Tonight’s opera was written by Verdi, but Toscanini, is definitely my favorite figure in the world of Opera. Not only was he a complete artistic innovator and steward of the performing arts, but he was also pretty bad ass!
Look at how his career began;
While presenting Aida in Rio de Janeiro, the orchestra's conductor was booed by the audience and forced to leave the podium. Although he had no conducting experience, Toscanini was persuaded to take up the baton, and led a magnificent performance completely by memory. Thus began his career as a conductor at age 19. source
Verdi may not have the rock star qualities that Toscanini did (I’m told conductors generally have pretty big egos), he was probably a little cooler. When the people of Italy were fighting to overthrow Napoleonic rule and unify the states of Italy, Verdi’s opera Nambucco, provided the people with an artistic mirror in which they saw parallels of their own struggle.
Revolutionaries used the term “VIVA VERDI” as a sign of support for unification. I watched a video once that claimed this “VIVA VERDI” campaign was the first form of what we now know as graffiti. The “VERDI” in “VIVA VERDI” in this case was an acronym for a pro-unification leader. So this might not have actually had anything to do with the composer, himself, but it is still pretty sweet that he became a symbol of revolution.
La Traviata is an awesome tail of young love, spoiled by cranky old family members that don’t want two people to get married. Sabotage ensues, heartbreak follows, and the ending is as tragic as any. Not the most original storyline ever, but the beauty of Opera is that the whole experience transcends the simple act of story-telling. A lot of movies today depend on supposed shocking endings (What up M. Night Shalaman!).
These are stories that are not developed to shock, but play a part in the performance. It is the complete performance that engrosses. Because I can get discounted student tickets, I have been lucky enough to sit very close. Watching these people make so much sound come out of there voices is pretty close to divine. I know a lot of people have hang-ups about Opera, but all three of next season’s performances are going to be great.