HomeMusicA Pilgrimage to Verdi-land

A Pilgrimage to Verdi-land

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Until shortly before my trip I wasn’t sure I’d be allowed into Villa Verdi: The house has been closed to the public for more than a year, ever since Verdi’s heirs, who lived on its upper floors even as tourists roamed the ground floor, moved to sell it . The Italian government is working to buy it, but it has been a long, complicated process. My visit was facilitated by Paolo Maier, the head of communications of the Teatro Regio in nearby Parma, where I attended an inventively modern production of (fittingly) “Il Trovatore,” as part of its annual Festival Verdi.

The next day, he took me and my husband on a drive from Parma to the cluster of towns that constitute Verdi-land.

The main house at Villa Verdi is at once simple and imposing, with stone walls painted an earthy yellow, and large windows with green shutters currently closed tight. When we arrived, Roberto Montecchi, the manager of the institute overseeing the proposed auction, dramatically handed me the key to open the door for the first time in 12 months.

Just standing in that space reinforced impressions I’d long held about Verdi. After the triumphant 1842 La Scala premiere of “Nabucco,” it had played in houses throughout Europe. Verdi could have bought a fine home in Milan, Venice, Paris, anywhere. Instead, he bought a farm in the middle of nowhere. On government documents he listed his occupation as “agricoltore,” or farmer. Verdi was literally grounded by his man-of-the-earth upbringing and values. Often in his letters, complaining of inept impresarios, of censors who raised absurd objections to his dramas, he threatened to give up, to go “dig my fields and forget all about music and theaters.” But he was driven to create.

Even with the windows shuttered and drapes closed, the red velvet sitting room gave off the vibes of the legendary gatherings and intimate performances that took place there on the rare evenings when Verdi, who coveted his privacy, entertained. His office still has the letter he received, at 18, from the conservatory in Milan rejecting his application, a document he pointedly kept in sight.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com

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