a dramatic soprano,
as Madame Titiens was, or a "lungs of brass" tenor, as Signor Tamagno
is, can more or less galvanise the corpse into life? We think not.
Our opinion is that there is real genius, true sterling worth, in the
music of the _Trovatore_, which of itself--and not from any lack of
taste, or culture, or of mental aberration on the part of the "mob"
(for whom alone, we have been assured Verdi could cater)--has preserved
this opera, and many others, in the hearts and ears of the public at
large. Here and there the vocal and instrumental processes may seem,
and probably are, uncouth; but that the music as a whole possesses
undying properties, a life-current passing on to all who hear it, we
have no doubt. Thus, although the dictates of fashion may set aside the
_Trovatore_ for a while, there will always be the risk of its bounding
out unexpectedly to take hold of the hearts of a new rising generation.
If the _Trovatore_ music had not been vital music from the first, it
would not be here to-day, inasmuch as the work is one which has never
been "written up" by the critics. The process has rather been to mount
the tub and affect a superior taste, while poor, deluded, no-cult folk
flocked to the opera-house to listen to hackneyed stuff, which we have
been assured was not music at all! But the voice of the people--the
_vox populi_--is not to be denied, even though critics wax warm.

Millions find tune in _Trovatore_; and tune (when of the quality of
Verdi's) becomes the first, the unextinguishable principle of music.
This is the grand secret of the vitality of _Trovatore_ and operas
akin to it, which the intelligent many will continue to enjoy to their
heart's content, _malgré_ the pityings of wiseheads. When _Trovatore_
is as extinct as the dodo, and as dead as the door nail, that will be
the time to sing its requiem, although there would seem to be little
promise of any of this generation being required to attend that solemn
function. Pending the setting of the sombre seal, we, for our part,
will continue to respect Verdi, and folk in general will not be far
wrong if they take to believing that Verdi is as good a judge of music
as were any, and all, of his defamatory critics.

Political circumstances had much to do with Verdi's jumping into
popularity in Italy. Not so in England. No element of luck attended his
_débût_ here, where he stood not upon his merits. From the first he
encountered a determined opposition. It has never been quite clear what
this opposition wanted, but that it was supported by such a power as
the late Mr. Chorley, for forty years the independent musical critic of
the _Athenæum_, is sufficient evidence to prove that it was formidable.
What did it mean?

Weber (1786-1826) and Meyerbeer (1791-1864) were of course known
here. That romantic character pervading the German national opera
had become familiar to English ears through Italianised versions of
such supernatural subject operas as _Der Freischütz, Euryanthe_, and
_Oberon_; whilst opera-goers were growing accustomed to the gorgeous
pageantry and dazzling resources of gigantic examples of operatic
architecture like _Les Huguenots_, _Le Prophète_, and _L'Africaine_.
Can a leopard change its spots? Surely the sapient critics were not
expecting a transformed Italian opera model from an Italian at one
bound? Verdi had been applauded in Italy for what he had accomplished
on the continental lines of his country's opera. He was professing
nothing more, and Mr. Lumley, when arranging for the composer's works
for the English stage, contracted for naught else. As all the world
knows, Verdi has accomplished immeasurably more since, in bringing
Italian opera fully up to the level of the Weber, Meyerbeer, or Wagner
model. The public is now prepared for Italian operas of the _Aïda_
and _Falstaff_ stamp, but it is doubtful if, fifty years ago, their
production would not have brought forth a storm of disapproval. Verdi's
earlier operas, _Ernani_ and _Il Trovatore_, were fully worthy of the
average taste of the times; and if it be maintained that they are going
out of fashion, precisely the same thing can be said of several of the
German and Franco-German operas which certain critics applauded while
they abused Verdi, and with which Verdi's works were compared and
declared to be inferior.

Whatever prompted the resistance to Verdi (the strong feeling between
the management of the rival opera houses may have had something to
do with it), it is certain that Verdi encountered a determined and
unfair opposition on coming to England. Equally certain is it that
Mr. Chorley became a powerful mouthpiece of the opposition. With a
freedom permitted to its talented staff that did infinite credit
to the management of that leading journal of art and literature,
the _Athenæum_, its pages were long allowed to be disfigured with
anti-Verdi criticism such as it is now difficult to understand, unless
it had for its object the immediate Germanising of Verdi by sheer force
of censorship.

The musical drama is the most artistic manifestation which man can
express. A successful grand opera demands all that is highest in music,
drama, and a host of other phases of cultured training. This can only,
save very exceptionally, be achieved towards the end, not at the
beginning, of a lifetime; and the perspicuous critic should be able to
foresee the prospects of this in a young composer. Great as Mr. Chorley
perhaps was as a musical censor, he did not forebode the successful
future of Verdi any more than he encouraged Mendelssohn, his judgments
upon whom have been long since overturned.

This chiefly, however, as a footnote to history. Verdi has outlived all
opposition, and has risen to a great artistic eminence fully deserved
in the case of one who has laboured so ably and so unremittingly in
music. Now the critics on all sides fall down and worship him. He is
beloved in England not less than in his own land, while all the world
will long remember him by his _Requiem Mass_ and latest operas, if
not by such familiar lingering strains as "_La Donna è Mobile_," "_Ah
si ben mio; coll essere io tuo_," "_Quando le sere al placido_," and
scores of others.

_De mortuis nil nisi bonum_; and, having borne dearly-loved ones to
Death's portals, Heaven forbid that we should ever speak ill of those
that sleep. But, history must be written; and it is only sheer justice
to Verdi to advance his side of the case. That Verdi, _ab initio_,
down to the production of _Aïda_ (when the composer was sixty-three
years of age), experienced a long spell of powerful English critical
hostility is beyond doubt. Whether Italian opera had so obtained under
Bellini, Donizetti, Mercadante, and Rossini that folks, or sections of
society, were so surfeited with it as to positively refuse to tolerate
more while Weber, Wagner, and Meyerbeer could be had, however promising
that more might appear, or whether the great reputation that generally
preceded the introduction of the Verdi scores put up the backs of
the critics, are possibilities which might furnish some key to the
solution of the problem which this opposition provides for us who are
considering it to-day.

We may be told that, to early critics, Verdi's artistic career was a
difficult one to judge, since it was so peculiarly progressive--unique,
in the way in which it gradually led up to the culminating excellence
seen in _Aïda_, _Otello_, and _Falstaff_; but, unhappily for such a
theory, the critical notices were not correspondingly appreciative
and graduating. Verdi was wrong, always wrong, no good: "lock, stock,
and barrel" he had to be dismissed as worthless and hopeless. A slow
unfolding of the composer's musical manner and method, together with
a corresponding recognition from his critics, would be understandable
enough; but we do not get this. Our study of the critical processes
leaves us with the conviction that he was knocked about like a tennis
ball. Little wonder that the critic of the _Illustrated London News_
felt constrained, on behalf of the maltreated, half-murdered man, to
call "fair play." Then, much that was written was as contradictory
as are scientific negatives and positives; while we all know that
prophetic warnings and predictions alike have been singularly belied.
_This_ opera would not "live," and _that_ was the worst of even Verdi's
worst operas, yet to-day such compositions are amongst us, and being
listened to with delight! We have demonstrated, we hope, beyond doubt
how in the case of _Rigoletto_--one instance that will suffice--an
opera was one day declared to be without merit, only to be held up
subsequently by the same journal as a sample of musical excellence.

It is inconceivable that there were no signs, no glimmerings, no
foreshadowings in early years, nor during Verdi's Second period, of
that great genius which has given us an _Aïda_ and a _Falstaff_, two
grand classic works as far removed as fire and water in their tragedy
and comedy, as well as in their eastern and western colouring and
flavour. Could the critics really see no great future awaiting the man
who wrote _Ernani_, _Rigoletto_, _Il Trovatore_, and _La Traviata_? Was
there no promise of that store of art to be opened to us in Verdi's
Third period works? Was there not a veritable rough diamond here,
awaiting only to be shorn of its excrescences, and subjected to the
lapidary's art to become a precious jewel? Did not the genius of the
great operatic composer exist in embryo, while Verdi was taking the
lower rungs of the artistic ladder? Was there not the making of a
rare son of art in one who could rouse the popular enthusiasm as this
Italian was doing? Did the public on all sides clamour and acclaim,
pack and squeeze themselves, and listen with pent up wonder and
surprise, all after nothing? Dozens of such pertinent questions could
be put in respect to the relations of many of the public and critics
towards Verdi.

Our views concerning musical criticism have been expressed.[79] Among
all the qualities however, necessary to him deserving to rank as a
capable critic, is one which he should be called upon to exercise
more frequently than any other, viz., the power of detecting what is
good in a man; and that _instanter_. Make, not break, should be, but
is not, the motto for every censor entrusted with the power of the
press-pen. In the case of Verdi, it was war to the knife. _Delenda
est Carthago_ went forth, and Carthage _must_ be destroyed. But it
wasn't. The criticism which for the most part was meted out to Verdi
rarely ever contained a sentence of encouragement, but instead,
the man who was some day to become the wonder and admiration of
the entire musical world was hooted and howled at as should be an
impostor. Many a man would have taken refuge behind the shelter of an
undisturbed mediocrity, but somehow, the critics could not scotch this
species-specimen. Verdi went on in his way, and the censors who abused,
went theirs; with what result we know to-day. The critics are silenced
and Verdi reigns, musically, _in excelsis_.

