Personalities | Arrigo Boito | Late Romantic | Classical
(Ar-i’-go Bo-e’-to) 1842–1918
Italian composer and librettist
Boito furnished the librettos for two of Verdi’s greatest Shakespearean masterpieces, Otello (1884–86) and Falstaff (1893). The premiere of his own operatic masterpiece Mefistofele, at La Scala, Milan (1868), was greeted with whistles due to the work’s extreme length (over five hours) and Germanic influences. As a result Boito for a while signed his work ‘Tobia Gorrio’, as in his libretto to Ponchielli’s La gioconda (‘The Joyful Girl’, 1876). Mefistofele finally established itself in the repertory in a revised version in 1875. The music’s great beauty and lyricism are matched by an eloquent libretto which, more than Berlioz’s or Gounod’s versions, highlights the moral-philosophical debate, as explored in Boito’s second opera Nerone, completed and first performed posthumously in 1924.
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