Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) is one of the greatest opera composers, and arguably the most popular of all. His name is synonymous with the history of Italian music in the second half of the 19th century, his work is central to the repertory of every opera house in the world. He is sometimes compared with Shakespeare, whom he adored, though he spoke little English and knew the Bard’s work only in translation.
Verdi was an outstanding melodist, and some of his arias and choruses – such as La Donna è Mobile from Rigoletto, La Traviata’s Brindisi (the drinking song) and the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore – are familiar to millions. In Italy, the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco has long been associated with national unity and solidarity. The Grand March from Aida, meanwhile, has become a staple of the brass band repertory and is sometimes used at weddings, and Verdi’s music can be heard on the soundtracks of films from Zack Snyder’s 300, Claude Berri’s Manon des Sources to Luchino Visconti’s Senso, it has advertised lager, jeans and pasta sauce. It even features in the video game Grand Theft Auto.