How the late Mr. Chorley and Mr. Davison--these particularly--could
trace so little of the good promise in Verdi surpasses our
comprehension. They were men of the highest integrity and attainments,
and purposed injustice would furnish the most foolish of explanations
of the situation. Verdi had the great public of this and of other
countries on his side, however, and on this he was content to rely.
Public opinion once again proved to be right, and Verdi now stands
vindicated. Happily both the _Times_ and _Athenæum_ have long since
ceased to oppose the master. The critics of these journals and those of
other English newspapers now fall down and worship Verdi--and well they
might!

This aspect, this experience of the composer's career is not without
its lessons. It shows that we must not judge of a man or of his work
by what we read only; that individual culture and practical knowledge
provide the best key wherewith to unlock the door of every repository
of science and art; but, chiefly, does it prove that no amount of
adverse criticism or opposition can, or should, be permitted to bar the
way to that goal of high excellence which every earnest worker with
an honest conviction and high purpose before him has every right to
persevere towards, no matter what the difficulties, until his fullest
realisations have been attained. In this respect, Verdi's experience
supplies a splendid all-time lesson.

[Footnote 71: _Gazette Musicale_, 25th January 1857.]

[Footnote 72: _Musical Recollections of the Last Half-Century_, vol.
ii. p. 281.]

[Footnote 73: _Verdi_ (Pougin--Matthew), p. 154.]

[Footnote 74: _Athenæum_, 7th June 1880.]

[Footnote 75: _Athenæum_, 1st July 1876.]

[Footnote 76: _Athenæum_, 7th March 1846.]

[Footnote 77: _The National Music of the World_: Henry Fothergill
Chorley, edited by Henry G. Hewlett (1880), p. 76.]

[Footnote 78: _Illustrated London News_, 21st May 1853. Eight years
previously the _Illustrated London News'_ (5th July 1845) critic, while
expatiating on operas of bygone composers which had been heard and
reheard to satiety wrote thus of Verdi:--"A better state of things is,
however, we trust, approaching. The appearance of a composer of so much
originality of genius as Verdi, heralds, it may be hoped, that of a new
and more ambitious school, whose masters will not be satisfied with
tickling the ear and pleasing the fancy, but will seek for the more
permanent and legitimate sources of effect."]

[Footnote 79: _Phases of Musical England_ (Crowest), p. 22.]



                              CHAPTER XI

                    EFFECT UPON AND PLACE IN OPERA

Origin of Opera--Melody in music--The first opera,
   _Dafne_--Monteverde's advances--Early opera orchestration--Gluck's
   reformed style in _Orfeo_ and _Alceste_--A complete
   structure--Verdi's starting point--Wagner's methods--Verdi's early
   operas--_Don Carlos_ and an altered style--Its reception--A Third,
   or matured period method--Its characteristics--_Aïda_, _Otello_,
   and _Falstaff_--Verdi's disciples--Opera as a social need past and
   present--Its reasonable decline--Verdi's ultimate position--His
   lasting works.

To perfectly understand Verdi it is necessary to know something of the
origin and development of opera, both as a form and an institution.

The Italian school of music had been a power since 1480-1520, when
Pope Julian II. invited Belgian, or Netherlands school, musicians to
Italy to take charge of its musical affairs. The first distinguished
Italian master was Festa (_d._ 1545), remarkable for that grace and
melody which have ever characterised the Italian school. Palestrina
(1514-1594), _Magister puerorum_ at St. Peter's, Rome, followed, and
then came the awakening of opera. It was natural that this life should
spring from Italy. The sky above, and the earth beneath, constituted
a rare cradle of art. Melody in music is paramount; technically it
forms the wings that give flight to every movement; without it, music
would be a helpless mass, unendurable to consider. Once present,
melody carries all before it. This was a perfectly natural growth in
Italy, more so than it has ever been found to be in any other country,
for the national life, habits, language, and physical conditions all
favoured an expression of the mind in the melodically beautiful. In
opera, melody was ever the great essential feature in the eyes of the
Italians, and although there have been struggles to dislodge, or depose
it, the evening of Verdi's career--the culminating point in the history
of Italian Opera--furnishes the convincing proof that tune still
remains the predominant factor in successful dramatic construction
and realisation; for what would be the value of _Aïda_, _Otello_, and
_Falstaff_, if they had not melody?


Musical authorities accept _Dafne_, produced in 1594, as the first
actual opera. It was the work of a few Florentine _literati_, who
had banded together as a society, with the aim to revive the ancient
Greek dramatic style--in fact to restore the theatre of Æschylus and
Sophocles. It had words by Rinuccini and music by Peri. The feature
of this dramatic-musical novelty was its _musica-parlante_--a species
of monody, or declamation, claimed to be _à la Grec_. Out of this
grew "recitative"--so important an element in vocal music that it is
difficult to imagine how the art could exist without it. Song, tune,
or melody, whichever name we apply to it, might be, and probably would
have been, dispensed with, if all the notions and novelties of the
Wagner cult had taken effect; but, recitative must always stand as a
connecting link between the chorus and other concerted pieces in the
opera.

The orchestral accompaniments to _Dafne_ consisted of a harpsichord,
_chittarone_--which was a sort of guitar--a lyre, and a lute. This
meant a scanty orchestra compared with the vast instrumental resources
adopted by Meyerbeer, Wagner, and by Verdi himself. When the second
opera, _Euridice_, was produced--this was at Florence in 1600--it
contained, for the first time, all the constituents wanting in opera,
viz. recitative, air, chorus, and a hidden orchestra.

Opera proper was, therefore, purely an Italian product, which, with
all its defects and inadmissibilities, has held its ground for three
centuries. If, too, during this long period it has seemed as little
more than a luxurious form of amusement for quality people in England,
it must be remembered that the great middle class here have tasted it,
while the student and amateur have considered and digested the musical
stage-play, and found it invested with a noble influence and character
that could scarcely fail to elevate, where the ordinary drama might
lower the public taste and morals. In Italy the opera is as much the
necessary food of the common people as of the aristocracy.

Monteverde (1566-1650) stamped a second period in opera. He invested
recitative with greater strength and freedom, and astonished
contemporary purists with his audacious orchestral designs. In his
_Orfeo_, produced in 1603, Monteverde incorporated every known
instrument, viz. two harpsichords, two lyres, ten violas, three
bass violas, two violins, flute, clarions, trombones, guitars or
_chittaroni_, and the organ.

It is easy to realise the almost boundless possibilities of music when
it comes to be recognised and manipulated as a medium of expression
or impression; while many readers will be familiar with the almost
superhuman achievements of the great tone-poets in handling the
resources of music to this end--the end and aim of all music worthy the
name. It was that prince of Italian harmonists, Monteverde, who took
opera to the borders of that almost limitless field, where the great
melodists and colourists took it up, making a permanent life art-form
and a speaking body from the otherwise lifeless art materials.

Scarlatti (1659-1725) impressed the _aria_ or principal song, from
which time melody began to receive that attention which led finally to
its being the principal constituent in Italian opera. Lotti, Caldara,
Gasparini, Jommelli, Porporo, and Buononcini, who followed, all
gave prominence to the soloists at the cost of the chorus and other
concerted pieces, thus leading steadily up to the great scenas which
Verdi created.

Gluck (1714-1787) came with a regenerating mission. A century and a
half's growth of opera in Italy had reduced it to a mere exhibition
of singing, and to restore it to something of an embodiment of all
the arts--architecture, painting, poetry, music, and dancing--was
Gluck's mission. His reformed style, as given in _Orfeo_ (1762), and
later in _Alceste_ (1767), certainly justified his demand for reform,
and will always entitle him to be called "the saviour of opera." His
influence bore more upon the French opera than the Italian, however,
and it was left to his great contemporary Piccini (1728-1800) to bring
the old Italian model up to the date of Gluck's new style. To this
end he effected improvements in the _arias_, duets, and vocal pieces,
curtailed the repeats, employed several themes instead of one for
his _finali_, all of which tended to put a new complexion on Italian
opera. Then arose Spontini (1784-1851), who advanced the dramatic side
of opera; Rossini (1792-1868), insisting upon larger choruses and the
strengthening of the wind and brass department of the orchestra; with,
finally, Donizetti (1797-1848), and Bellini (1802-1835), whose melodic
exuberance simply embarrassed and vitiated Italian opera.

Such, briefly, is the story of the rise and development of Italian
opera, which, thanks to the labours of his great predecessors, was
a reasonably complete art-form long before Verdi scored his first
operatic success with _Nabucco_, albeit it had not many characteristics
which it now has. The First period Verdi had no great need to improve,
or add to, the structure of opera; what was before him chiefly was
the work of embellishing and highly colouring the edifice of dramatic
musical art (though we know he did immeasurably more)--a labour for
which his rare sense of colour and combination peculiarly fitted him.

Verdi's starting point was where Rossini, Mercadante, Donizetti, and
Bellini had left Italian opera; and, but for circumstances quite
outside himself, he might have gone on writing operas of the _Ernani_,
_I Lombardi_, and _Il Trovatore_ type, leaving his later grander
efforts, his _chefs d'œuvre_, unwritten. But a great object appeared
suddenly in the musical firmament. Wagner (1813-1883), with his train
of fads and fancies, swept across the horizon, leaving unmistakable
traces of his passage. At first, content with the old traditional
opera--with which he might have done wonders--this vast genius set
about advancing and propagating unusual ideas concerning operatic usage
and creation. The established forms and systems were chiefly attacked.

