Composers Datebook®

Sleep on it, Giuseppe

Composers Datebook - March 6, 2024


Have you ever sent someone an email you regretted the second you hit send? Even in the 19th century, it was often prudent to sleep on a message before sending off words written in the heat of passion.

On today’s date in 1853, Giuseppe Verdi sent a barrage of short notes to friends after what he felt was the disastrous premiere of his latest opera at the Teatro la Fenice in Venice.

“I am sorry,” Verdi wrote to his publisher, “but I cannot conceal the truth from you. Let's not investigate the reason. It happened. Goodbye, goodbye.”

To another colleague Verdi wrote, “It was a fiasco. My fault. Or the singers? Time alone will tell.”

But, apparently after a little more thought, he wrote to another friend, “The audience laughed. Well, what of it! Either I’m wrong or they are. I personally don’t think that last night’s verdict will be the last word.”

After a year waiting for just the right cast, Verdi allowed his new opera to be restaged — in Venice once again, but this time at a different theater. Much to his satisfaction, this time, his new opera La Traviata was a big hit.

Music Played in Today's Program

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901): ‘La Traviata’; Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Georg Solti, cond. London 448 119

On This Day


  • 1844 - Russian composer Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov (Gregorian date: March 18);

  • 1870 - Austrian operetta composer Oscar Straus, in Vienna;


  • 1932 - American composer and bandleader John Philip Sousa, 77, in Reading, Pa.;

  • 1967 - Hungarian composer Zoltán Kodály, 84, in Budapest;


  • 1791 - Beethoven: Ritterballett (Knightly Ballet), in Bonn;

  • 1825 - Beethoven: String Quartet in E-flat, Op. 127, in Vienna, the Schuppanzigh Quartet; This premiere was under-rehearsed and poorly performed (the Quartet had only received the music two weeks earlier), and Beethoven arranged for a second performance by a quartet led by violinist Joseph Boehm on March 26, which was better rehearsed and better received;

  • 1831 - Bellini: opera La Sonnambula (The Sleepwalker), in Milan at the Teatro Carcano;

  • 1853 - Verdi: opera La Traviata (The Lost One), in Venice at the Teatro La Fenice;

  • 1896 - Arthur Foote: Suite in D, by the Boston Symphony, Emil Paur conducting;

  • 1917 - Rachmaninoff: Etudes-tableaux, (first complete performance of the set of nine), in Petrograd (St. Petersburg), by the composer (Julian date: Feb. 21);

  • 1926 - Hindemith: Concerto for Orchestra, by the Boston Symphony with Serge Koussevitzky conducting;

  • 1927 - Prokofiev: Quintet for winds and strings, Op. 39, in Moscow;

  • 1933 - Varèse: Ionisation, in New York City, with Nicholas Slonimsky conducting;

  • 1934 - Piston: Concerto for Orchestra, in Cambridge, Mass.;

  • 1947 - Miaskovsky: Symphony No. 25, at the Moscow Conservatory by the USSR State Symphony, Alexander Gauk conducting;

  • 1984 - John Harbison: Ulysses' Raft, by the New Haven Symphony, Murray Sidlin conducting;

  • 2000 - Poul Ruders: opera The Handmaid's Tale, in Copenhagen, by the Royal Danish Theater, Mark Schönwandt conducting;

  • 2003 - John Harbison: Requiem, by vocal soloists Christine Brewer, Margaret Lattimore, Paul Groves, and Jonathan Lemalu, with the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, and the Boston Symphony conducted by Bernard Haitink.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®