Opera Companies Mark Giuseppe Verdi Death Centenary

Composer's career celebrated in houses from Milan to San Francisco.

January 27 marks the hundredth anniversary of the death of Giuseppe Verdi, and opera houses and concert halls across the world are paying tribute.

Milan's Teatro alla Scala offers the most elaborate memorial. It will present 11 of Verdi's 28 operas, including Il Trovatore, which opened the company's season last month. "It is a moral duty for the Teatro alla Scala to honor Verdi, quite as much as an artistic decision," artistic director Paolo Arcá said in a press release. "The Scala was undoubtedly Verdi's theatre, albeit discontinuously and in a relationship that was often stormy."

La Scala has also launched a web site (www.verdi-2000.com) coinciding with the centenary that offers a thorough overview of the composer's life and works.

A grand performance of Verdi's Requiem, conducted by Riccardo Muti with soloists including tenor Ramón Vargas and soprano Barbara Frittoli, will be presented January 27-28 at Milan's Basilico di San Marco, where the work debuted in 1874. The concert will also be presented January 30-31 in Vienna at the Musikverein.

Other opera companies around the world will pay tribute to Verdi. London's Royal Covent Garden will perform La Traviata, Falstaff and Otello. The Metropolitan Opera in New York will perform five Verdi works, including Nabucco, Aida, Il Trovatore, and Un Ballo in Maschera. The Lyric Opera of Chicago will produce a new production of Rigoletto and of Attila, a work rarely heard outside Italy. The San Francisco Opera will present a trio of Verdi's works in June and July, including Simon Boccanegra.

Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born October 10, 1813, in the small town of Roncole in the duchy of Parma. Verdi entered the opera world with Oberto, which premiered at La Scala in 1839. But it was his success with Nabucco, in 1842, that entrenched him in the soul of Italian society, most notably due to the chorus "Va, Pensiero" (Fly, my thoughts) (RealAudio excerpt of Albano Carrisi performance), which quickly became the anthem of Italy's struggle for national unity.

Verdi cemented his European fame in 1851 with Rigoletto, followed by Il Trovatore and La Traviata in 1853. His final trio of operas, Aida in 1871, Otello in 1887 and Falstaff in 1893, solidified Verdi's highly stylized dramatic form and expanded use of the orchestra and chorus. In addition to his famous Requiem, Verdi also composed a string quartet and several works for chorus.