Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/261

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VERDI.

Marini, M. Salvi and M. Marini. I had been obliged to make some cuts, and had written an entirely new number, the quartet, on a situation suggested by Merelli himself; which proved to be one of the most successful pieces in the whole work.

'Merelli next made me an offer which, con- sidering the time at which it was made, may be called a splendid one. He proposed to engage me to write three operas, one every eight mouths, to be performed either at Milan or Vienna, where he was the impresario of both the principal theatrical houses: he to give me 4000 livres (134) for each opera, and the profits of the copyright to be divided between us. I agreed to everything, and shortly afterwards Merelli went to Vienna, leaving instructions to Rossi to write a libretto for me, which he did, and it was the Proscritto. It was not quite to my liking, and I had not yet brought myself to begin to set it to music, when Merelli, coming hurriedly to Milan during the spring of 1840, told me that he was in dreadful want of a comic opera for the next autumn, that he would send me a libretto, and that I was to write it first, before the Proscritto. I could not well say no, and so Merelli gave me several librettos of Eomani to choose from, all of which had already been set to music, though owing to failure or other reasons, they could safely be set again. I read them over and over and did not like any; but there was no time to lose, so I picked out one that seemed to me not so bad as the others, II finto Stanislao, a title which I changed into Un Giorno di Regno. "

' At that period of my life I was living in an unpretentious little house near the Porta Tici- nesa, arid my small family was with me that is, my young wife and my two sons. As soon as I set to work I had a severe attack of angina, that confined me to my bed for several days, and just when I began to get better I remem- bered that the third day forward was quarter- day, and that I had to pay fifty crowns. Though in my financial position this was not a small sum, yet it was not a very big one either, but my illness putting it out of my mind, had prevented me from taking the necessary steps; and the means of communication with Busseto the mail left only twice a week did not allow me time enough to write to my excellent father-in-law Barezzi, and get the money from him. I was determined to pay the rent on the very day it fell due, so, though it vexed me very much to trouble people, I desired Dr. Pasetti to in- duce M. Merelli to give me fifty crowns, either as an advance on the money due to me under the agreement, or as a loan for ten days, till I could write to Barezzi and receive the money wanted. It is not necessary to say why Merelli could not at that moment give me the fifty crowns, but it vexed me so much to let the quarter-day pass by without paying the rent, that my wife, seeing my anxieties, takes the few valuable trinkets she had, goes out, and a little while after comes back with the necessary

��VERDI.

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��amount. I was deeply touched by this tender affection, and promised myself to buy every- thing back again, which I could have done in a very short time, thanks to my agreement with Merelli.

' But now terrible misfortunes crowded upon me. At the beginning of April my child falls ill, the doctors cannot understand what is the matter, and the dear little creature goes off quickly in his desperate mother's arms. More- over, a few days after the other child is taken ill too, and he too dies, and in June my young wife is taken from me by a most violent in- flammation of the brain, so that on the I9th June I saw the third coffin carried out of my house. In a very little over two months, three persons so very dear to me had disappeared for ever. I was alone, alone ! My family had been destroyed ; and in the very midst of these trials I had to fulfil my engagement and write a comic opera! Un Giorno di Regno proved a dead failure ; the music was, of course, to blame, but the interpretation had a considerable share in the fiasco. In a sudden moment of despondency, embittered by the failure of my opera,! despaired of finding any comfort in my art, and resolved to give up composition. To that effect I wrote to Dr. Pasetti (whom I had not once met since the failure of the opera) asking him to persuade Merelli to tear up the agreement.

' Merelli thereupon sent for me and scolded me like a naughty child. He would not even hear of my being so much disappointed by the cold reception of my work: but I stuck to my de- termination, and in the end he gave me back the agreement saying, " Now listen to me, my good follow ; I can't compel you to write if you don't want to do it; but my confidence in your talent is greater than ever ; nobody knows but some day you may return on your decision and write again : at all events if you let me know two months in advance, take nay word for it your opera shall be performed."

' I thanked him very heartily indeed ; but his kindness did not shake my resolution, and away I went. I took up a new residence in Milan near the Corsia de' Servi. I was utterly disheartened, and the thought of writing never once flashed through my mind. One evening, just at the corner of the Galleria De Cristoforis, I stumbled upon M. Merelli, who was hurrying towards the theatre. It was snowing beauti- fully, and he, without stopping, thrust his arm under mine and made me keep pace with him. On the way he never left off talking, telling me that he did not know where to turn for a new opera; Nicolai was engaged by him, but had not begun to work because he was dissatisfied with the libretto.

'Only think, says Merelli, a libretto by Solera, marvellous . . . wonderful . . . extraordi- nary . . . impressive dramatic situation . . . grand . . . splendidly worded . . . but that stubborn creature does not understand it, and says it is a foolish poem. I don't know for my life whert to find another poem.

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