Verdi, Trovatore, and Marxism


Screen Shot 2016-07-23 at 11.08.54 PMI love Verdi.  I am also a total and complete Marxist.  Unfortunately, in 1935, there was an unfortunate (for me) harmonic convergence of the two.  I have never been able to even listen to Il Trovatore without waxing Marxist.  The real problem is that due to Marxism, I’ve never been able to listen to truly bad performances of any Verdi without suffering from intense PTSD.  The worst moment was when the Met was on tour in Atlanta, and the person I consider the single worst baritone I’ve ever had the misfortune to hear, was doing MacBeth. The performance may have been the worst I’ve ever experienced the Met do.  It was the production with the topless witch dancer.  Need I say more?  If you are a committed Marxist, as am I, you will understand, completely.

“…Verdi, the first child of Carlo Giuseppe Verdi (1785–1867) and Luigia Uttini (1787–1851), was born at their home in Le Roncole, a village near Busseto, then in the Département Taro and within the borders of the First French Empire following the annexation of the Duchy of Parma and Piacenza in 1808…”

Giuseppe Verdi was born approximately a year and a half before the Battle of Waterloo, and about five years after the horrors of the Peninsular War, which profoundly effected the work of Francisco Goya. Verdi adapted Trovatore from a play by Antonio García Gutiérrez, who was born in Cadiz in 1813.  He became a leader of the romantic movement in Spain. The opera was allegedly set in Spain in the later part of the Fourteenth Century.  In his early work, Verdi almost identified with the Risorgimento movement, which was effected by mechanization of Napoleon, and grew out of his defeat.  Verdi was a political animal.  He loved politics, and was devoted to the unification of Italy as a republic.  His music was almost a catalyst for riots, marches, protests, and patriotism.  When listening to his early works, there is almost a tempo or a beat that comes out, usually via his baritones, which was then used by locals as almost protest music.

“…Nevertheless, Giuseppe Verdi is considered the most important composer and an emblematic figure of the Risorgimento; many of his works are linked to Italian unification. In particular, the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (known as Va, pensiero) from the third act of the opera Nabucco was intended to be an anthem for Italian patriots, who were seeking to unify their country and free it from foreign control in the years up to 1861 (the chorus’s theme of exiles singing about their homeland, and its lines like O mia patria, si bella e perduta / “O my country, so lovely and so lost” was thought to have resonated with many Italians). Beginning in Naples in 1859 and spreading throughout Italy, the slogan “Viva VERDI” was used as an acronym for Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re D’Italia (Viva Victor Emmanuel King of Italy), referring to Victor Emmanuel II…”

Verdi grew up in a world struggling to survive the ravages of Napoleon.  Today, people don’t realize what a pathological monster Napoléon Bonaparte was.  Upward of nearly 7 million people lost their lives due to his obscene ambitions.  The northern hemisphere was beginning to experience the ravages of intense climate change, brought about by the eruption of Tambora in April of 1815.  The following Year Without a Summer, was one of massive starvation. Upward of a quarter of a million people in Europe died that year. It took many years for Europe to begin warming.  The summer of 1816 saw a small house party of very bored and highly creative people, at Lake Geneva, dare one another to create the most horrific tale.  A 19-year-old woman wrote The Modern Prometheus. At the same house party, another tale was written known as a Fragment of a Novel.  From it the modern vampire was born.

I mention all of this to set the political background of the ground-breaking and historic Marxist interpretation of Il Trovatore in A Night at the Opera.  It is a version of an opera which has profoundly effected me.  I suspect Verdi would not be amused.  When I say Marxist I am talking about Groucho, Harpo, and Chico Marx. I love the music of Verdi, but have a very serious problem when I hear the opening bars of Trovatore.  You will soon understand why, especially when you understand I love baseball even more than I love opera.

Please forgive me.

After watching this, it is impossible to watch a normal version.

The point behind this?  You can have fun with opera.  It also gives me yet another excuse to feature my favorite baritone!

Okay, I’m shameless.  Please, forgive me.  It is Hall of Fame Weekend, and somehow I had to get Take Me Out to the Ballgame in there, somewhere!  And, seriously, the Met’s current version of Trovatore is the best I’ve ever seen.  Maybe the baritone helps.