The Italians have a word for the sense of dazzling beauty produced by effortless mastery: sprezzatura. And perhaps no cultural form associated with Italy is as steeped in the love of sprezzatura as opera, a genre the Italians invented. No composer has embodied the ideal of sprezzatura as magnificently as Giuseppe Verdi, the gruff, self-described "farmer" from the Po Valley who gave us 28 operas and remains to this day the most popular composer in the genre's 400-year-old history. His operas are produced more than those of any other composer, and one source claims that his La Traviata (1853) has been staged live somewhere around the world every evening for the past 100 years!
This series of 32 lectures from one of music's most acclaimed teachers combines biography with a variety of musical excerpts to reveal the treasures of creativity that account for this popularity. It explores in depth and detail both the famous and not-so-famous Verdi operas, as well as his one great concert work, the Requiem Mass of 1874; his early songs; and his very last composition, a setting of the Stabat Mater. You trace his development from a more or less conventional composer of operas in the traditional Italian bel canto (beautifully sung) style to a creator of truly innovative musical dramas in which the power of music to intensify and explore human emotion is exploited to the fullest degree.
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Comprehensive picture of music and society
Yes, I discover new enjoyable moments every time I listen to
Giuseppina Strapponi, a supporting wife
Yes, for me as an enthusiastic but amateur listener this book helps to understand dimensions I did not access before
No. You have to return to it from time to time. But this is worth to do it.
I can only recommend it to everybody.
First class lecture series from Robert Greenberg
Verdi was quite the character and this series of lectures is an excellent introduction to both the significant experiences of his life, his professional relationships, and the development of his music.
Professor Greenberg wants us to get a sense of Verdi's personality and characteristics as a window to his music and his passion and sincerity lend colour and verve to these lectures. Dry this material is not!
Professor Greenburg's soapbox moments are a real highlight. Agree or disagree there's something about a passionate opinion, eloquently expressed, which captures the attention and rewards the listener. Bravo!
- Gareth Newton-Williams