In Italian opera, music and melody were the prime considerations.
Under the Wagnerian teaching, the full and right dramatic exposition
became the chief aim. This unquestionably involved a subserviency of
the beautiful in music. With Wagner the dramatic language is the most
essential part of the work. In the music of the _Meistersinger_, for
instance, he "fitted music to the thought expressed in language so
imperceptibly that the latter is the dominant element." In _Tristan
und Isolde_ is the clear divorce from traditional form. Declamation,
supported by music expressing the meaning of the words, displaces
all the old-time operatic methods--dramatic _ensembles_, recitative
alternated with song, closed and half closed forms, etc. This was a
return to the long deceased monody of Peri and Monteverde, and in
absolute contradistinction to all that the great Italian, German, and
French music masters had done. Other and minor notions, such as the
_leit motif_ (the kiss theme), the ever-recurring phrases that were
constructed in order to be identified with this or that character,
distinguished the Wagnerian style--a style which it is necessary for
the student of Verdi to be able to recognise, because, as we have seen,
Verdi is alleged to have been largely influenced by Wagner, although
most certainly he was not.

Verdi has written in all some thirty operas, which throughout are
largely imbued with characteristics of his country's opera music. This
is particularly a feature in such First period works as _Nabucco_,
_I Lombardi_, _Ernani_, _I Due Foscari_, and _Luisa Miller_. In the
Second period operas, _Rigoletto_, _La Traviata_, _Il Trovatore_, and
_Un Ballo in Maschera_, are traces of outside influence, Meyerbeer,
Auber, and Halévy being descernible despite the composer's natural
abundance of graceful melody and charming _naïveté_; an unmistakable
art-struggle suggestive of a transition process was, as we have seen,
revealed in _Simon Boccanegra_. Verdi could not but have been aware
that Weber and Spohr were investing German national opera with that
romanticism which must always be its distinguishing feature. He felt
impelled to give more character to, and to get more place for, his own
country's opera; he set about imbuing it, therefore, with a stronger
emotional element--an excess of that desperate passion characteristic
of the southern temperament. Verdi's immediate predecessors, Rossini
and others, had never left the accepted path of song after song
of luxuriant warmth, suited to the whims and vocal abilities of
this or that singer; but Verdi was to revolutionise all this. The
chorus--concerted music generally--and grand _finales_ were no longer
to suffer in order to obtain a preponderance of songs to appease the
vanity of the singers who sang them. His first attempt to do so was an
utter failure!

It was not until _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_ and _Don Carlos_ that we see
a determined _détour_ from the accepted Italian lyric-drama lines. _Don
Carlos_ was modelled after the style of French Grand opera as formed
by Rossini and Donizetti, and became Verdi-cum-Meyerbeer. The result
was a failure and a sorry mixture--something of a musical salad, the
ingredients of which formed "a poor concoction calculated to derange
the strongest musical digestion." The unadulterated Verdi, with the old
familiar _bel canto_, was far better than the adulterated one. Those
scenes where the established art-forms had been deserted in order to
give vent to orchestral painting or new combinations were unanimously
declared to be the failings of the operas.

With the important operas which have adorned the later years of Verdi's
life--his Third period works--the master has undoubtedly presented his
grandest aspect. _Aïda_, _Otello_, and _Falstaff_ are a tremendous art
advance upon anything that Verdi had accomplished before. These are
operas which will keep Italian opera alive, if that effete institution
can be preserved by mortal means. In these compositions Verdi reasserts
himself, and awakes to an altogether new and vaster sense of what
his country's opera should be, as well as what he himself could
make it. Familiarised as the public had been with _Tannhäuser_ and
_Lohengrin_, it expected, in fresh works for the stage, a more logical
and dramatic consistency. Any new Italian opera required merit as a
drama, and needed to be something more than a series of pretty tunes.
_Aïda_ was the full enunciation of Verdi's new principles. In this
work were discarded such orthodox processes as the splitting up of
the acts into recitatives, which meant a gain in dramatic action and
continuity in the play. The old-fashioned forms, the _aria d'entratà_,
the _cabaletta_, and _canzonetta_, were discontinued for less continued
melody, piecemeal tunes, lending quite a different aspect to the
complete work. The interest in the declamatory music considerably
increased, and all was so welded together that a much more satisfactory
and entertaining whole was the result. The orchestration was decidedly
new for Verdi, partaking, as it did, of the gorgeous Meyerbeer rather
than the Wagner character. There was much picture-painting both in the
abstract and the concrete. The evident intent was to paint or colour
instrumentally; to illustrate the text orchestrally, and to impart not
only geographical, but local, personal colour. This was essentially
what the world was pleased to call "Wagnerian"--hence the outcry and
the allegation that Verdi had turned "Wagnerite." The fact was, that
since writing _Don Carlos_, _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_, and _La Forza del
Destino_, Verdi had become more "Germanised," although the term must
not be taken to imply that he was less the Italian, or any the more a
copyist or impressionist. His state was owing not to Wagner's nor to
Meyerbeer's influence and model any more than to Weber's, but to the
ambition of the master himself. If Meyerbeer could employ the orchestra
slavishly and make it so important and successful a feature in the
Franco-German operatic ensemble, why should not he, Verdi, do as much
for Italian art?

_Otello_ was yet a further emphasis. When first heard in London,
musical minds immediately perceived not only a remarkable work for a
composer full of years, but also an opera which fully confirmed the
tactics advanced in _Aïda_. Another opera had brought forth another
demonstration of the composer's remarkable dramatic powers, ever
developing in each successive opera. _Otello_ was, unquestionably,
worthy to rank with _Aïda_; and performance after performance has
proved this.

As a second example of Verdi's new conceptions respecting Italian
national opera it contained much declamation, and consequently less of
that purposely lavish and luxuriant melody, for which Verdi amongst all
his contemporaries is most famous. Of so-called Wagnerian influence
there was little or none. The _leit motif_ and other fads credited to
the Bayreuth master, though not wholly his, are conspicuous by their
absence. _Otello_ stood simply a thoroughly "up-to-date" Italian opera,
a species of modern lyric drama by a great master who had seen musical
changes going on about him, and had not disregarded them. It was
natural that the Wagner cry should reach Verdi's ears; it was natural
that the Italian master should give the world a taste of how far the
new "gospel" had impressed him. Ever abreast of the times, Verdi saw
a deeper and broadening meaning overtaking the lyric drama; and,
reserving to himself the right to speak as he perceived, he published
_Aïda_. This language he again laid down in _Otello_, a splendid
outcome of latter-day genius. The same may be said of _Falstaff_. It
completes a triad of masterpieces which ought to breathe new life into
the Anglo-Italian lyric drama, if so be the decrees of fashion, and not
a dearth of operatic talent and novelty, have not already administered
the death-blow to that relic of the good old times.

It is not difficult, even if it be premature, to deliberate upon
Verdi's probable place in, and influence upon, musical art. His
labours, exemplified in such dramatic-music masterpieces as _Aïda_,
_Otello_, and _Falstaff_, prove incontestably that perfected Italian
opera, of such workmanship as these operas, crowning the later years
of their great composer's life, can be, and is, a more refined
art-production than either the most advanced or the least extravagant
of the operatic models championed by Wagner, or any other reformer of
the lyric drama.

Verdi has a young Italian school of imitators--Boito, Cortesi,
Ponchielli, Marchetti, Faccio, Pedrotti, Pinsuti, Mascagni, and
others. Can it be urged that these can, or will, take up opera as
left by Verdi? Is Italy training a school of young composers capable
of carrying on Verdi's work? The answer cannot be given in the
affirmative. Verdi is declared to have said, "I can die in peace now
that Mascagni has produced his opera." For our part, however, we remain
dubious; moreover Verdi never made such a remark.

The issue of the whole matter turns upon quite another pivot. Verdi's
labours, achievements, and successes are unquestioned; but it is the
point of the vitality of the institution--the opera-house here--which
forms the doubtful feature. Fifty years ago this luxurious appendage
of fashionable and not always well-behaved society was a necessity.
Then there was no Club-land, and the place for meeting everybody who
was anybody was the opera-house. Its "omnibus" box was crowded with
"blood," who came not to listen to the opera, but to yawn and chatter.
Then was the opera-house the resort and rendezvous of the _élite_ of
rank and fashion, when an enterprising _impresario_ was justified in
burdening himself with the unenviable task of steering the difficult
craft, assisted as he was by willing subscribers, most of whom could be
depended upon to, and did, pay ample subscriptions beforehand. Such is
not the case now. All is changed in London.

Nowadays society uses the opera fitfully, and not from a sense of
necessity; attending it when so disposed, and leaving the burden of
"ways and means" upon the manager bold enough to embark upon the
perilous enterprise. The march of time has altered the opera as it
has altered everything else, save the weather and the seasons. The
three-volume novel is out of fashion with publishers; the principles of
Christianity are being preached and practised more and more outside the
churches built for the exposition of such principles; and among other
vast changes, opera is fast declining in England and elsewhere. When
our gracious Queen was young, an able critic and _laudator temporis
acti_, lamenting the then condition of opera in general, and welcoming
Verdi to England, wrote--"A better state of things is, however, we
trust, approaching. The appearance of a composer of so much originality
of genius as Verdi heralds, it may be hoped, that of a new and more
ambitious school, whose masters will not be satisfied with tickling the
ear and pleasing the fancy, but will seek for the more permanent and
legitimate sources of effect."[80]

Nowadays people care little or nothing for the opera compared with the
old-times feelings. They are indifferent as to whether it stands or
falls. It is not thought worth while to abuse or blame a composer, as
Verdi was long journalistically treated after he came here. There are
no choreographic triumphs now. Such ballets as _Giselle_ and _Diane_,
with stars of the ballet like Taglioni, Grisi, and Cerito, have
disappeared from the opera stage for ever. A vast change has come over
operatic matters for the worse, and now that the legitimate drama is
established, and the "Variety" entertainment has caught on at the music
halls, the slow continued decline of Italian opera may reasonably, if
regretfully, be expected.

