The Italians have a word for the sense of dazzling beauty produced by effortless mastery: sprezzatura. And perhaps no cultural form associated with Italy is as steeped in the love of sprezzatura as opera, a genre the Italians invented. No composer has embodied the ideal of sprezzatura as magnificently as Giuseppe Verdi, the gruff, self-described "farmer" from the Po Valley who gave us 28 operas and remains to this day the most popular composer in the genre's 400-year-old history. His operas are produced more than those of any other composer, and one source claims that his La Traviata (1853) has been staged live somewhere around the world every evening for the past 100 years!
This series of 32 lectures from one of music's most acclaimed teachers combines biography with a variety of musical excerpts to reveal the treasures of creativity that account for this popularity. It explores in depth and detail both the famous and not-so-famous Verdi operas, as well as his one great concert work, the Requiem Mass of 1874; his early songs; and his very last composition, a setting of the Stabat Mater. You trace his development from a more or less conventional composer of operas in the traditional Italian bel canto (beautifully sung) style to a creator of truly innovative musical dramas in which the power of music to intensify and explore human emotion is exploited to the fullest degree.
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