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Composers Datebook®

with host John Birge

Wednesday, July 22

A Verdi premiere in London

Synopsis

On today's date in 1847, Giuseppe Verdi conducted the premiere performance of his newest opera, "I Masnadieri" or "The Robbers," at Her Majesty's Theater in London. And speaking of her Majesty, Queen Victoria was in the audience, as were other state dignitaries, including the Duke of Wellington and Louis Napoleon of France.

It was the first time in over twenty years that a world-famous composer had composed an opera specifically for London. As one of Verdi's young assistants put it, "Neither Rossini, Bellini, or Donizetti had ever pitched their tents on the banks of the Thames."

As an added attraction, the 27-year old Swedish nightingale, soprano Jenny Lind, topped an all-star line-up of singers. It was Jenny Lind's London debut and the first time ever that an operatic role had been specially-written for her

The premiere was a great success for all concerned, with Verdi and the singers called to the stage again and again to cheers from the audience. The critics, for their part, were less than kind.

"We take this to be the worst opera that has been given in your time at Her Majesty's Theater," wrote one. "There does not exist an Italian composer more incapable of producing what is commonly called melody." "I Masnadieri" fared a little better back in Italy, but gradually faded from the active repertory until the revival of interest in all of Verdi's opera in the 20th century.

Music Played in Today's Program

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) I masnadieri Overture Hungarian State Opera Orchestra; Iper Giorgio Morandi, cond. Naxos 8.554077

Additional Information

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