Monday, May 24, 2010

The Verdi Biz

I met a lady today in Italy whose name is Verdiana. Apparently in Italy there are Wagnerians and Verdians and her papa wanted everybody to know she was on the right side. It's a tiny whiff of just how much cultural apparartus still persists around here in the wake of the Great Man.

Granted, he was a first-rate talent, but that is not quite enough to explain all the stuff he left behind. I suspect it has more to do with the fact that he got his timing right: the 19th Century liked heroes, and Italy in partiularly needed a roster of great men to define its nationhood. You can only go so far with Garibaldi, and although just about every Italian city has a main drag named Via Cavour, still I suspect not one in a hundred Italians could so much as tell you who Cavour is. Verdi at least has a legitimate claim to fame.

Verdi probably did a not to nourish it himself when, after achieving fame and fortune, he moved back to his home turf at Busseto, with the intention (so it appears) of picking fights with his old friends and neighbors. They even built a pocket opera house in his name; he publicly snubbed it. As I guess I've said before, conflict is a kind of intimacy: some people just can't get enough of it.

There also, so I am told, a Verdi family, and apparently they control the paper. And I gather (though Google seems to be no help here) they too are feuding: evidently a critical player died without a will and his children have fought each other to a standstill. All I know for sure is that at the Verdi country house, nobody is mowing the lawn.

Finally, here's one I never heard of before: the Club dei 27: self-appointed self-designated keepers of the flame, one for each (so it is said) Verdi opera. All male of course (and doesn't this sound like a guy thing?). The woman (not Verdiana) who told me about it said that just the other night at the Parma opera, she sat next to Giovanna d'Arco. Evidently Stiffelio just died. I surmised that the lady who told me the story believed that she would make a fine replacement Stiffelio, but I don't think she' enjoy it: way too laddish. Maybe they need a lady's auxiliary.

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