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Giuseppe Verdi, the last and most widely successful of the school of Italian opera proper, was born at Roncole, near Busseto, October 9, 1813. At ten years he was organist of the small church in his native village, the salary being raised after a year from 1 8s. 10d. to 1 12s. per annum. At the age of sixteen he was provided with funds to prosecute his studies at the Conservatorium at Milan; but at the entrance examination he showed so little evidence of musical talent that the authorities declined to enroll him. Nothing daunted, he pursued his studies with ardor under Lavigna, from 1831 to 1833, when, according to agreement, he returned to Busseto to take the place of his old teacher Provesi, now deceased.
Only now begins the interest which the student of musical history finds in Verdi's life. Hitherto he had proved a good man, struggling with adversity and poverty, a successful composer ambitious to succeed to the vacant throne of Italian opera. But the keen insight into dramatic necessity which had gradually developed and had given such force to otherwise unimportant scenes in earlier operas, also showed him the insufficiency of the means hitherto at the disposal of Italian composers, and from time to time he had tried to learn the lessons taught in the French Grand Opera School, but with poor success. Now a longer interval seemed to promise a more careful, a more ambitious work, and when "Aida" was produced at Cairo (1871), it was at once acknowledged that a revolution had taken place in Verdi's mind and method, which might produce still greater results. The influence of Wagner and the music-drama is distinctly to be felt.
But Verdi was apparently not yet satisfied. For sixteen years the successful composer maintained absolute silence in opera, when whispers of a great music-drama roused the expectation of musical Europe to an extraordinary pitch; nor were the highest expectations disappointed when "Otello" was produced at Milan in 1887. The surrender of Italian opera was complete, and Verdi took his right place at the head of the vigorous new school which has arisen in Italy, and which promises to regain for the "Land of Song" some of her ancient preeminence in music. A comic opera by Verdi, "Falstaff," was announced in 1892: it has well sustained his previous reputation.
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