But of Verdi, apart from this unhappy prospect? Some of his early
works, like those of other composers, are getting out of date and
declining in popularity. Rarely is one of his First period works given
in England now; while of his Second period operas not one, according to
certain critics, will long hold ground. The _Trovatore_, the music of
which has traversed every known region of the globe, and would be taken
up by the masses again save for the attractions of the music halls,
is already relegated by ambitious critics to the "retired list," and
responsible censors describe _La Traviata_ as that "sickly opera,"[81]
never omitting to note the falling off in the attendance when it and
other purely Italian school operas are performed.[82] Occasionally,
however, they undoubtedly serve a purpose, as when brought forward as
the late Mr. Mapleson gave _La Traviata_ at Her Majesty's Theatre (in
the 1887 season), with Madame Patti in the title rôle, and prices were
trebled. It is fairly safe to predict that Verdi's First and Second,
or traditional period operas will all go in time, but they possess
such melodic vitality that it would not be safe to say how soon. Many
generations may yet hear them.

Verdi's Third period works, _Aïda_, _Otello_, and _Falstaff_, change
the argument. They are the greatest and grandest specimens ever
contributed to the _répertoire_ of Italian opera. In them Verdi has
reached the perfection of his art as he knows it, and has brought
the musical drama to a point which cannot consistently be passed.
It is doubtful whether another Italian composer will ever be found
to extend the national opera as left by Verdi in these matured
period works--compositions which, everything considered, are more
satisfactory, and probably more permanent, because more reasonable,
than any musical drama that has emanated from the modern German school.
These Third period works, by the illustrious Italian, will last so
long as there is a dramatic lyric stage, whether this be in England or
abroad.

Verdi must ever be remembered for the extravagant ear-taking melodies
of his early operas, which have amply justified their existence; but he
will best live musically by his Third period operas and his _Requiem_
Mass. These compositions must always furnish a glorious summit to
Verdi's pinnacle of musical fame. At the same time it will be, we
predict, many a long day before the last is heard of _Il Trovatore_ and
_Rigoletto_.

[Footnote 80: _Illustrated London News_, 5th July 1845.]

[Footnote 81: _Athenæum_, 26th May 1888.]

[Footnote 82: "The curious falling off of public interest in works
of the purely Italian school was again exemplified on Thursday last
week when _Rigoletto_ was given, the audience being much smaller than
usual."--_Athenæum_, 15th June 1889.]



                             CHAPTER XII

                           VERDI LITERATURE

Its scantiness--Restricted scope for the writer and historian--English
   ideas of Italian opera--English books on Verdi--German historians'
   measure--Recent English press notices--Foreign journalistic
   criticism--Italian writings.


The Verdi bibliography, particularly that in English, is not extensive,
a result doubtless arising from the fact that the master has confined
himself solely to one branch of the composer's art, namely, opera.
Although, therefore, the composer of _Il Trovatore_ has enjoyed a much
wider popularity than other masters who might be named, and about whom
volumes have been and will be written, the confined nature of Verdi's
musical circuit has rendered him relatively much less attractive to
the musical critic, historian, and biographer. This is the penalty,
perhaps, which has to be paid by musicians who find themselves unable,
or unwilling, to spend laborious days and nights in the conception
and composition of profound orchestral creations of the symphony and
concert-overture type, which, however admirable in the eyes and ears of
those who listen to, analyse, and criticise them, have rarely proved
profitable to those who composed them, save and beyond the posthumous
honour which they may win for their wondrous workers. Notwithstanding
the universal popularity which Verdi has enjoyed for fifty years,
there is, from the one-sided nature of his work, the possibility of
under-estimating his real worth as a master of music. With the tendency
among all ranks of art-workers to endeavour to shine in many parts, it
is quite exceptional to find one content to do his best, and succeed,
with one phase of his art, as Verdi has done.

Italian opera was first brought into England in 1706, when _Arsinöe_
was produced at Drury Lane Theatre, and in order to give those
who attended performances of it a chance of understanding it, it
was rendered with English words! Yet the article has never wholly
commended itself to the English people, who, especially in its early
history here, were unable to enter into the spirit of the bombastic,
exaggerated plots, and excessive love scenes. Thus it does not, and
will not, command equal interest among reasoning musicians, compared
particularly with that attaching to symphony or oratorio. Italian opera
might well disappear from the face of the earth, so far as English
people are concerned; but a similar remark could not be applied to
any new oratorio or symphony. Opera _seria_ is not in vogue here,
not even a national English opera, and Italian opera is just kept
from collapse by another class than that which rushes with delight
to performances of operas of _H.M.S. Pinafore_ and _The Grand Duke_
type. Consequent upon all this, critics have gone on chronicling and
criticising Verdi's operatic successes (especially in his later operas)
and failures, pausing but little to gauge any relative musical worth
of the man as compared with other great masters. It is, of course, not
possible for such a prolific indefatigable worker as Verdi was to go
on occupying the world musically, if only in one direction, without
exercising some sway over the minds and dispositions of listeners.
It is the bearing of Verdi's operatic efforts upon art that has been
neglected by the English press especially. The fact of Verdi having
been so little amongst us affords, naturally, another explanation for
the comparatively scant literature respecting both him and his works.
Until the appearance of the present monograph, no work existed that
brought the life and work of the famous Italian master up to date, or
that attempted to place him critically and musically among the great
exponents of his art. To that extent, at least, Verdi literature was
wanting.

But to deal with the bibliography that does exist. Perhaps the best
work in English is Pougin's _Anecdotic History of Verdi; his Life
and Works_, which has been excellently translated from the French by
James E. Matthew (1887). Another interesting book in our language
concerning Verdi is Blanche Roosevelt's _Verdi: Milan and "Otello"_
(1887), which is a short life of the master, with letters written about
Milan and the opera _Otello_. The brief article by Signor Gianandrea
Mazzucato (in Grove's _Dictionary of Music and Musicians_) on Verdi
is a valuable contribution to the subject, and is probably the best
account of the _maestro_ contained in any dictionary. The last work
it treats of, however, is _Aïda_, and although it touches _Otello_
somewhat prophetically, it is necessarily silent about that greater
work _Falstaff_.

Ritter, in his _History of Music_ (1876), disposes of Verdi in less
than eleven short lines; but a little more justice, in the way
of space, is done to the famous Italian by Naumann in his large,
comprehensive _History of Music_, since he devotes to Verdi nearly two
whole pages out of over thirteen hundred!

_Masters of Italian Music_ (R.A. Streatfeild), contains an appreciative
biography of Verdi, based upon Pougin's work, together with some sound
criticism upon Italian opera in general, and Verdi's in particular.
A further work in the English language referring to Verdi is Elson's
_Realm of Music_, chap. xviii. of which deals with the "Evolution of
Verdi"; while in Ferris's _Lives of the Celebrated Composers_ there is
an intelligent comparison between the _Otello_ of Verdi and Rossini.
Dr. Parry's _Studies of the Great Composers_ omits Verdi altogether,
the reason for which does not appear.

French works bearing upon Verdi are--Bertrand (Gustave),
_Les nationalités musicales_, _étudiées dans le drame lyrique ..._,
_ Verdisme et Wagnerisme_; Fouque (Octave), _Histoire du
Théâtre Ventadour_ (1829-79),--_Opéra Comique_,--_Théâtre de la
Renaissance_,--_Théâtre Italien, Verdi_; Maurel (Victor), _À propos
de la mise-en-scène du drame lyrique "Otello,"_ being _Étude précédée
d'aperçus sur le théâtre chanté en 1887_; Noufflard (Georges),
_"Otello" de Verdi et le drame lyrique_.

The above enumerated writings, and the criticisms which have appeared
more or less regularly in the _Athenæum_, _Times_, and _Illustrated
London News_, constitute the chief of what has been published in
the English and French languages relating to Verdi. We should not
omit to state, however, that lately, especially since the production
of _Falstaff_, not a little has been said, if not written, of the
illustrious Verdi and his works. Sir A.C. Mackenzie's lectures on
_Falstaff_ were particularly interesting. Therein the talented
Principal of the Royal Academy of Music paid a high tribute to the
personal qualities of the _doyen_ of composers. In tracing the gradual
development of Verdi's genius Sir A.C. Mackenzie asserted that the
composer did not show any Wagnerian influence in his later works--a
judgment with which competent judges will agree. The articles which
Dr. Villiers Stanford contributed to the _Daily Graphic_ concerning
_Falstaff_, its wonderful humorous music, and the man who made it, were
worthy of the journal and its talented special correspondent; while Mr.
Joseph Bennett's tried and trusty pen has also been descried in more
than one masterly article concerning Verdi in the _Daily Telegraph_ and
_Musical Times_. In the _Musical Recollections_ of Mr. Wilhelm Kuhe,
_entrepreneur_ and _raconteur_, are numerous critical passages and
remarks concerning Verdi and several of his operas.

