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Aida, set in Ancient Egypt, was not composed to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, as has often been suggested. Nor was it commissioned by the Khedive of Egypt to mark the opening of the Cairo Opera House that same year. It happened that the French Egyptologist, Auguste Mariette, keeper of monuments to ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi’s five-act opera Don Carlos was taken from a drama written in 1787 by the German playwright Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805). Written for the Paris Opéra, Don Carlos was first performed there on 11 March 1867. Schiller’s play was translated and the libretto written by Joseph Méry, who unfortunately died before it was completed, and Camille du Locle ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi’s four-act opera Ernani, which has been called his ‘most romantic’ work, was first performed at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 9 March 1844. An immediate success, it was based on the tragedy Hernani by the French writer Victor Hugo. Politically, the treatment of the subject was far more overt than Nabucco, featuring a ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi’s last opera, Falstaff was the third taken from William Shakespeare, this time from his Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. Verdi wrote the opera when he was 79, but it was not his only comic opera, as is often supposed. There was another, Un giorno di Regno, which ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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‘The Troubadour’ Of all Verdi’s operas, Il trovatore (‘The Troubadour’) provides the fullest panorama of melodies, each of them memorable in its own right. Il trovatore did not have the subtle characterization of Rigoletto, and suffered from an all but impenetrable plot, but nonetheless became as frequently played. The Miserere (meaning ‘Have Mercy’) sung by a chorus ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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‘The Force of Destiny’ La forza del destino was commissioned by the Imperial Theatre, St Petersburg where it premiered in 1862. Verdi considered the opera an ‘excellent success’ with ‘opulent’ settings and costumes, although critics thought the tragic, lugubrious love story had a depressing effect on the audience. It was first performed in New York in 1865 and ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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‘The Fallen Woman’ La dame aux camélias (‘The Lady of the Camellias’) by Alexandre Dumas had barely been staged in 1852 before Verdi took it up for La traviata, one of the great operas from his middle period. It premiered at Teatro La Fenice, Venice on 6 March 1853, and the first performance was disastrous. Verdi blamed the ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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‘The Sicilian Vespers’ Verdi inherited the libretto for Les vêpres siciliennes (‘The Sicilian Vespers’) from Le duc d’Albe (‘The Duke of Alba’), an opera left unfinished when its composer, Donizetti, died. Verdi made it a five-act work and it had its first performance at the Paris Opéra, for which it was commissioned, on 13 June 1855. It ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi was an enthusiastic admirer of Shakespeare and Macbeth was the first opera based on his work. It premiered at the Teatro della Pergola in Florence on 14 March 1847, with Verdi himself conducting. Performances followed throughout Europe, including Madrid (1848), Vienna (1849), and New York (1858). For the premiere in Paris, at the Théâtre Lyrique on 21 ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Nabucco was originally named Nabucodonosor. An opera in four acts set in Jerusalem and Babylon in the sixth century bc, Nabucodonosor was first produced at La Scala, Milan on 9 March 1842 with Giuseppina Strepponi, who later became Verdi’s second wife, as Abigaille. The opera was not billed as Nabucco until 1844. It occasioned Verdi’s first serious ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi’s late masterpiece, Otello, completed when he was 74, was the second of his three operas taken from the plays of Shakespeare. The libretto by Arrigo Boito dispensed with the Shakespeare’s opening scene, set in Venice and concentrated the action on Cyprus, giving it an almost claustrophobic intensity. Long considered Verdi’s greatest opera and his most ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi’s three-act opera Rigoletto, based on Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse (‘The King Amuses Himself’, 1832), was originally entitled La maledizione (‘The Malediction’) – a reference to the curse placed on the superstitious court jester Rigoletto, which fulfills itself in the final scene. The first performance of Rigoletto took place at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice on ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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Verdi’s dark, brooding opera Simon Boccanegra had a tortuous history before 24 March 1881, when its final version premiered at La Scala, Milan. Verdi composed Boccanegra in 1857, but the Venetian audience reacted coolly; an anti-Verdi claque sabotaged the performance and a false rumour spread, claiming that Verdi had written the libretto and made a mess of ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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‘A Masked Ball’ In 1857, Verdi was virtually asking for censorship trouble when he chose Gustavuse III, ou Le bal masqué (‘Gustavus III, or The Masked Ball’) for his next work. In 1792 King Gustavusus III of Sweden had been shot dead at a masked ball in Stockholm. Regicide was a taboo subject and the Neapolitan censors immediately ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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1813–1901, Italian Giuseppe Verdi was that rarity, a modest, diffident genius. He was so unaware of his powers that he called himself ‘the least erudite among past and present composers’. Born in Le Roncole, near Busseto, Parma, Verdi was eight when his talents were noticed by a local merchant and patron of music, Antonio ...

Source: Definitive Opera Encyclopedia, founding editor Stanley Sadie
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