It's His Birthday...Giuseppe Verdi
Without doubt the most influential composer to stamp his everlasting mark on Italian Opera would be Giuseppe Verdi. Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. His popularity endures today unlike almost any other composer, his operas being among the most often performed in most opera houses across the world.
I have to admit to having a lifelong admiration for the man myself. Taking music classes as a youth and playing a brass instrument, of course I grew up on a diet of Verdi, I can still remember the tortured school band rendition of the Grand March from Aida. But that didn't stop me.
Naturally as my operatic curiosity developed along side my Egyptology obsession, it was inevitable that I make acquaintances with Aida. I designed a concept in second year design school that remains to this day the basis for my staging concept which you can see the latest incarnation, still a work in progress here.
I'd like to take you back though, to my first ever live operatic experience. I was thirteen, it was Nabucco. Back then everything in Perth was in traditional dress and the designs were by Tom Lingwood for the West Australian Opera Company. It was brilliant and I can still remember it to this day. So much gold and limestone, such stiff but elegant costumes and HUGE Babylonian headdresses! The singing superb to my young ears and needless to say I was hooked.
So I'd like to pay my respects to the Great Man of Italian Opera by revisiting my first operatic experience. As much as I adore the great Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, I personally think the most stirring piece from the entire opera follows it directly, O chi piangi.
It's a rousing, inspirational call to arms and faith in early Verdian style. I've chosen the great Samuel Ramey as Zaccaria, to me he is a living treasure, one of the greatest bass voices of the past century.
Happy birthday Maestro Verdi, you've given such treasures to the Art of Opera and will be forever treasured by music lovers across the world.