Foreign journalism has always been busy about Verdi. Thus such
publications of his native land as _La Perseveranza_, the _Supplemento
Straordinario_ of the _Gazzetta Musicale_,[83] _La Scena_, _La
Fanfulla_, and _Il Pensiero di Nizza_, with the Spanish journal,
_Cronica di la Musica_, abound in criticisms and notes respecting
the master. Much excellent critical matter relating to Verdi and his
works will be found, too, in the French journals, _Le Ménestrel_, _La
Nazione_, _La France Musicale_, _Journal des Debats_, and _Figaro_;
while he has been far from neglected by the German press, in such
papers as the _Neue Berliner Musik Zeitung_, and others.

The most important and valuable writings respecting Verdi, however,
are, as might be expected, in the Italian language. Among these are--

_Sketches of the Life and Works of Giuseppe Verdi_ (Bermani),
1846; _Studies upon the Operas of Giuseppe Verdi_ (Basevi), 1859;
_Biographical Notes on Giuseppe Verdi, followed by brief analyses of
"Aïda" and the "Requiem Mass"_ (Perosio), 1875; _Critical Musical Essay
on "Aïda"_ (Peña y Goñi), 1875; _Considerations on the actual State of
Musical Art in Italy, and the artistic Importance of "Aïda" and the
"Requiem Mass"_ (Sassaroli), 1876; _Verdi and his Operas_ (Monaldi),
1877.

[Footnote 83: 27th November 1889.]



INDEX


  Adam, Adolphe, on _Ernani_, 69.

  _Aïda_, and Wagner, 46, 82;
    167;
    genesis of, 168;
    produced at Cairo, 169;
    an admitted masterpiece in Milan, Paris, and England, 170;
    _Athenæum_ on, 173-176, 197;
    first performance, 211;
    place of, 237, 238, 239;
    Verdi's view in composing, 241;
    orchestration of, 242;
    peculiarly Verdinian, 245-247;
    249, 250, 251, 286.

  ---- and operatic development, 284, 286;

  ---- a masterpiece, 291.

  Albani, 235.

  Albert Hall, Verdi's _Requiem_ at, 154.

  Alboni, Mme., in _Luisa Miller_, 97, 98, 99.

  ---- and _Trovatore_, 118 _n_.

  _Alceste_, Gluck's, 278.

  _Alzira_ produced at Naples, 76, 81, 96.

  _Anato_ at the Lyceum, 47.

  Angelini, Signor, in _Forza del Destino_, 148.

  Anti-Verdians and Verdians, 57;
    and Verdi's music, 131.

  Argentine Theatre, Rome, _Due Foscari_ at, 74.

  Arimondi, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 191, 194.

  Armandi, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 191, 194.

  _Aroldo_, 76.

  _Athenæum_, musical critic of, 44;
    on _Ernani_, 67-69;
    on _Attila_, 79;
    on _Masnadieri_, 90;
    on _Luisa Miller_, 100;
    on _Rigoletto_, 108;
    on _Trovatore_, 122;
    and _La Traviata_, 135, 142;
    on _Aïda_, 173, 180;
    on _Otello_, 180;
    on _Falstaff_, 196-200;
    and _Traviata_, 236;
    and _Aïda_, 243;
    and _Nabucco_, 244;
    256, 265, 290, 291, 298.

  _Attila_, produced at the Fenice, 76;
    well received, 77;
    in London, 78;
    opinions on, 79-82;
    political influence of, 206.

  Auber, 124.

  ---- _Gustave III._, 145, 146, 163, 259, 281.

  _Ave Maria_, Verdi's, 162.


  Bach, 226.

  Bach's _oratorii_, 159.

  Bagasset, violinist, 9.

  Baistrocchi, organist, 14.

  Balderi, Signor, in _Trovatore_, 115.

  Balfe, M.W., succeeds Costa at Her Majesty's, 93.

  _Ballo in Maschera, Un_, 144;
    produced at Rome, 145;
    at the Lyceum, 145;
    opinion on, 145-148.

  ---- place of, 237.

  Barbieri-Nini in _Macbeth_, 83.

  Barbot, Mme., in _Forza del Destino_, 148.

  Barezzi, Antonio, grocer, 5, 17, 21;
    helps Verdi to Milan, 23, 26;
    his eldest daughter, 27.

  Basevi, critic, on Verdi, 207.

  ---- on _La Traviata_, 234, 300.

  Basili, Francesco, and Verdi's rejection by the Milan
  _Conservatoire_, 24.

  _Battaglia di Legnano, La_, produced at Rome, 93, 207.

  Baucarde, Signor, in _Trovatore_, 115.

  Beethoven mass, 159, 226, 232.

  Beletti, in _Attila_, 79.

  Bellini, 54, 82, 105, 122, 226, 227, 229, 241;
    and the growth of opera, 279.

  Beneventano, in _Luisa Miller_, 99.

  ---- in _La Traviata_, 132.

  Bennett, Mr. Joseph, 299.

  ---- Sterndale, 163.

  Berlin, _Falstaff_ in, 196.

  Berlioz, 243.

  Bermani, 300.

  Bertoni, 214.

  Bertrand's, Gustave, _Verdisme et Wagnerisme_, 298.

  Bey, Mariette, and _Aïda_, 168.

  Bibliography (Verdi), 293-300.

  Birth of Verdi, 1.

  Birthplace of Verdi, 3.

  Boito and _Simon Boccanegra_, 143.

  ---- and libretto of _Otello_, 178.

  ---- and _Otello_, 184;
    and _Falstaff_, 187, 188, 190, 287.

  Bonnehée, M. in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  Borio, Mme. Rita, in _Ernani_, 63.

  Bosio, in _Luisa Miller_, 103;
    in _Rigoletto_, 107.

  Botelli, Signor, in _Ernani_, 63.

  Bottesini, conductor in _Aïda_, 169.

  Bouche, in _Masnadieri_, 84.

  Boulo, M., in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  _Brigands, Les_, 92 (see _Masnadieri_).

  Bülow, Dr. von, and Verdi's _Requiem_, 153, 156.

  Buononcini and the growth of opera, 277.

  Busseto Hospital and Verdi, 216.


  Cairo, Italian theatre at, 168.

  Caldara and the growth of opera, 277.

  Caldara's church music, 161.

  Calzolari, Signor, in _La Traviata_, 132.

  Cammerano, M., 94, 113.

  Campana, Fabio, 234.

  Capecelatro, Verdi's evil genius, 96.

  Capponi, Signor, and Verdi's _Requiem_ 153.

  ---- in _Aïda_, 172.

  Carducci and Verdi, 215.

  Casimir-Perier and Verdi, 210.

  Castelli, in _Luisa Miller_, 99.

  Cataneo, Signora, in _Otello_, 180.

  Cavaletti, Stephen, 13.

  Cavour and Verdi, 208.

  Cerito, 290.

  Certificate of Verdi's birth, 3.

  Chorley, H.F., 44;
    on _Nabucco_, 45;
    on _Luisa Miller_, 102;
    _La Traviata_, 138;
    176, 255, 263, 265, 266, 270.

  Church music, 158.

  Cocle, M.C. du, and _Aïda_, 168.

  Coletti, Signor, in _Due Foscari_, 74;
    in _Masnadieri_, 84.

  Coquelin, the elder, 187.

  Corbari, Mlle., in _Nabucco_, 41.

  _Corsaro, Il_, produced at Trieste, 93.

  Corsi, in _Nino_, 47.

  Cortesi, 287.

  Costa, Signor, 92;
    in _Aïda_, 169.

  ---- Sir Michael and Verdi's cantata, 164.

  Coulon, M., in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  Critics, musical, 256, 270.

  Cruvelli, Sophie, in _Attila_, 78;
    in _Luisa Miller_, 103.

  ---- and _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_, 139, 141.

  Cuzzani, in _Attila_, 79.


  _Dafne_, the first opera, 275.

  _Daily Graphic_ and _Falstaff_, 189-191, 299.

  _Daily Telegraph_, 299.

  Danton's bust of Verdi, 211.

  Davison, J.W., 44, 270.

  Debassini, Signor, in _Forza del Destino_, 148.

  Decazes, Duke, and Verdi, 210.

  Dejeau, Julienne, in _Ballo in Maschera_, 145.

  Delair, Paul, 187.

  Delna, Mlle., and _Falstaff_, 194.

  Derivis, in _I Lombardi_, 55.

  Development of Verdi, 228-255.

  Didiée, Mlle., in _Rigoletto_, 107.

  _Don Carlos_, place of, 237;
    its models, 282.

  Donatelli, Signora, in _La Traviata_, 128.

  Donizetti and _Nabucco_, 38, 49, 54, 65, 68, 82, 105, 122, 136,
  226, 227, 229, 241, 267;
    and the growth of opera, 279, 282.

  _Dramatis personæ_ of _I Lombardi_, 51.

  Drury Lane, _Arsinöe_ at, 294.

  _Due Foscari_, 70;
    produced at Rome, Paris, and London, 74, 108, 109;
    place in Verdi's development, 229.

  Dumas's _Dame aux Camelias_ and _La Traviata_, 126, 135.


  Elson's _Realm of Music_, 297.

  England, Italian opera first introduced into, 294.

  English, indifference of the, to Italian opera, 295.

  _Ernani_, 39, 45, 46;
    produced, 58;
    in England, 60-69, 108, 146, 147, 197;
    political influence of, 206.

