Composers Datebook®

Verdi gives a refund

Composers Datebook - May 10, 2024


Is the customer always right? Apparently Giuseppe Verdi thought so — to a degree, at least.

On today’s date in 1872, Verdi sent a note to his publisher with an attached letter he had received from a disgruntled customer, a certain Prospero Bertani, who had attended not one, but two performances of Verdi’s new opera, Aida.

Bertani said, “I admired the scenery … I listened with pleasure to the excellent singers, and took pains to let nothing escape me. After it was over, I asked myself whether I was satisfied. The answer was ‘no’.”

Since everyone else seemed to think Aida was terrific, Bertani attended a second performance to make sure he wasn’t mistaken, and concluded, “The opera contains absolutely nothing thrilling or electrifying. If it were not for the magnificent scenery, the audience would not sit through it.”

Bertini itemized his expenses for tickets, train fare, and meals, and asked Verdi for reimbursement. Verdi was so amused that he instructed Ricordi to pay Bertani — but not the full amount, since, as Verdi put it: “… to pay for his dinner too? No! He could very well have eaten at home!”

Music Played in Today's Program

Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901): ‘Aida’ excerpts

On This Day


  • 1697 - French violinist and composer Jean Marie Leclair, in Lyons

  • 1888 - Austrian-born American film composer Max Steiner, in Vienna

  • 1894 - Russian-born American film composer, Dimitri Tiomkin, in St. Petersburg

  • 1916 - American composer Milton Babbitt, in Philadelphia


  • 1760 - German composer Johann Christoph Graupner, 77, in Darmstadt


  • 1876 - Wagner: Festival March (commissioned for the American Centennial), at the opening of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, conducted by Theodore Thomas

  • 1894 - R. Strauss: opera Guntram, in Weimar at the Hoftheater, with the composer conducting

  • 1904 - Alfvén: Midsommarvaka (Midsummer Vigil), in Stockholm

  • 1907 - Dukas: opera Ariane et Barbe-Blue (Ariane and Bluebeard), in Paris

  • 1954 - Rautavaara: A Requiem in Our Time, in Cincinnati, with Cincinnati Brass Choir, Ernest N, Glover, conducting. This work had won First Prize in the Thor Johnson Composition Contest that year.

  • 1957 - Shostakovich: Piano Concerto No. 2, in Moscow, by the USSR State Symphony, Nikolai Anosov conducting, with the composer’s son, Maxim, as the soloist

  • 1964 - Roy Harris: Epilogue to ‘Profiles in Courage' for orchestra, in Los Angeles

  • 1985 - Peter Maxwell Davies: An Orkney Wedding, with Sunrise for orchestra with bagpipe solo, at Boston’s Symphony Hall, by the Boston Pops conducted by John Williams

  • 1985 - Michael Torke: Ecstatic Orange, at the Cooper Union in New York, by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lukas Foss conducting

  • 1997 - Philip Glass: opera The Marriage Between Zones Three, Four and Five (based on the sci-fi novel by Doris Lessing), at the State Theater in Heidelberg (Germany)


  • 1824 - American premiere of Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro (sung in English) at the Park Theater in New York.

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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®