Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Thursday, May 10

Verdi gives a refund

Synopsis

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, Giulio Ricordi, 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 then brand new opera, “Aida.”

“I admired the scenery,” wrote Bertani, “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. It will fill the theatre a few more times and then gather dust in the archives.”

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!” Verdi asked for a signed statement that (quote) “Bertani promises never again to go to hear my new operas, to avoid for himself the danger of other specters and for me the farce of paying him for another trip.”

Music Played in Today's Program

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) Aida excerpts

Additional Information

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