  _Euridice_, second opera, 276.

  Exhibition of 1862 and Verdi's cantata, 163.


  Faccio, conductor in _Otello_, 178, 287.

  Fagotti, Signor, in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  _Falstaff_, 82, 168;
    produced at La Scala, 187, 189;
    and Wagner's _Der Meistersinger_, 189, 199;
    in Paris, 193;
    in London, 194;
    most "taking" pieces in, 195;
    music in, 196;
    score of, 200;
    a rehearsal at Milan, 213;
    place in Verdi's development, 239, 241, 249, 250-255;
    and operatic development, 286;
    a masterpiece, 291;
    lectures on, 298.

  _Faust_, Gounod's, 90.

  Feitlinger, M., in _Aïda_, 172.

  Fenice Theatre, _Ernani_ at, 58;
    _Rigoletto_ at, 105, 106.

  Ferris's _Lives of the Celebrated Composers_, 297.

  Festa, music master, 273.

  Filippi, critic, 221.

  _Finto Stanislas, Il_, 103.

  Foreign journals and Verdi, 299.

  Fornasara, Signor, in _Nabucco_, 41;
    in _I Lombardi_, 56;
    in _Ernani_, 63;
    in _Otello_, 179.

  _Forza del Destino_, produced at St. Petersburg, Milan,
  and Paris, 148;
    shows Verdi's Third style, 149;
    place of, 237.

  Foscari, Francisco, 70.

  Fouque's, Octave, _Histoire du Théâtre_, 298.

  Franco-German opera in England, 264.

  Fraschini, Signor, in _Due Foscari_, 75;
    in _Ballo in Maschera_, 145.

  French President and Verdi, 210.

  Frezzolini, Erminia, in _I Lombardi_, 55;
    in _Giovanna d'Arco_, 75.

  Fugue, Germans indebted to Italians for, 161.


  Garbon, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 191.

  Garden, Verdi's, 220.

  Gardoni, in _I Lombardi_, 55;
    in _Attila_, 79
    in _Masnadieri_, 84, 86, 88, 91;
    in _Luisa Miller_, 101.

  Gasparini and the growth of opera, 277.

  _Gazette Musicale_, 231.

  Gazzaniga, Mme., in _Luisa Miller_, 96.

  German opera in England, 263.

  Germans indebted to Italians for the fugue, 161.

  Ghislanzoni and _Aïda_, 168.

  Gindale, Ernestina, in _Aïda_, 172.

  _Giovanna d'Arco_, at La Scala, 75.

  _Giovanna di Guzman_, 140.

  Giraldoni, Signor, in _Ballo in Maschera_, 145.

  Giuglini, Signor, in _Luisa Miller_, 98, 99;
    in Verdi's cantata, 164.

  _Globe, The_, on Verdi, 219.

  Gluck and Piccini feud, 57-60.

  ---- and the growth of opera, 278.

  Goggi, Signora, in _Trovatore_, 115.

  Goñi, Peña y, 300.

  Gordigiani, Luigi, 234.

  Gounod, 90.

  _Graphic, Daily_, 38.

  Graziani, Signor, in _Trovatore_ and _Ernani_, 119, 124;
    in _La Traviata_, 128;
    in _Forza del Destino_, 148;
    in _Aïda_, 172.

  Grisi, in _I Lombardi_, 56;
    in _Due Foscari_, 74; 290.

  Grossi, Signor, in _Trovatore_, 115.

  ---- Mme., in _Aïda_, 169.

  Grove's _Dictionary of Music_, 297.

  Guasco, Signor, in _I Lombardi_, 55;
    in _Ernani_, 59.

  Guerrini, Virginia, in _Falstaff_, 191.

  Gueymard, M., in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  Guicciardi, Signor, in _Trovatore_, 115.

  _Gustave III._, 144 (see _Ballo in Maschera_).

  Guttierez and _Trovatore_, 113.

  Gye, Mr., produces _Anato_ at the Lyceum, 47;
    produces _Rigoletto_, 107.


  Halévy, 281.

  Handel's _oratorii_, 159.

  Haydn, 226.

  ---- mass, 159.

  Her Majesty's Theatre, _Nabucco_ at, 39;
    _I Lombardi_ at, 56;
    _Ernani_ at, 60;
    _Due Foscari_ at, 74;
    _Attila_ at, 78;
    _Masnadieri_ at, 84;
    _La Traviata_ at, 129, 291;
    Verdi's cantata at, 164.

  Hugo, Victor, 105.

  Hullah and musical education, 121.

  Humbert, King, congratulates Verdi, 192.


  _Illustrated London News_, 44;
    on _Ernani_, 63-67;
    on _Atilla_, 79;
    on _Masnadieri_, 88;
    on _Rigoletto_, 107, 108;
    on _Trovatore_, 124;
    on _Traviata_, 132;
    and _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 141;
    and _Simon Boccanegra_, 143;
    on Verdi's cantata, 164;
    258, 268, 289, 298.

  _Inno delle Nazioni_ cantata, 163.

  Italian and Teuton in instrumental music, 165.

  ---- church music, 158.

  ---- opera, introduction of, to England, 294.

  ---- school of music, 273.

  Italians and music, 8.


  Jacovacci and _Un Ballo in Maschera_, 144.

  _Jerusalem_, 58 (see _Lombardi_).

  _Jerusalemme_, 58 (see _Lombardi_).

  _Joan of Arc_, 76 (see _Giovanna d'Arco_).

  Jommelli and the growth of opera, 277.

  Journals, foreign, and Verdi, 299.


  Khedive of Egypt and Verdi, 168, 169, 209.

  Kitzu, Signora, in _Falstaff_, 194.

  Kuhe's, Wilhelm, _Musical Recollections_, 299.


  Lablache, Signor, in _Masnadieri_, 84, 86, 88.

  La Scala Theatre, 25, 30, 34, 35;
    direction of, choose Verdi to compose the _opera d'obbligo_, 50;
    _Giovanna d'Arco_ at, 75;
    _Forza del Destino_ at, 148;
    Verdi's _Requiem_ at, 154;
    _Aïda_ in, 170;
    _Montezuma_ in, 177;
    _Otello_ in, 178;
    _Falstaff_ at, 187, 192.

  Lasina, agreement with Verdi, 105.

  Lavigna, Vincenzo, 25.

  Libretto of _Nabucco_, 42;
    of _Luisa Miller_, 94, 98;
    of _I Due Foscari_, 70;
    of _Rigoletto_, 105;
    of _Forza del Destino_, 148;
    of _Aïda_, 170-172.

  Lind, Jenny, 75;
    in _Masnadieri_, 84, 86, 87, 88, 91.

  Loewe, Signora, in _Ernani_, 59.

  _Lombardi_, 45, 46;
    _dramatis personæ_ of, etc., 51;
    produced at the Milan Theatre, 54;
    compared with _Nabucco_, 56;
    produced in Paris, 58;
    197, 204;
    political influence of, 206.

  London, _Aïda_ in, 170;
    _Otello_ in, 180, 182;
    _Falstaff_ in, 194, 196.

  Lord Chamberlain and _La Traviata_, 133, 136.

  Lorredano, James, 71.

  ---- Peter, 70.

  Lotti, the growth of opera, 277.

  Lotti's church music, 161.

  Lucca and Verdi, 92;
    purchases _Il Corsaro_, 93.

  _Luisa Miller_, libretto of, 94;
    produced at Naples, London, and Paris, 96;
    opinions on, 96, 99-103;
    at Her Majesty's, 97;
    at the Théâtre Italien, Paris, 103;
    place in Verdi's development, 229, 230.

  Lumley, Mr., on _Nabucco_, 40;
    revives _Nino_, 46;
    produces _I Lombardi_, 56;
    on _Ernani_, 60;
    on _Due Foscari_, 74;
    produces _Attila_, 78;
    produces _Masnadieri_, 84;
    his faith in Verdi, 92;
    on _Luisa Miller_, 97;
    on _La Traviata_, 129-135;
    264.


  _Macbeth_, 81;
    produced at Florence, Milan, and Venice, 83;
    at Florence, 211.

  Mackenzie's, Sir A.C., lectures on _Falstaff_, 298.

  Maini, Signor, and Verdi's _Requiem_, 153.

  _Maledizione, La_, 105 (see _Rigoletto_).

  Malibran, 68.

  Mancinelli, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 194.

  Manzoni and the Rossini mass, 152, 212.

  Mapleson and _La Traviata_, 291.

  Marcello's church music, 161.

  Marchetti, 287.

  Margarita, 27.

  Marimon, Mlle., in _Masnadieri_, 92.

  Marini, Mme., and _Oberto_, 31.

  Mario, Signor, in _I Lombardi_, 56;
    in _Due Foscari_, 74;
    in _Rigoletto_, 107;
    in _Falstaff_, 192.

  Mascagni, 287.

  Masini, Signor, and Verdi's _Requiem_, 154.

  _Masnadieri_, 81;
    written for England, 84;
    at Her Majesty's, 84-86;
    story of, 86;
    a failure, 88, 92;
    opinions on, 88-91.

  Mass, Verdi's _Requiem_, 151-161.

  Matthew, J.E., 297.

  Maurel, M., in _Otello_, 179, 180;
    in _Falstaff_, 187, 191, 194;
    _À propos de la mise-en-scène du drame lyrique_
    "_Otello_," 298.

  Mazzucato, Signor, and the Rossini mass, 152.

  ---- Gianandrea, 297.

