The Italians have a word for the sense of dazzling beauty produced by effortless mastery: sprezzatura. And perhaps no cultural form associated with Italy is as steeped in the love of sprezzatura as opera, a genre the Italians invented. No composer has embodied the ideal of sprezzatura as magnificently as Giuseppe Verdi, the gruff, self-described "farmer" from the Po Valley who gave us 28 operas and remains to this day the most popular composer in the genre's 400-year-old history. His operas are produced more than those of any other composer, and one source claims that his La Traviata (1853) has been staged live somewhere around the world every evening for the past 100 years!
This series of 32 lectures from one of music's most acclaimed teachers combines biography with a variety of musical excerpts to reveal the treasures of creativity that account for this popularity. It explores in depth and detail both the famous and not-so-famous Verdi operas, as well as his one great concert work, the Requiem Mass of 1874; his early songs; and his very last composition, a setting of the Stabat Mater. You trace his development from a more or less conventional composer of operas in the traditional Italian bel canto (beautifully sung) style to a creator of truly innovative musical dramas in which the power of music to intensify and explore human emotion is exploited to the fullest degree.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2003 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2003 The Great Courses
I came late to an appreciation of opera, and found this course to be a fantastic adjunct to my growing knowledge. Sometimes I think the professor was a bit snarky and tried too hard to be funny, but that is merely a quibble. He provided an amazing amount of detail about Verdi's life, and much valuable information about the major operas. I did think he dwelt too long on Verdi's last opera, Falstaff, but that is quite understandable, since it was a radical departure for Verdi (whose operas tended toward the tragic). Now I want to go visit Buzetto and see Verdi's home, and I can hardly wait until June, when La Traviata will be performed at Masada.
It would be among the top 5. It is well narrated but too much focus is on the man and not soo much on his music.
The episode of the creation of Otello and Verdi's passion and patience with composing.
Same as above
At moments it made me feel sad with the way the author defined the pains of Verdi.
I found the lecturer incredibly annoying and pompous. The biographical information is interesting, but the delivery is much longer than necessary and full of annoying attempts at humor that fall flat. I've found the opera synopses vapid and distracting, and the orientation to the musical highlights insufficient for my interests. Read a Verdi biography instead.
"Elmer Fudd explains Verdi"
A narrator who did not belittle every opera he discusses by assuming the voices and characteristics of a Bugs Bunny cartoon. Some synopses may be problematic, but to adopt a pseudo-comic voice and kindergarten slang is unnecessary and inappropriate to a 'college-level' lecture series.
Probably the Naxos Verdi audiobook, which, although shorter, will be unlikely to wallow in flippancy.
Anybody else: maybe one of the narrators of the Modern Scholar series, who take their lectures seriously.
Lengthy retelling of the story of each operas should be cut, with more college level musical information in its place (narrated properly, of course). Biographical information is fine as is, as are the musical extracts.
This could have really been a 'great course'. Pity.
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