Verdi’s Greatest Operas
Verdi’s Greatest Operas List
Giuseppe Verdi lived from 1813 until 1901, dying of a stroke at the ripe old age of 87. In his final years he founded a home for retired musicians. The public celebration of his funeral still counts as the greatest public event ever held in Italy.
Warning! The plot outlines include spoilers
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|Opera||Acts, Duration||Plot description of Verdi’s greatest operas from 1842-1871|
|Nabucco, 9 March 1842 in Milan||4 acts, duration: 2:15 hours. Libretto by Solera Temistocle||The Opera follows the destiny of the Jews who are exiled by Nabucco, the Babylonian king. Nabucco is at the gates of Jerusalem with his troops. The Jews, however, feel safe because they have Nabucco’s daughter Fenena as a hostage. Nevertheless, the enemies penetrate the Temple of Solomon under the leadership of her sister Abigaille. Ishmael rescues Fenena, who is to become the new ruler soon after. But Abigaille wants to be queen herself so spreads the rumour of Nabucco’s death and snatches the crown. Nabucco intervenes and demands he be worshipped as a God, which promptly leads to divine punishment and he loses his mind. Abigaille becomes queen. Fenena however, is committed to Judaism. Abigaille sentences Fenena to death (with the stolen Seal of Nabucco). Nabucco tries to prevent it but is imprisoned. In the dungeon he prays to Jehovah, God of the Jews, promising to convert if his prayers are answered upon which the madness leaves him. He rushes to help Fenena and save the Israelite prisoners. When he arrives, he orders the destruction of the idol of Baal which falls and shatters. Abigaille poisons herself and begs for forgiveness and dies. The king gives the Jews their freedom and Fenena and Ishmael are married.|
|Rigoletto, 11 March 1851 in Venice||3 acts, duration: 2 hours. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave. Template: Victor Hugo||Rigoletto, the hunchbacked jester of the cynical womanizer the Duke of Mantua tries to conceal his beautiful daughter Gilda from him. As a precaution, she is only allowed out of the house to attend church, it is to no avail – the Duke, disguised as a student, has already fallen in love with Gilda. After Rigoletto finds his daughter in the Duke’s palace after a desperate search, he swears cruel revenge. He takes Gilda to the house of the murderer Sparafucile where she witnesses the loose living Duke flirting with Maddalena, the murderer’s sister. Rigoletto begs Gilda to flee in men’s clothes and instructs Sparafucile to murder the Count. But Maddalena is in love with him and suggests a deal to her brother: instead of the duke he should murder the next person to knock at the door. Gilda hears everything and knocks at the door herself. Shortly thereafter, Rigoletto is given the body bag, discovers his daughter and collapses.|
|La Traviata, 6 March 1853 in Venice||3 acts, duration: 2:30 hours. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave Template: Lady of the Camellias by Alexandre Dumas||Demimondaine Violetta meets sincere Alfred, who soon afterwards professes his love for her. Touched by his sincere affection she surrendered herself to him, knowing that she doesn’t have long to live. Both live happily for a few months on an estate near Paris until – in Alfred’s absence – his father Germont visits and tells Violetta that he has learned from Alfred’s sister’s fiancé of Alfred’s relationship with a prostitute and threatens her with the dissolution of the engagement. Violetta sacrifices herself and disappears from Alfred’s life leaving only a farewell letter. Out of desperation, Alfred storms into a festival where he hopes to find Violetta. Violetta, now accompanied by Baron Douphal, asks Alfred to leave at which he throws money to her feet for the hours they spent together. Humiliated, she faints. Germont explains the story to his son who then feels guilty and visits Violetta in her bedroom. But she is at the end of her powers, and dies in his arms after once more declaring her love.|
|Aida, 24 December 1871 in Cairo||4 acts, duration: 2:15 hours. Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni||Radames is an Egyptian commander who is told to go to war against Ethiopia. Only after a victory will he win the beautiful slave Aida as a reward. Although she shares his love, she is still torn because her father was the king of Ethiopia. Pharaoh’s daughter Amneris is also in love with Radames. For this reason, she tells Aida he fell in the field. But he returns in triumph and begs the king for one request: the release of all Ethiopian prisoners, including Aida’s father. The king grants his wish, but keeps Aida and her father as a hostage in Egypt. He is also instructed to marry Amneris. On the night before the wedding, Aida persuades him to flee with her. On the run, he realizes that he has committed high treason against Egypt. He gets himself arrested and sentenced to death by being “buried alive”. No sooner is the grotto sealed than he discovers Aida in it who wants to die together with him.|
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