Monday, February 20, 2017

Giuseppe Verdi: Sweet and Scandalous!

Giuseppe Verdi’s first love was rather sweet, but his second began as a scandal. This month Clef Notes is looking at composer love stories. While some are sweet and romantic, others are just plain dirty and complicated.

Giuseppe Verdi
Courtesy of wikimedia.org

When Verdi was just 18, he went to live with a merchant and patron of the arts by the name of Antonio Barezzi. This man would later finance the young composer so that he could further his studies in Milan. Following his studies, Verdi secured a position teaching lessons at a music school and conducting the philharmonic society concerts in Busseto. At this point, he married his young love Margherita, Barezzi’s oldest daughter.

Margherita Barezzi
Courtesy of wikimedia.org
Margherita loved her husband and supported his work. She bore him two children, Virginia Maria Luigia and Icilio Romano Carlo Antonio. Sadly, both of the children and Margherita died within a couple-year span, leaving Verdi devastated. At the same time, he had an opera fail and vowed to quit composing forever. Good thing he didn’t stick to his claim!

After a period of mourning, Verdi came back to the arena with a huge success in his opera Nabucco. It was around this same time that he became acquainted with soprano Giuseppina Strepponi, who sang the role of Abigaille during Nabucco’s premiere. Strepponi had a bit of a reputation, having two illegitimate children. Their paths crossed again in 1847 after Strepponi had retired from the stage and was making a living as a teacher. The two fell in love and soon moved in together. At this point in time, an unwed couple residing together was considered a scandal, and Verdi’s father-in-law, Barezzi, was at first enraged by the ordeal. He eventually came to accept Strepponi as a daughter and the couple finally married in 1859. It is unknown why the couple waited so long, or why they finally chose to marry after so many years.

Giuseppina Strepponi
Courtesy of wikimedia.org 
Strepponi believed that she didn’t deserve Verdi. She spent the remainder of her life loving and supporting him, helping him to find a good balance between his work and leisure.


Next time, let’s travel back in time a bit further, and look at another sweet love story between J.S. Bach and Anna Magdalena. 

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