The author of Verdi, His Music, Life and Times (1963; 3rd ed., 1983) offers an impressive if amiably ragged assortment of...



The author of Verdi, His Music, Life and Times (1963; 3rd ed., 1983) offers an impressive if amiably ragged assortment of essays here, from the provocative to the conventional to the esoteric or frivolous. (Several originated as speeches or opera-program articles.) Reprinted from The Verdi Companion (1979) is ""Verdi and the Risorgimento,"" Martin's solid survey of the composer's operatic evocation of Italy's mid-century surge towards populist, unifying patriotism. (Verdi was ""the opposite of those artists of today who cannot say 'my country' without embarrassment yet will recount their love lives on television."") An intriguing, if somewhat fuzzy, close-up of the Requiem explores how Verdi--far from pious, famous indeed for his anti-clericalism--found ways to alter the emphasis of the traditional requiem-mass text. Even more interesting, and far more well-argued, is a study of the freedom-fighter/marquis, Posa, in Don Carlos: Martin contends that Verdi imagined Posa as a figure of vast moral ambiguity, led astray by his idealism (in contrast to the super-hero often found in today's performances). Three pieces of musico-dramatic analysis cover somewhat less distinctive ground: the importance of the curse-motif in Rigoletto: the repeated notes and rhythmic figures that generate the insistent tone of II trovatore; the subtle achievements (underrated, says Martin) of the orchestration of La trarviata. A discussion of the Shakespearean qualities of La forza del destino is plausible but thin, and other literary glosses--on Franz Werfel's link to the 1920's ""Verdi Renaissance,"" on the concept of ""La Gloria"" in Otello--are even slighter. Three little-known Verdi compositions (including an ""Ave Maria"") receive scholarly attention. And, in a lighter vein, there's even a brief run-down of the Verdi household's favorite foods. With valuable appendices, conscientious footnotes, and astute biographical or critical perceptions popping up throughout: an agreeable grab-bag for Verdi-lovers and opera students.

Pub Date: March 1, 1988


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dodd, Mead

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1988