WDBX Opera Overnight: 200 years of Verdi

English: The Portrait of Giuseppe Verdi Azərba...

Giuseppe Verdi, in a well-known portrait by Giovanni Boldini, 1886.

We’re going to devote tonight’s show to a celebration of the great Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, whose birthday was this past Thursday.  This week starts Verdi’s bicentennial year, as he was born on October 10, 1813, and there are a number of opera companies that will be prominently featuring Verdi works in their schedule for the year.  Tonight, we’re going to start the show with Aida (pronounced a – I – da), one of his truly great works.  Aida was commissioned by an Ottoman governor of Egypt, and as such is set in Egypt during the Old Kingdom, and was premiered in Cairo, Egypt, in 1871.  Verdi did not write an overture for the opera, so it just dives right into the action.  It ranks as the 13th most performed opera worldwide, with more than 1,100 performances at the Met.  It was the first opera to be televised, has been made into several motion pictures, and the story was used as the basis for a musical by Elton John and Tim Rice.  However, when you get beyond the historical info, the reality is that the opera is a musical thrill ride, demanding strong performances from strong singers – truly a great piece of music.  One of the great epic operas.

Tonight’s recording is a 1962 recording, featuring Leontyne Price, Jon Vickers, Robert Merrill, Rita Gorr, Franco RiccardiSir Georg Solti conducts the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro del’Opera di Roma.

Italiano: Libretto Luisa Miller,melodramma tra...

A period libretto for Luisa Miller (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The second portion of our Verdi birthday celebration will be Luisa Miller.  This opera in three acts premiered on December 8, 1849, and although it is not Verdi’s most well-known opera, it still sees regular performances.  Indeed, several performances of the opera are currently planned in celebration of the bi-centenary year that began last week.  Tonight’s recording is a 1964 recording that features Anna Moffo, Carlo Bergonzi, Cornell MacNeil, Shirley Verrett, Giorgio Tozzi, and Ezio FlagelloFausto Cleva leads the RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra.

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