Verdi : A Biography

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Verdi was one of the greatest, the most successful and the longest-lived of all composers. Nearly a century after his death, many of his operas remain in the standard repertory, and some, such as "Rigoletto", "Il Trovatore", "La Traviata" and "Aida", are among the most popular of all operas. Written with the collaboration of the Verdi family and drawing on a wide range of sources, this is an authoritative account of a long, vigorous, and varied life. The author captures Verdi's complexities involved in the composition and production of his operas. She also explores his possessive love for his home region and his tireless devotion to his farmlands, and examines Verdi's professional and personal relationships, particularly with Guiseppina Strepponi, his mistress and later his wife. Mary Jane Phillips-Matz is a contributor to "Opera News", "Musical America" and "Musical Quarterly".show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 941 pages
  • 167.64 x 236.22 x 60.96mm | 1,519.53g
  • Oxford University Press
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0193132044
  • 9780193132047

Review Text

This monument of research - a lifetime's labor of love - now becomes the standard scholarly biography of Giuseppe Verdi in English. For four decades, Phillips-Matz has immersed herself in the archives not only of the Verdi family but of parish churches, town halls, publishing companies, and opera houses throughout Europe. Her method is one of extensive factual presentation rather than portraiture, and the density of her research is likely to prove daunting to casual readers (for the nonspecialist, George Martin's Verdi, 1963, remains a first choice). Nonetheless, Phillips-Matz's fact-gathering allows intelligent readers to form their own views, and it clarifies the distortions Verdi himself created. Phillips-Matz makes a convincing case that Verdi's background and childhood weren't as obscure and poverty-stricken as he led his contemporaries to believe. In addition, although Phillips-Matz largely leaves musical and dramatic analysis of the operas to others, her investigation of Verdi's relationships - with his family, his first wife (who died, as did their two children, while Verdi was still young), and the woman with whom he lived openly for a number of years before she became his second wife - will ring bells for those familiar with the family complications that fill the plots of Verdi's operas. The author is also first-rate at explicating the sources of the composer's anticlericalism and fierce patriotism to a united Italy. Readers of the magazine Opera are already familiar with the controversy that Phillips-Matz has engendered by suggesting that a baby girl named "Santa Streppini," who was abandoned to be raised by nuns in Cremona, may have been Verdi's illegitimate daughter. Her argument is not unconvincing on the facts but is less convincing as a matter of human nature given the "Bear of Busseto's" well-documented scorn for public opinion. To a shelf of CDs and Julian Budden's magisterial three-volume musico-dramatic analysis of the operas, the complete Verdian now must add this book. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Mary Jane Phillips-Matz

About the AuthorMary Jane Phillips-Matz is Cofounder and Executive Board Member of the American Institute for Verdi Studies at New York more

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36 ratings
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