In the annals of creative endeavor relatively few artists have continued to grow and innovate throughout their career, much the less so in careers spanning fifty years or more. Some names that come to mind are Paul Cézanne, Mark Twain, William Butler Yeats, Alfred Hitchcock, Irving Berlin – and Giuseppe Verdi.
“San Diego OperaTalk: Double Verdi” could just as accurately be titled “Verdi, Young & Old.” The two operas discussed by host Dr. Nicolas (Nic) Reveles represent distinct stages in Verdi’s artistic development: “La Traviata” stems from Verdi’s celebrated middle period, while “Falstaff,” the composer’s last opera, was composed at the age of eighty.
Through a combination of anecdotes, analysis, historical commentary, and musical excerpts, Dr. Nic guides the audience through the evolution of Verdi’s style over the forty years separating the two works, moving from the comparatively straightforward construction of “La Traviata” to the through-composed idiosyncrasies and surprises of “Falstaff.” Along the way Nic examines the conventions of Italian opera during Verdi’s lifetime; his sources of inspiration; the composer’s relationship to his audience; distinctive features of Verdi’s orchestrations; his love of Shakespeare; and his devotion to dramatic verisimilitude. With the assistance of soprano Cherylyn Larson and baritone Bernardo Bermudez, Nic presents characteristic excerpts from each opera to better illustrate Verdi’s evolving approach to issues of theme and structure.
Taken together, “La Traviata” and “Falstaff” provide to the neophyte and opera veteran alike a fascinating, supremely melodic glimpse into the inner creative life of one of our greatest composers.
Contributed by arts and humanities producer John Menier