Despite my allegiance to Wagner, it’s worth mentioning this year’s other bicentennial birthday boy, Giuseppe Verdi, who turned 200 this week. I won’t mislead here: I’m familiar enough with Verdi and his music but he’s not a strong personal interest of mine outside of work. I do enjoy his music, but I don’t want to write some insincere, longwinded post just because it’s 2013. Simply an anecdote or two and a few words.
Verdi’s Il Trovatore was the first opera I saw performed live by a professional company. While on a family vacation in London in 2004, I queued up at the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden the morning of a performance and scored a last-minute cheap seat. The fact that Il Trovatore – or anything by Verdi – was on the docket was almost peripheral. I came to opera relatively “late” – approximately a year before this trip – and decided that while in London I’d try to see something at Covent Garden. I’d visited the city years before but lacked the interest at that time. That one of opera’s biggest composers was on the bill was simply a bonus. I went alone as I often do to concerts and had a lovely time. The performance was solid, and I was pleasantly surprised in Act II upon recognizing the “Anvil Chorus.” That, coupled with the pretty traditional production, made for a delightful first time for me. (Though, I must admit that I found the plot to be a little much…)
This past summer I saw Verdi’s rarely-performed ninth opera Attila at another historic theater: Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. Unlike my experience at Covent Garden, I knew the opera beforehand. Also unlike London, this modern production was by Peter Konwitschny – pure Regietheater (director’s theater). The cast and orchestra gave a superb performance, and I absolutely loved the production. Konwitschny respected Verdi’s material without taking himself too seriously. I certainly hope the production gets a video release. That performance really made an impression on me and I’ve since wanted to actively seek out more Verdi.
[It’s worth noting that I saw Attila less than a week after attending an excellent performance of another rare opera, Rienzi, in Bayreuth, written by another birthday boy…]
Although I’ve made my bicentennial preference clear in posts throughout this year, a nod to Verdi is definitely in order. After all, Il Trovatore got my foot in the operatic door, and for that I’m grateful.