am 17. Juli 2000
Verdi's two Comedies philosophically, and emotionally, frame his long career. While writing Il Giorno di Regno, his first comedy, and only his second opera, the rather naive young Verdi lost his first wife and their children in a fire. Needless to say, the opera wasn't very funny, and the audience booed it off the stage. Verdi quit Opera...he thought for good. However, his self-imposed exile didn't last long, and Verdi eventually wrote several of Opera's greatest masterpieces. He also loved Giuseppina, first as his paramour, eventually as his second wife, became one of Europe's most generous philanthropists, and admired his great rival Richard Wagner, who referred to Verdi simply as "pig." Arrigo Boito, a genius in his own right (if you don't believe it, get a good recording of Mefistofele), testified in Italian newspapers that Verdi's "old ways" of writing Opera were permanently invalidated by Wagner. Yet one day, eight years after Verdi had retired for the second time, Boito, the great Verdi hater, came to Sant' Agata, hat in hand, to ask Verdi to compose music for two Shakespearean music dramas he had written. The second of those music dramas, Falstaff, was to be Verdi's second comedy, and his last opera. Falstaff is a towering monument to artistic collaboration. In it, Verdi, Boito, and Shakespeare tell us that life is a great cosmic joke, and, since we cannot escape being its brunt, we might as well laugh along. Dover republished an early Ricordi edition of Falstaff. Ricordi is, simply put, the most useful publisher of late romantic Italian opera, especially of Verdi and Puccini. The scholarship is top notch, making this Dover edition quite a useful volume. The book itself is, as always, well crafted and easy to read. The score may be too large, and the book too small, to make this volume useful for the podium, but at home, in front of the stereo, it's invaluable. Falstaff is one of the west's great example's of existentialism expressed in artistic form. If you are not familiar with this opera, I strongly recommend you buy this score, and a good recording to go with it, and knock yourself out.