Giuseppe Verdi was born in Roncole, a hamlet near Busseto, on 10th October 1813. In 1832, he moved to Milan where, thanks to Antonio Barezzi’s economic support, he applied unsuccessfully to study at the conservatory; therefore, he became a private pupil of Vincenzo Lavigna, who had been maestro concertatore at La Scala.
In 1836, Giuseppe Verdi married Margherita Barezzi, the daughter of his patron; two years later, the couple moved into a humble house in Milan. In 1839, his first opera – Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio – was finally put on at the Teatro alla Scala; it achieved a respectable 14 additional performances.
The La Scala impresario Bartolomeo Merelli commissioned to Verdi a comedy, Un giorno di regno, which was a flop. The failure of the opera was due to the fact that Verdi was devastated by the death of his wife and their two children.
Merelli persuaded him not to leave the opera world, and he gave Verdi a libretto of biblical inspiration, Nabucco; Verdi accepted to compose a new opera, which was premiered on 9th March 1842 at the Teatro alla Scala, and it was a resounding triumph. It was given 64 additional performances during the first season.
Nabucco was the starting point of an astonishing career; for nearly ten years, Verdi composed, on average, one opera a year, and became the most famous composer of his time.
In the 1840s, three great operas were premiered, namely Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata, which definitely brought lasting fame to the Maestro.
By the time, when he had already become a rich and internationally renowned composer, he decided to move back to the countryside where he had spent his childhood, namely the area that nowadays we call Terre Verdiane; in May 1848, Verdi purchased a villa in Sant’Agata, a few kilometres away from Busseto, where he settled down with his new partner – soprano Giuseppina Strepponi – whom he married in 1859. The farm and countryside life took a lot of the Maestro’s time. His love for the countryside soon became a job and, a few years later, he became one of the most important farmers in the Parma lowlands.
In the second half of the 1850s, he composed Aida, premiered on Christmas Eve in 1871. After Aida, Verdi seemed willing to retire from the theatre, but Arrigo Boito made him change his mind, and the two started a fruitful collaboration.
Verdi spent the last years between Sant’Agata and Milan. In 1899, he established a rest-house for retired musicians and named Filomena Verdi – a cousin he had adopted – as his sole heir.
The Maestro died on 27th January 1901. His operas are a timeless legacy as they are still performed and appreciated all over the world.
Sources: Prof. Pierluigi Pietrobello, giuseppeverdi.it and Wikipedia (entry Giuseppe Verdi)