Elsa Franco Al Ghaslan
Published — Saturday 23 February 2013
Last update 23 February 2013 12:35 am
After talking about the “highest poet” Dante and the “greatest genius” Leonardo, this time we shall glance at a totally different feature of the multi-faceted Italian culture. We will in fact briefly talk about another of its sides — a modern, musical one: “opera”. An opera is a theatrical presentation in which a dramatic performance is set to music. It incorporates many elements of spoken theater (acting, scenery, costumes). The solo and choir singing is accompanied by an orchestra.
We shall start with a highly fecund composer, whom we owe some of the most famous operas ever written. Some readers may probably think about Gioacchino Rossini, who composed the well-known “Barber Of Seville” (Figaro). Although Rossini is certainly part of the fertile Italian nineteenth century musical generation, Giuseppe Verdi is the one who gave us immortal masterpieces such as “Aida”, “Il Trovatore”, “Traviata”. You may be familiar with the aria “Su libiamo” (Let’s drink to a toast), from “Traviata.” Even if you do not recognize the words, you would certainly recognize the melody. Do you care to check it out? You won’t regret it. It’s beautiful.
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) was an Italian romantic composer who lived during the troubled historical times of the Wars of Independence that Italy fought around the middle of the century. His music is considered among the greatest operatic work of all time, and he used it as a means to encourage his fellow countrymen to fight in order to regain the long-lost freedom from foreign occupation. Verdi led a long, prolific life and, unlike other contemporary composers, he enjoyed a vast public success during his lifetime. I find it particularly interesting that he composed one of his most appreciated operas, “Falstaff” when he was 80 years old.
Along with a great composer, we cannot avoid mentioning a great singer that everybody knows — the late Luciano Pavarotti (1935-2007). He started his career as an operatic tenor in the early ‘60s and later crossed over into popular music. This is what made him famous all over the world, and incredibly successful from a commercial point of view as well. Along with two other well-known colleagues, Spanish Placido Domingo and Jose’ Carreras, he formed the group “The Three Tenors” (“Pavarotti & Friends”), which performed in TV concerts and numberless media appearances, mainly to raise money for humanitarian causes. With the same aim, Pavarotti also sang with several international mega-stars such as Celine Dion, Elton John, Mariah Carey, Bono, John Bon Jovi, Andrea Bocelli etc. In 2006, on the occasion of Turin Winter Olympics opening ceremony, Big Luciano (as he had affectionately been nicknamed by his fans) sang for the last time his signature aria “Nessun dorma”, from Giacomo Puccini’s “Turandot”. A sad final note: After his death, his large estate was the cause of bitter legal battles among his heirs (ex wife, widow and children).