September 24, 2020

Verdi's mysterious trunk with 5,000 musical sketches sees the light | Culture

Verdi's mysterious trunk with 5,000 musical sketches sees the light | Culture


In the titles of credit that opened the series Verdi TVE in 1985 appeared a succession of old musical manuscripts, preceded by the elegant stroke of the signature of the composer, and accompanied by the dramatic prelude of Rigoletto. These manuscripts of the composer are part of an immense musical background that, together with letters and annotations, is about to see the light. Until now, it had been kept inside a mysterious dark green trunk in the Villa Verdi in Sant'Agata, the principal residence of the composer, since 1851, in Villanova sull'Arda (Piacenza).

The trunk in which the documents were kept.
The trunk in which the documents were kept.

The aforementioned trunk, manufactured in Chicago by Marshall Field & Co. Retail in the late nineteenth century, included 5,434 pages of sketches and musical drafts. They are divided into 17 folders, by compositions, which range from Luisa Miller (1849) until the Four sacred pieces (1897), to which is added a white folder with some sketches of the ballet that Verdi wrote, in 1894, for the premiere in Paris of Otello It does not seem to contain any unknown work, although its content has never been revealed in detail. It has, however, an incalculable value to know the creative process of the Italian composer. It includes from a preliminary version of the famous melody of La donna è mobile, of Rigoletto, until a first version of the subject of the leak Tutto nel mondo è mocks that closes Falstaff, going through a sketch of the popular Brindisi, of The Traviata. But there are also very important annotations that denote the chance of their conservation. Inside the folder, with more than 400 sketches of Otello and almost 900 of Falstaff, Verdi himself writes: "Burn this package of papers."

Sheet music of 'Falstaff'.
Sheet music of 'Falstaff'.

This Tuesday, January 29, far from fulfilling that unusual will of the composer, an analytical description of this fund of musical sketches will be presented in Parma. A study by musicologist Alessandra Carlotta Pellegrini, former director of the Istituto di Studi Verdiani, included in your yearbook, Studi verdiani 28 But also a technical cataloging done by an archivist together with its digitalization that has been promoted by the General Directorate of Archives of the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities of the Italian Government. "Now that the trunk is open, and the pages are available to all, we look forward to the beginning of a new stage in the studies on Giuseppe Verdi's operas", says Pellegrini in the Italian magazine Classic Voice.

But it was not like that before. Fabrizio Della Seta, professor at the University of Pavia and one of the current top authorities in Italian opera of the 19th century, knows it well. The impossibility of consulting these funds was denounced from the pages of Corriere della Sera Y The Times at the end of 2015. "The existence of these materials in Sant'Agata had been known since 1941, when the facsimile of the Rigoletto Afterwards, only some privileged people were able to consult them, although in the nineties Alberto Carrara Verdi, heir of the composer, allowed access to critical editions of several operas ", reported Della Seta yesterday to EL PAÍS. This Italian professor published, in 1996, the critical edition of The Traviata and, four years later, a monographic volume with the sketches of that opera. "But, after the death of Alberto Carrara Verdi, in 2001, the materials became inaccessible due to disputes between the new heirs. The situation did not change either, in 2008, when that patrimony was declared of national interest and subject to the custody of the Superintendence of Archives of Emilia-Romagna, "he adds.

Undated portrait of Verdi.
Undated portrait of Verdi.

As of 2015, this circumstance was also denounced by Mauro Balestrazzi, in several articles of the magazine Classic Voice, where he published a first general inventory of the trunk. From this means, in addition, a letter signed by more than fifty intellectuals and musicians of the stature of Barenboim, Chailly, Sunday, Mehta, Pappano, Pollini Y Zedda, among others, asking for state intervention on the funds of both the Verdi Archive in Sant'Agata and the Puccini Archive in Torre del Lago. The result materialized, on January 10, 2017, in the case of Verdi, with the transfer, by a couple of officials accompanied by two carabinieri, of the famous trunk to the Archivio di Stato of Parma, an action that was qualified as "Theft" by the cultural authorities of Piacenza and the heirs of the composer.

"The free access to these Verdian funds opens great expectations for researchers and especially for the editions of Don Carlos Y Aida from now on, "acknowledges Francesco Izzo, responsible for the critical edition of Giuseppe Verdi's works published by the University of Chicago Press and Ricordi. This specialist has recognized EL PAÍS the importance of digitizing these funds, but also of the access to the physical document. In his opinion, what was included in the Verdian trunk could be divided between isolated drafts, continuous sketches and pages discarded from the autograph of an opera: "They are, precisely, the latter the most determinant to document changes. For example, you could not rebuild the version of Falstaff premiered in Milan in 1893, nor the first version of Simon Boccanegra, of 1857, without access to these manuscripts of Sant'Agata. In any case, each sketch is a treasure full of surprises. "

The most humanitarian legacy

The Verdi inheritance in Sant'Agata is owned by the Carrara Verdi family, that is, the descendants of Maria Filomena Verdi (1859-1936), daughter of a cousin of the composer, who was adopted by Verdi together with his companion Giuseppina Strepponi . Both his son Angiolo Carrara Verdi and his grandson, Alberto Carrara Verdi, supported the Verdian studies. But, at present, the inheritance is shared, without a common position, between the four children of the last.

However, there is another Verdian legacy, which shows more its humanitarian side, and which is in the Casa di Riposo per Musicisti, a residence for retired musicians founded in 1896 near Milan. Not by chance, there rest the composer's remains. You can see his daily vitality in the documentary titled Il bacio di Tosca, by Daniel Schmid.

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