"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Music Tuesday: Giuseppe Verdi Appreciation Thread

The other day on the 10th was the 200th anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth.  He is by far my favorite opera composer, and frankly, I don’t care what anyone says, the greatest.  I’m not going to get to why, just accept it.  I have to admit, though, to my embarrassment I have never been to an opera.  I have wanted to go on numerous occasions, but one of two things happens.  Either the opportunity requires me to go to an opera that is not a Verdi work, and no, I keep telling myself, my first has to be Verdi.  Or, an opportunity comes up and my wife nixes it.  Unfortunately my wife is not into classical music or opera.  I have dragged her quite a few times to the Philharmonic, and she detests it.  The only reason she agrees is for a night and dinner in Manhattan.  But the night has to be just right. I have not had such a coincidence of a Verdi opera and her willingness to suffer through one. 

If you don’t know too much about Verdi, oh find the time to learn about his music, and listen.  Start with the Essential Verdi: 40 of His Greatest Masterpieces. 

How about we start with this well known aria from Rigoletto, La donna è mobile."    Here’s the great Luciano Pavarotti singing, “Woman is flighty./Like a feather in the wind,/she changes in voice/and in thought.”


And then there is the opera that first brought Verdi to the heights of the greats, Nabucco,  a storyline based on the flight of the Israelites from their Babylonian captivity.  This great chorus, titled, “Va, pensiero” as you can read was inspired on Psalm 137 and sometimes referred to as “The Chorus of  the Hebrew Slaves.”  It’s sense of nationalism became a sort of rallying cry for the unification of Italy during the next two decades.  Turn the volume up on this.  Every time I hear it it brings tears to my eyes.


Greet the banks of the Jordan
and Zion's toppled towers...
Oh, my country, so beautiful and lost!
Oh, remembrance, so dear and so fatal!

Another of my favorites is Aida, a story set in ancient Egypt.  The Egyptians have captured Aida, an Ethiopian princess, and Radamès, a military commander, falls in love with her.  To make a long story short he chooses to die than give her up.  Here is the great final scene where he is locked up in a vault to suffocate, but finds that his beloved has hidden herself to die with him.  From outside they hear chanting from a festival to the dead, and so that their death becomes associated with the divine.


Of Verdi’s 28 operas, only two were comedies, his second, which stands as his one possible failure, and therefore was reluctant to ever attempt another comedy, until his very last, Falstaff, based on Shakespeare’s comic play, The Merry Wives of Windsor.  Here’s that wonderful finale, and therefore might be Verdi’s last composition.


Here from Il trovatore, a chorus of soldiers singing of going into battle.  I just love this. 


I also could have gone with the great gypsy chorus, otherwise known as the “Anvil Chorus” from Il Trovatore, but I limited myself to one per opera.  They really do hammer at anvils during the chorus.  Do yourself a favor and look that one up.

Finally let me end with my all time favorite, LaTraviata.  The central character is Violetta, a courtesan (fancy prostitute, to be blunt), who falls in love with Alfredo, and try to run away from her past.  Here, from where the two meet at a party where this toast “Libiamo ne’lieti calici,” is sung, or in English, “Drink from the joyful cup.”  You have probably heard this.  It’s about as perfect a piece of music as can get.


Here are the entire lyrics for this one.
Let's drink, let's drink from the joyous chalices
that beauty so truly enhances.
And may the brief moment be inebriated
with voluptuousness.
Let's drink for the ecstatic feeling
that love arouses.
Because this eye aims straight to the heart, omnipotently.
Let's drink, my love, and the love among the chalices
will make the kisses warmer.
Ah! Let's drink, and the love among the chalices
will make the kisses warmer.
With you all, I can share
my happiest times.
Everything in life
which is not pleasure is foolish.
Let's enjoy ourselves
for the delight of love is fleeting and quick.
It's like a flower that blooms and dies
And we can no longer enjoy it.
So enjoy; A keen and flattering
voice invites us!
Let's enjoy the wine and the singing,
the beautiful night, and the laughter.
Let the new day find us in this paradise.
Life means celebration.
Only if one hasn't known love.
Don't tell someone who doesn't know.
But this is my fate...
Let's enjoy the wine and the singing,
the beautiful night, and the laughter.
Let the new day find us in this paradise.

Oh I would love to have that played at my funeral!
Let us drink to this wonderful, joyous genius, Giuseppe Verdi.


  1. Manny, my husband works at the Academy of Music here in Philly. They just had Nabucco in! Maybe Mrs.Manny would enjoy seeing Philadelphia? I can recommend lots of great places to eat. I have to check the schedule to see what is coming up. Bob can often get comp tickets, too!

  2. (((Or, an opportunity comes up and my wife nixes it. Unfortunately my wife is not into classical music or opera.)))

    I'll start off by saying that your wife and mine have something in common they both are not into classical music or opera.

    Before I continue and call me crazy but I can almost hear sinner vic asking me why you have not told Victor where to go yet?

    Truth be known, I told sinner vic that it was you who asked me to let you know when I start my third blog and just in case you have not heard and long story short, I will not be starting another blog unless "Jesus" taps me on the shoulder and tells me to do so and them who knows, "I" might say, no way do we want sinner vic to be a doctor of our Catholic Faith! :)

    Anyway Manny! I've read everything here and I've also listened to everything and as a matter of fact, I've even had the songs on full size and longer story short, that's probably cause ?????

    Go Figure! I hear YA! I'm having the same problem Victor!

    Well, if you really want to know more about me, I can put you on my mailing list which is getting smaller and smaller all the time cause the only "ONES" who listen to me now are guys like Jimmy Akin and Jeff Miller plus a few other leaders of the faith. As a matter of fact, our good bishop has letters large enough to create his own crazy novel. (lol)

    I want to make this short so let's get back on topic! When I was younger and before our government transferred me to an army camp, a friend of mine from high school http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~cannor/northbay/acs/1965/084.htm
    I won't give you his name but I will say that he did ware glasses and had a curl in his hair. Believe it or not, back then I never sat down to learn songs but for some reason, I was able to sing about 300 of them. I hear ya! God did bless you with a little talent.

    What I'm trying to say is that I was very surprise to hear and find out that my lead guitar player loved classical music and back then I wondered how anyone could like that kind of music cause "IT" was always
    about "ME", "ME" and "ME" back then so says sinner vic.

    I hear YA sinner vic! I better close now by saying that GOD (Good Old Dad) will make sure that every "ONE" of our cells will get a chance during Eternity to find out what we really LOVE, "I" mean like and......

    END YA SAY sinner vic? BE NICE NOW and get back to reality!


    Go Figure! :)


    God Bless Peace

    1. Always a great comment from you Victor. I enjoyed the high school pictures. If you ever get back to singing, please send me a clip. Great news from SCU. God bless, my friend.

  3. Thank you for visiting me Manny; and for your prayers. I pray for you and yours. Thanx also for the Pavarotti song above. I also like Aida's Triumphal March. God bless you always.

    1. Glad you're recovering Victor M. :)