The course will focus on the most popular and most frequently performed of all Italian composers: Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), recently celebrated worldwide in the bicentenary of his birth. Verdi’s life and output have been strongly connected to the city of Milan, the geographical center of his life, where he studied since he was 19, developed his musical and cultural background, started and ended his career as an opera composer and eventually died. Taking a course on Verdi in Milan is therefore a unique opportunity in order to understand the composer’s creative path and style, while getting to know the institutions and the environment where they developed. The course will explore Verdi’s definition of the fundamental themes of the Romantic era and investigate his relationship with European musical and literary culture of his time. The course will trace the the roots of his art in his artistic ideas and explore the influence Verdi had on the society and mentality of his times, shaping modern Italian identity.
Regular class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to attend classes each day, including course-related excursions.
IES Abroad Milano allows a maximum of TWO excused absences per semester. Each further absence will automatically result in a penalty of two points off (2/100) on the final grade. SEVEN absences per course (including 2 excused absences) will result in a failing grade for that course. Furthermore, an absence on the date of scheduled tests, presentations or quizzes does not entitle you to recover/reschedule such tests. Failure to attend your midterm and/or final exam will result in an F grade on that paper/exam.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
Understand the complexity of 19th-century opera as a product of interrelated forces and disciplines: literature, both vocal and instrumental composition, gesture, acting, stage setting, all aimed towards the creation of the grand show of musical drama
Understand the peculiarity and interest of operatic subjects
Understand the evolution of Italian belcanto
Understand the show-business and its rules through the century
Understand the influence of opera on society, culture, politics
Develop a clear, comparative grasp of the operatic elements that celebrated the values and/or contributed to the identity of Italy as a new nation: its culture, music, literature, lifestyle
Approach to Verdi's masterpieces, analyzing their mechanisms and the reasons of their success and enduring popularity worldwide
Method of presentation:
Lectures, DVD watching, Field Studies at Opera, Concerts, Exhibitions, CD listening, Score analysis. This course requires attention and critical reaction to the music we will hear, the texts we will read, the DVDs we will watch and the performances we will attend. Therefore, attendance is strictly required. The mandatory readings should be read through the semester in order to gain historical perspective of all the topics covered. Students will have the opportunity to deepen a topic of their choice by filing a research paper. The teacher will introduce students to the existing resources at local libraries, museums and archives. Deadlines for submitting personal works will be announced in class.
Opera in 20th-century Milan: Malipiero Day, Museo del Novecento
La Scala: Concert: Haydn’s The Creation
Through Milan on Verdi’s Footsteps (including Verdi’s Tomb at Casa Verdi)
Opera: Puccini’s Tosca at Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo
La Scala Theatre Museum
Verdi’s Requiem, Auditorium di Milano
Guest Lecture: Ronald Martinez on Dante, a Verdi’s favorite
Italian opera concert, Auditorium di Milano
Required work and form of assessment:
Research Paper - 20%
Participation - 20%
Midterm - 20%
Final Exams- 40%
Verdi, Shakespeare and European Romantic culture
Verdi’s career in Italy and Abroad
Verdi and his country: the making of a Nation
Being an Opera composer at Verdi’s time
Getting an opera out of an idea
The Ugly as new, romantic Beauty: Verdi’s ideas on arts
Verdi’s world and characters
How does a Verdi’s opera work
The first great success: Nabucco as monumental Opera
Ten years of experimental opera: from Ernani to Macbeth and beyond
The Romantic Trilogy: Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, La Traviata
A new operatic project: from Les Vêpres Siciliennes to Un ballo in maschera
Rethinking grand opéra: from La forza del destino to Don Carlos to Aida
Shakespeare, once more: Otello and Falstaff
Verdi out of the theatre: the Requiem and the chamber music
Julian Budden, Verdi. Oxford University Press, 2008.
Scott L. Balthazar (Ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Verdi. Cambridge University Press, 2004 (selected essays).
Roger Parker (ed.), The Oxford Illustrated History Of Opera, Oxford University Press.
Roger Parker, Verdi politico: a wounded cliché regroups, «Journal of Modern Italian Studies», XVII, 4, 2012, 427-436.
Gavin Williams, Orating Verdi: Death and the Media c. 1901, «Cambridge Opera Journal», XXIII, 3, 2011, p. 119-143.
Susan Rutherford: From Byron’s The Corsair to Verdi’s Il corsaro, «Ninenteenth-Century Music Review», VII, 2, 2010, p. 35-61.
Francesca Vella, Verdi’s Don Carlo as Monument, «Cambridge Opera Journal», XXV, 1, 2013, p. 75-103.
Blanche Roosevelt, Verdi Milan and Othello, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Denise Gallo: “Repatriating” Falstaff: Boito, Verdi and Shakespeare (in Translation), «Ninenteenth-Century Music Review», VII, 2, 2010, p. 7-34.
Librettos of selected operas by Verdi.
Raffaele Mellace, Con moltissima passione. Ritratto di Giuseppe Verdi. Carocci, 2013 (in Italian).
Charles Osborne (Ed.), Letters of Giuseppe Verdi. Gollancz, 1971.
DVDs, CDs, operatic scores and teacher’s tracks, either on reserve at the IES Abroad Office or available online.