Why I Love Verdi
How I Came to Love Verdi and Why I Still Love Verdi
I first heard Verdi’s music listening to Caruso and Scotti sing a duet from La forza del destino on my grandparents wind-up Victrola.
When I was 12 years old I saw my first opera, it too was La forza del destino. I went with some of my school friends to a Sunday afternoon performance at a small company. The production had makeshift scenery and costumes, no chorus and piano accompaniment. That performance not only introduced me to live opera but to Verdi in the theater. A few months later I was in a production of Aida for the same company, carrying a spear in the triumphal scene. At that time I came to love many different operas, but before long I realized that most of them (La traviata, Il trovatore, Otello, Un ballo in maschera, etc.) had something in common. They were by Verdi.
That love for Verdi has lasted until now, and the more I know of Verdi’s music and of Verdi the man, the stronger my feelings have become.
I feel a strong attraction to Verdi, the composer, in four ways.
As an audience member, I have always loved his melodies; they are simple and natural, but not trite or obvious. They are filled with emotion that expresses the text and the characters in a unique way.
As a theater lover, I am still amazed by Verdi’s sense of drama and how well his operas work in the opera house. Their effect doesn’t always come across listening to a recording or reading a score, but their impact is during a live performance, on stage.
As a musician, I have the greatest respect for his expressed desire and ability for self-renewal. He was never complacent about his successes and didn’t take the easy road. He was always looking for ways to say something new in the theater through his music.
As a person, I love what Verdi says about us as people and how we function in our society. His characters are human and they are like us, whether they be Spanish nobility, ancient Egyptian leaders or Parisian courtesans. They are given choices in life and make decisions as to how to deal with those choices. Verdi does not judge them, but he lets us see the outcome of their behavior. His desire is for us to observe the action of those characters so we may become better members of our society.
I also have a great love and respect for the man himself. Although he was not perfect by any means, for the most part he was generous and not self-serving. He was a private person, but was always there for his friends and his community. He is to be respected as a musician and emulated as a person. His legacy will be with us as long as we admire great works and want to see humanity at its best.
(Victor DeRenzi is Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Sarasota Opera.)