Pilgrimage to Giuseppe Verdi’s Hometown

Until shortly before the trip, I wasn’t sure whether I would be allowed into Villa Verdi: the house has been closed to the public for more than a year since Verdi’s heirs live on its upper floors, even though visitors are on the ground floor Walk upstairs, move in and sell. The Italian government is working to buy it, but it’s a long and complicated process. My visit was facilitated by Paul Maier, director of communications at the Theater Royal near Parma, where I attended an inventive, contemporary performance of (appropriately) Il Trovatore as part of the annual Verdi Festival a part of.

The next day he took my husband and me on a drive from Parma to the cluster of towns that make up Verdi’s hometown.

The main house of Villa Verdi is both simple and majestic, with stone walls painted khaki and green shutters on the large windows currently closed. When we arrive, Roberto Montecchi, the institute manager overseeing the proposed auction, dramatically hands me a key, opening the doors for the first time in 12 months.

Just standing there reinforced my longstanding impression of Verdi. After Nabucco’s successful premiere at La Scala in 1842, the play was performed in theaters across Europe. Verdi could have bought a nice house in Milan, Venice, Paris, anywhere. Instead, he bought a farm in the middle of nowhere. In government documents, he listed his occupation as an “agricoltore,” or farmer. Verdi was really grounded in his earthly upbringing and values. He complained frequently in letters about incompetent managers, and censors who made ridiculous objections to his plays, and he threatened to give up, to “dig my fields and forget about music and drama.” But he had a creative streak. power.

Even with the windows closed and the curtains closed, the red velvet drawing room exudes the atmosphere of legendary gatherings and intimate performances that took place when Verdi, who longed for privacy, entertained on one of his rare evenings. His office still contains a letter he received from the Milan Conservatoire when he was 18 rejecting his application, a document he deliberately kept within sight.

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