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Verdi Bicentennial

by Susan Bowen and Connie Carr
October 2013

Happy 200th birthday Giuseppi Verdi!

Giuseppe Verdi
Giuseppe Verdi.

October 10, 2013 is the two-hundredth anniversary, the Duecento, of composer Giuseppe Verdi's birth. Verdi is not only the most famous Italian composer, but the composer most performed in opera theaters throughout the world.  A musical and dramatic genius, a statesman and Senator, Verdi revolutionized opera, maintained the highest standards of classical artistic composition, and fought for the scientific tuning pitch.  Well versed in counterpoint and the works of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, he worked with Andrea Maffei, the translator of Schiller into the Italian language, and he participated in the salons of Clara Maffei, where he and other poets, politicians, and the leading intellectuals of the United Italy movement in discussed the scientific and political affairs of the day, as well as their translations of the works of Schiller and Shakespeare.    

Giuseppe Verdi
Friedrich Schiller.
Giuseppe Verdi
William Shakespeare.

From Friedrich Schiller’s plays Verdi composed Giovanna d'Arco (Joan of Arc) from The Virgin of Orleans, I Masnadieri (The Robbers) from Die Räuber, Luisa Miller from Kabale und Liebe, Don Carlo from Don Carlos, and scenes from Wallenstein’s Camp in La Forze del Destino. From the revered Shakespeare, whom he called “Father,” Verdi composed and reworked Macbeth, Othello, and Falstaff.  Verdi had always hoped to compose an opera based on King Lear, but he never was able to obtain an adequate libretto. 

In 1989, with the unjust frameup trial and incarceration of Lyndon LaRouche and associates, the international LaRouche movement adopted Verdi’s chorus “Va Pensiero” from Nabucco as our anthem, along with the Ode to Joy (An Die Freude by Beethoven and Schiller), and sang it at events and on deployments, successfully inspiring others to join our battle against the oligarchy. See  and  This chorus was performed at the Verdi tuning at the New York City January 2013 Schiller Institute New Paradigm Conference.

Understanding music as physical science, Verdi insisted on the proper tuning of orchestras, and he fought for and succeeded in promoting national legislation passed in Italy that set the standard for tuning for the La (a) to be no higher than 432 Hz, which corresponds to C=256 Hz. He not only understood the importance of the color differentiation in different vocal registers, but he adamantly insisted on this lower, proper tuning both to save the voices of the bel-canto singers, and to be sure that the poetic content of the music was properly conveyed. The Schiller Institute reinvigorated this fight in Italy in 1988, when we were able to get a similar bill introduced into the Italian Parliament in 1988. . This month there are many events, including some free events, around the world for this bicentennial, which may present us some good organizing opportunities.

Schiller Institute chorus at the Schiller Institute's January, 2013 New Paradigm conference. Panel 2 of the conference begins with a performance of J.S. Bach's Magnificat (above). Panel 3 includes John Sigerson's demonstration of the Verdi Tuning with a performance of “Va Pensiero”.

There are many Verdi performances available on the internet: The Schiller Institute performances from the April 2013 New Paradigm conference can be found at the website and in the music section of this website.

Other links to get an introduction to Verdi include  ;  WQXR Classical Music Channel online!/ and Verdi Requiem Broadcast - Oct. 10 - Chicago Symphony Orchestra