  Medini, Signor, and Verdi's _Requiem_, 154;
    in _Aïda_, 169.

  Melody in music, 274.

  Mendelssohn and Verdi's _Requiem_, 157;
    his _oratorii_, 159;
    266.

  Mercadante, 49, 68;
    jealous of Verdi, 116;
    227, 267.

  Merelli, Bartolomeo, and _Oberto_, 30;
    engages Verdi to write three operas, 32;
    tears Verdi's agreement up, 34;
    produces _Nabucco_, 35, 38;
    his generosity, 39;
    agreement with Verdi for the _opera d'obbligo_, 50.

  _Messe Solennelle_, Rossini's, and Verdi's _Requiem_ mass,
  158.

  Meyerbeer, 124, 163, 239, 245, 259, 263, 264, 267, 281, 284, 285.

  Milan, excitement in, over _Otello_, 177;
    _Falstaff_ in, 196, 198.

  ---- _Conservatoire_, 23.

  ---- Philharmonic Society, Verdi conductor of, 30.

  Milanese, and the production of _I Lombardi_, 54.

  Mirate, in _Rigoletto_, 106.

  _Mireille_, Gounod's, 90.

  _Missa da Requiem_, Verdi's, 152.

  Monaldi, 300.

  Monday Popular Concerts, Verdi at, 162.

  Mongini, Signor, in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140;
    in _Aïda_, 169.

  "Monte de Pieta" of Busseto, 23, 26.

  Montenegro, Mme., in _Due Foscari_, 75.

  Monteverde and the growth of opera, 276, 280.

  _Montezuma_ given at La Scala, 177.

  Moriani, in _Ernani_, 63.

  Mozart and Verdi's _Requiem_, 157;
    mass, 159;
    200, 202, 226, 252, 253.

  Music, characteristics of Verdi's, 7;
    in _Nabucco_, 38, 42, 54;
    in _Trovatore_, 115, 262;
    of _La Traviata_, 137;
    in _Falstaff_, 196, 252;
    in _Aïda_, 242;
    in _Otello_, 248;
    Italian school of, 273.

  _Musical Times_, 299.

  Muzio, letter from Verdi to, 128;
    168.


  _Nabucco_, produced at La Scala, 35;
    its success, 36, 38;
    in rehearsal of, 37;
    purchased by Ricordi, 39;
    in London, 39-41;
    146, 147;
    libretto of, 42;
    English opinions of, 40-47;
    musical points in, 48;
    compared with _I Lombardi_, 56;
    with _Rigoletto_, 108, 109;
    political influence of, 206.

  _Nabucodonosor_, 37.

  Naumann's _History of Music_, 297.

  Nautier-Didiée, Mme., in _Forza del Destino_, 148.

  "Nebuchadnezzar," 34.

  Ney, Jenny, in _Trovatore_, 118, 120.

  Nicolini, Signor, in _Aïda_, 172.

  Nilsson, 235.

  _Nino, Re d'Assyria_, 40 (see _Nabucco_).

  Noufflard's, George, _"Otello" de Verdi_, 298.


  _Oberto, conte di S. Bonifacio_, 28;
    produced in La Scala Theatre, 31;
    sold to Ricordi, 32.

  Obin, M., in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  Olghina, Olga, in _Falstaff_, 194.

  "Omnibus" box, the, 288.

  Opera during the past three-quarters of the century, 224;
    decline of, 289;
    origin and development of, 273;
    the first, 275;
    the second, 276;
    growth of, 275-279.

  _Opera d'obbligo_, Verdi chosen to compose, 50.

  Opera-house, vitality of the, 288.

  Orchestra in the first opera, 275;
    in _Orfeo_, 277.

  Orchestration in _Aïda_, 284.

  _Orfeo_, Monteverde's, 276.
  ---- Gluck's, 278.

  Organist of Roncole, Verdi becomes, 20.

  _Otello_, 82, 168;
    produced at Milan, 178;
    in London, 180, 182;
    orchestration in, 185, 197;
    in Paris, 210;
    place in Verdi's development, 233, 239, 241, 247-250, 251, 286;
    and operatic development, 285;
    a masterpiece, 291.

  Otellopolis, 177.

  _Otello_-Verdi mania, 179.


  Pacini, 49.

  Palazzo Doria, 219.

  Palestrina, 274.

  Palestrina's church music, 161.

  Palma, in _Macbeth_, 83, 207.

  Pantaleoni, Romilda, Signora, in _Otello_, 179.

  Paris, scenes and costumes for _Aïda_ from, 168;
    _Aïda_ produced in, 170;
    _Otello_ at, 182;
    _Falstaff_ at, 193, 196, 204.

  Paroli, Signor, in _Otello_, 179, 180.

  Parry's, Dr., _Studies of the Great Composers_, 297.

  Pasqua, Signora, in _Falstaff_, 191.

  Pasta, 120.

  _Paternoster_, Verdi's, 162.

  Patti, Mme. Adelina, in _Luisa Miller_, 103;
    in _Aïda_, 172;
    235;
    in _La Traviata_, 291.

  Pedrotti, 287.

  Pellegalli-Rosetti, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 191, 194.

  Penco, Signora, in _Trovatore_, 115.

  Peri and the first opera, 275, 280.

  Perosio, 300.

  Perugino, 200.

  Pessina, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 194.

  Petrovich, Mlle., in _Otello_, 179.

  Piave, Verdi's librettist, 58, 70, 93, 105, 126, 143, 148, 213.

  Piccolomini, Mlle., in _Luisa Miller_, 97, 99;
    in _La Traviata_, 129, 130, 131, 132, 135, 136, 235.

  Piccini, 57, 60, 68;
    and the growth of opera, 278.

  Pini-Corsi, Signor, in _Falstaff_, 191, 194.

  Pinsuti, 101, 287.

  Police and _I Lombardi_, 55;
    and _Ernani_, 59.

  Political influences of Verdi, 203.

  Polonini, Signor, in _Rigoletto_, 107.

  Ponchielli, 287.

  Poniatowski, Prince, and Verdi, 210.

  Porporo and the growth of opera, 277.

  Pougin's _Anecdotic History of Verdi_, 296, 297.

  Pozzoni-Anastasi, Mme., in _Aïda_, 169.

  Provesi, Giovanni, organist, 18, 21, 22;
    his prophesy 23;
    his death, 26.

  Pugnatta, the cobbler, 13.


  Quartet in E minor by Verdi, 162.


  Raineri, Mme., and _Oberto_, 31.

  Ravogli, Giulia, in _Falstaff_, 194.

  Recitative, origin of, 275.

  _Requiem_ mass, Verdi's, 151-161;
    lasting nature of, 292.

  Ricordi, music publisher, buys _Oberto_, 31;
    letter from Verdi on _Nabucco_, 36;
    purchases _Nabucco_, 39;
    Sassaroli's challenge, 177;
    at dinner with Verdi, 190;
    215.

  _Rigoletto_, 95, 146, 147;
    libretto of, 105;
    produced in Venice, London, and Paris, 106;
    musical characteristics, 108;
    opinions on, 108-113, 133, 135, 197;
    place in Verdi's development, 231;
    revival of, 260;
    diverse opinions on, 268;
    continued popularity of, 290, 292.

  Rinuccini and the first opera, 275.

  Ritter's _History of Music_, 297.

  _Roi s'amuse, Le_, 105.

  Rolla's advice to Verdi, 25.

  Ronconi and _Oberto_, 31;
    and _Nabucco_, 35, 47;
    in _Rigoletto_, 107.

  Roosevelt's _Life of Verdi_, 205, 297.

  Rossini, 54, 65, 83, 123, 124, 150, 151, 152, 158, 161;
    and Verdi, 206, 225, 226, 227, 259, 267;
    and the growth of opera, 278, 282.

  Rubini, 120.


  Salvi, Signor, and _Oberto_, 31.

  San Carlo Theatre, Naples, 93, 95.

  Sanchioli, in _Nabucco_, 40.

  San Marco at Milan, 152.

  Sarti, 80.

  Sassaroli, Vincenzo, and _Aïda_, 177, 300.

  Saunier, Mlle., in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140.

  Sbriscia, Mme., in _Ballo in Maschera_, 145.

  Scala, La, Theatre (see La Scala).

  Scarlatti and the growth of opera, 277.

  Scenes of _I Lombardi_, 51.

  Schiller's _Die Raüber_, 84;
    _Kabale und Liebe_, 98.

  Schumann, 226.

  Scotti, Mme., in _Ballo in Maschera_, 145.

  Scribe and _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_, 139.

  Seletti, priest, 19, 21.

  Selva, Signor, in _Ernani_, 59.

  _Sicilian Vespers_ (see _Vêpres Siciliennes_).

  _Simon Boccanegra_, produced at the Fenice theatre, 143;
    at Naples, 143.

  Solera's libretto of _Nabucco_, 34, 42;
    of _I Lombardi_, 50;
    of _Attila_, 77.

  Spezia, Mlle., in _Nino_, 46.

  Spinet, Verdi's, 12.

  Spohr's _oratorii_, 159;
    281.

  Spontini, 80;
    and the growth of opera, 278.

  St. Agata, Verdi's residence, 217, 219, 221.

  _Stabat Mater_, Rossini's, and Verdi's _Requiem_ mass,
  158, 161, 162.

  Stanford, Dr. Villiers, 38;
    on _Falstaff_, 299.

  Stehle, Adelina, in _Falstaff_, 191.

