Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 4.djvu/267

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VEEDI.

to the Italian custom, a cup of hot black coffee. He then goes into his garden to look after the flowers, give instructions to his gardener, and see that his previous orders have been carried out. The next visit is to the horses, as the maestro takes much interest in them, and his stud is well known as the 'Razza Verdi/ As a rule this visit is interrupted at eight o'clock by the breakfast bell a simple breakfast of coffee and milk. At half-past ten the bell again summons the maestro and his wife to a more substantial dejeuner, after which he takes another walk in the garden.

At two o'clock comes the post, and by this Verdi is for a while put in communication with the world, and has for a few hours to remember with regret that he is not only a quiet country-gentleman, but a great man with public duties. At five in summer, and six in winter, dinner is served : before or after this he drives for an hour, and after a game at cards or billiards, goes to bed at ten. Friends sometimes pay him a visit : they are always welcome, provided they are not interviewers, or too fond of talking about music. In a letter addressed to Filippi the leading musical critic of Italy the maestro dis- closes his views of critics and biographers :

  • If you will do me the honour of a visit, your

capacity as a biographer will find very little room for displaying itself at S. Agata. Four walls and a roof, just enough for protection against the sun and the bad weather; some dozens of trees, mostly planted by me ; a pond which I shall call by the big name of lake, when I have water enough to fill it, etc. All this without any definite plan or architectural pre- tence : not because I do not love architecture, but because I detest every breach in the rules of harmony, and it would have been a great crime to do anything artistic in a spot where there is nothing poetical. You see it is all settled : and while you are here you must forget that you are a biographer. I know very well that you are also a most distinguished musician and devoted to your art ... but Piave and Mariani must have told you that at S. Agata we neither make, nor talk about music, and you will run the risk of finding a piano not only out of tune, but very likely without strings.'

Shunning everything like praise, as an artist, he shuns even more the reputation of being a benevolent man, though the kindness of his heart is as great as his genius. Money is sent by him, often anonymously, to those in want, and the greater part of the works done at his villa are done with the view of affording his workmen the means of getting their living during the winter. Of the strength of his friend- ship and gratitude, he gave an undeniable proof in what he did for his humble associate, the poet or as he would call himself the librettista F. M. Piave. As soon as Verdi heard that the old man had had an attack of paralysis, he took upon himself all the expenses of the illness, during the many remaining years of Piave's life gave him a yearly allowance, which enabled

��VERDI.

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��the old poet to surround himself with all requisite comfort, and after his death paid for the funeral, and made a large provision for the little daughter of his poet and friend.

Whether M. Verdi will ever give the last touches to ' Othello,' and whether it will prove, a success or a failure, are facts of interest to the author and the opera-goers only. For the musical critic, 'Othello,' whatever it may be, can neither add to nor detract from the merits of its au- thor. From ' Oberto Conte di S. Bonifacio ' to the ' Messa di Requiem ' we can watch the pro- gressive and full development of Verdi's genius, and though we have a right to expect from him a new masterpiece, still nothing leads us to believe that the new work may be the product of a nuova manicra.

If popularity were a sure test of merit, Verdi would indisputably be the greatest operatic com- poser of the second half of this century. In 1850 the great Italian composers had all passed away : Bellini and Donizetti were gone ; Rossini, though still living in Paris, was practically dead to music. Of the old school there were in Italy only Merca- dante, Petrella, and Parisini : out of Italy there were Meyerbeer, Auber, Gounod, and Wagner, though Meyerbeer and Auber are to be reckoned amongst the operatic composers of the first half of this century. Since 1850 Italy has produced Boito, Ponchielli, and Marchetti ; France, Mas- senet and Bizet ; Germany, Goetz and Goldmark. Among these, fame designates Verdi, Wagner, and Gounod as the three greatest composers of their respective nations. The three, however, enjoy different degrees, and even different kinds of popularity. Gounod's fame is almost solely based on ' Faust.' Wagner's operas, or rather his early operas, may be said to be familiar to every- body in Germany, and German-speaking nations: but outside of Germany only large towns, like London, St. Petersburg, and Brussels, are really acquainted with his works. Paris has notoriously shut her ears to him ; and New York appears as yet not to have heard one of his operas. As for the Latin races Italy, Spain, France nobody has been yet brought to a right understanding, not to mention the ' Niebelungen,' even of 'Rienzi.' Of Verdi, on the other hand, we may safely affirm that there is not an opera-house in the world, the Bayreuth Theatre excepted, where most of his operas have not been performed, and a season seldom passes without at least a per- formance of the ' Traviata,' the ' Trovatore,' or 'Rigoletto.' Amongst Italians, no matter what their opinion of the composer is, there is a general belief that Verdi enjoys the greatest popularity of all living musicians : and we do not hesitate to endorse this opinion. Music is a universal language, and operatic music is, of all branches of that art, the one which most forcibly imposes itself upon the attention of the public, as the in- definite musical expression is rendered definite by the meaning of the words, and by the dramatic action on the stage. Moreover, music is of all arts the one that can be most easily and cheaply brought home to everybody. This is the reason

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