Listening to Verdi’s operas, we learn to understand ourselves better. The flighty Lady Macbeth, Rigoletto the fool, the self-sacrificing Violetta or Desdemona from his Otello - with all these stage characters, portrayed with such precision, we experience our own fears, suffering, and hopes as in a magnifying glass.
Expressed in a different way: they are made clearly recognizable by amplifying them to a dramatic scale. Hardly anyone was expecting, however, that the young Giuseppe Verdi would come to represent the crowning achievement of what was already a golden age of opera in Italy (with Donizetti, Rossini, and Bellini).
But success did not come immediately; many personal tragedies brought him to the point of despair. His two children died young. His opera Un giorno di Regno received merciless catcalls, and after his wife also died during this fateful year, following four years of marriage, the broken 27-year-old man decided to give up composing. Fortunately he did not hold fast to this decision; the creative fire was certainly burning too strongly within him. One-and-a-half years later, his opera Nabucco was not only a resounding success, but also a beacon of hope for Italy, which was occupied by Austria at the time. The “Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves,” a symbol of rebellion against slavery, lifted this opera to triumph at the premiere.

© Helmut Jasbar, ORF - Radio Österreich 1


  • 1813 Giuseppe Verdi is born on October 10 in Le Roncole.

  • 1842 Nabucco is performed in Milan, later in Vienna, Paris, and London.

  • 1847 Macbeth is premiered.

  • 1851 Premiere of Rigoletto in Venice.

  • 1853 With Il Trovatore and La Traviata, Verdi reaches the height of his fame.

  • 1871 A further triumph: the opera Aida celebrates its premiere.

  • 1887 Premiere of Otello at Milan’s La Scala.

  • 1893 Premiere of Falstaff, his final opera.

  • 1901 Verdi dies on January 27 in Milan.

Did you know?

  • A virtually operatic experience occurs during Verdi’s childhood, when his mother is obliged to hide him from Russian soldiers in a bell tower.

  • George Bizet on Guiseppe Verdi: “A new opera by Verdi was recently played. Nauseating!”

  • Verdi in a letter to publisher Giulio Ricordi: “We used to have to put up with the tyranny of primadonnas; now we also need to put up with the tyranny of conductors!”

  • In a spa town, Verdi once rented all the barrel organs owned by the street musicians; he was no longer able to hear his own melodies.

  • Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi dominated the opera world in the second half of the 19th century.