  Steller, Signor, in _Aïda_, 169.

  _Stiffelio_, 103.

  _Stila fugata_, 159.

  Stolz, Mme., and Verdi's _Requiem_, 153, 154

  Story of _Nabucco_, 42;
    of _I Lombardi_, 51-54;
    of _I Due Foscari_, 70-74;
    of _Attila_, 76;
    of _Masnadieri_, 86;
    of _Luisa Miller_, 94;
    of _Trovatore_, 113;
    of _La Traviata_, 127;
    of _Aïda_, 170.

  Streatfeild's, R.A., _Masters of Italian Music_, 297.

  Street organs and Verdi, 9, 224.

  Strepponi and _Oberto_, 31;
    and _Nabucco_, 35;
    consulted by Verdi, 50;
    marriage with Verdi, 218.


  Tagliafico, Signor, in _Rigoletto_, 107.

  Taglioni, 290.

  Tamagno, Signor, in _Trovatore_, 126;
    in _Otello_, 179, 180;
    261.

  Tamberlik, in _Trovatore_, 119, 120;
    in _Forza del Destino_, 148.

  Temple, Mme., in _Rigoletto_, 107.

  Teuton church music compared with Italian, 160.

  ---- and Italian in instrumental music, 165.

  _Times_, musical critic of, 44;
    on _Nino_, 46;
    on _Atilla_, 81;
    on _Masnadieri_, 91;
    on _Luisa Miller_, 101;
    on _Rigoletto_, 110;
    on _Trovatore_, 123;
    on _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 142;
    on _Un Ballo in Maschera_, 145;
    298.

  Titiens, Mme., in _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 140, 141;
    in Verdi's cantata, 164;
    261.

  _Traviata, La_, 95;
    and the Fenice Theatre, 126;
    story of, 127;
    a failure, 128;
    at Her Majesty's, 129;
    opinions on, 131-138, 146;
    at Venice, 214;
    place in Verdi's development, 233, 252;
    a "sickly opera," 290.

  _Troubadour, The_, 121 (see _Trovatore_).

  _Trovatore_, 95;
    produced at Rome, 113, 115;
    in Naples, 116;
    in Paris and London, 118;
    opinions on, 119-125;
    universal success, 125, 128;
    135, 138, 146, 197;
    and the organ-grinder, 215;
    place in Verdi's development, 232, 236, 250, 252, 259;
    revival of, 260, 290, 292.


  Varesi, baritone, in _La Traviata_, 128, 214.

  "Variety" entertainment and the opera, 290.

  _Vêpres Siciliennes_, 76, 138;
    reception of, 139;
    at Drury Lane, 140;
    opinions on, 140;
    a rehearsal in Paris, 213;
    its manner, 236;
    a departure, 282.

  Verdi, birth, 1;
    parents, 4;
    early circumstances, 6;
    characteristics of his music, 7;
    and street organs, 9;
    acolyte at the village church, 10;
    indications of musical aptitude, 11;
    his first musical instrument, 12;
    sent to school, 13;
    first musical training, 14;
    goes into the world, 15;
    office boy, 18;
    and Provesi, 19;
    organist of Roncole, 20;
    esteem for Barezzi, 21;
    conductor of the Busseto Philharmonic Society, 22;
    seeks the Milan _Conservatoire_ and is rejected, 24;
    under Lavigna, 25;
    returns to Busseto and is in love, 26;
    marries, 28;
    first attempt at a complete opera, 28;
    conducts in Haydn's _Creation_, 29;
    conductor of the Milan Philharmonic Society, 30;
    his _Oberto_ produced on the stage, 31;
    his wife's devotion, 32;
    domestic bereavements, 33;
    failure of _Un Giorni di Regno_, 34;
    on _Nabucco's_ success, 36, 38;
    his "best friends," 37;
    famous, 38;
    diverse opinions on, 40-47;
    alleged indebtedness to Wagner, 46;
    his success assured, 49;
    chosen to compose the _opera d'obbligo_ for La Scala Theatre
    direction, 50;
    another triumph, 55;
    _I Lombardi_, 55;
    _Ernani_, 58;
    his reception in England, 62;
    only Italian composer, 65;
    _I Due Foscari_, 70-75;
    _Giovanna d'Arco_, 75;
    _Alzira_, 76;
    _Attila_, 76-82;
    _Macbeth_, 83;
    _I Masnadieri_, 84-92;
    leaves England, 91;
    offered the _bâton_ at Her Majesty's, 92;
    _Il Corsaro_ and _La Battaglia di Legnano_, 93;
    _Luisa Miller_, 94-103;
    his evil genius, 96;
    _Stiffelio_ and _Il Finto Stanislas_, 103;
    _Rigoletto_, 105-113;
    _Trovatore_, 113-126;
    _La Traviata_, 126-138;
    letter on the failure of _La Traviata_, 128;
    _Les Vêpres Siciliennes_, 138-143;
    _Simon Boccanegra_, 143;
    _Un Ballo in Maschera_, 144;
    sued by the San Carlo Theatre, Naples, 144;
    _Forza del Destino_, 148, 149;
    his Third style, 149;
    a writer of sacred music, 150;
    and the Rossini mass, 151;
    on Manzoni, 153;
    his _Requiem_ at San Marco, Milan, 153;
    at La Scala Theatre, in Paris, and in London, 154;
    as a conductor, 155;
    his _Requiem_ as a contribution to church music, 158-162;
    other compositions, 162;
    the cantata _L'Inno delle Nazioni_, 163;
    at Her Majesty's, 164;
    Third period in his career, 167;
    _Aïda_, 167-177;
    _Otello_ and _Falstaff_, 168;
    _Montezuma_, 179;
    _Otello_, 177-186;
    in Paris, on presentation of _Otello_, 182;
    _Falstaff_, 187-202;
    congratulations from King Humbert, 192;
    as a writer of comic music, 201;
    a born politician, 203;
    politics in his music, 204-208;
    political significance of his name, 205;
    member of the National Assembly of Parma, 208;
    honours, 208-211;
    external appearance and character, 212-216;
    his fortune and residence, 217;
    second marriage, 218;
    habits, 218-222;
    popularity, 223;
    influence on opera, 225;
    estimate and characteristics of his work, 228-255;
    adverse criticism of, 256-271;
    his starting point, 279;
    outside influence upon, 281;
    and the growth of opera, 282;
    in _Aïda_, _Otello_, and _Falstaff_, 283;
    a "Wagnerite," 284;
    his place in musical art, 287;
    his imitators, 287;
    his masterpieces, 291;
    his fame, 292;
    bibliography, 293;
    literature about--why scanty, 296.

  Verdians and anti-Verdians, 57.

  Verdi-ites on _Luisa Miller_, 97.

  Verdinian characteristics in _Ernani_, 63.

  _Vespri Siciliani, I_, 140 (see _Vêpres Siciliennes_).

  Vialetti, in _Luisa Miller_, 99.

  Viardot, Mme., in _Trovatore_, 118, 120.

  Victor Emmanuel and Verdi, 205, 209.

  Vienna, _Falstaff_ in, 196.

  Vocal music, Italian tendency for, 165.


  Wagner and Verdi, 46, 60, 122;
    _Der Meistersinger_ and _Falstaff_, 189, 199;
    and Verdi, 181, 182, 198, 199, 202, 228, 235, 240, 241, 242, 244,
    245, 249, 251, 253, 254, 264, 267, 275, 279, 280, 284, 285, 287,
    298.

  "Wagnerian," 284, 286.

  "Wagnerite," 284.

  Waldmann, Mme., and Verdi's _Requiem_, 153, 154.

  Weber, 263, 264, 267, 281, 285.


  Zilli, Emma, in _Falstaff_, 191, 194.



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

The Greek word 'polloi' (many) occurs twice: on pages 159 and 260. On
both pages it is used to mean the large number of musically-uneducated
people who enjoy opera. On page 159 polloi appears in italicised Latin
letters: on page 260 it appears in Greek letters. It is not clear why
'polloi' should appear in two different forms but both of them have
been kept as printed.

In Chapter III the singer of one of the female leads in the opera
_Oberto_ is named as Madame Alfred Shaw. She is better known as Mary
Shaw. Born Mary Postans, she married the painter Alfred Shaw in 1835.

In Chapter IX the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves is placed in the opera _I
Lombardi_: it belongs, of course, to _Nabucco_.

Apart from the correction of one or two obvious typographical errors,
the spelling is that of the original text.

Several Italian passages, most of them taken from opera librettos, were
incorrectly typeset in the original text. These passages have not been
corrected in the main text but they are listed below with the changes
needed to correct them. The page numbers refer to the original text.

Page 43: "festivi giu cadono"  should be "festivi giù cadono".

         "Oh, dischinso e il firmamento" should be
                              "Oh, dischuiso è il firmamento".

Page 48: "Deh! l'empri" should be "Deh! l'empio".

         "Suppressaugi'istanti" should be "S'appressan gl'istanti".

         "Oh di qual onta aggravesi"  should be
                               "Oh di qual onta aggravasi"

Page 88: "Volasti alma beati" should be "Volasti, alma beata"

Page 175: "Morir! si pura e bella" should be "Morir! sì pura e bella".

Page 207: "Avrai tu L'universo vesti L'Italia me!" should be
              "Avrai tu l'universo resti l'Italia me!".

Page 229: "Il Corsari" should be "Il Corsaro".

Page 284: "aria d'entratà" should "aria d'entrata".





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