In London, there is yet another scandal over another violent staging of a classical opera, this one being Lucia di Lammermoor. It is so bloody, violent, and gory that people are booing it. I don’t blame them. Opera is all about sex and violence, but it isn’t about cheap Roger Corman theatrics. Opera should be artistic. There’s nothing artistic about so much blood it makes you want to vomit.
Good opera is also political. In the case of Verdi, he used and manipulated his compositions to reflect the politics of the day. In many ways, Giuseppe Verdi used his work to inspire. He was a town crier, a patriot, as much a Founding Father of modern day Italy as was an Adams or Franklin here in the US. It is entirely possible, if it were not for Verdi, there would be no Italy as we know it today. Perhaps the most important manifestation of the call for freedom is found in his Va Pensiero.
The other day someone Tweeted me about opera and singing along. Yes, I’m that pathetic. My favorite is Tosca. I love Tosca. No, it isn’t Verdi, but it is about sex, violence, and politics. The story also sets the stage for the political movement embraced by Verdi a few decades later.