Beginning with, as one staff member described them, “every opera which Verdi ever conceived any part of in French,” the Music Library’s goal is to make its entire collection of Verdi first editions available online by 2013, the bicentennial of the composer’s birth. Since the Library owns numerous Verdi first editions and variants, this project will make its Digital Scores and Libretti site a comprehensive resource for Verdi scholars seeking such materials. As of February, 2010, twenty-four scores are already part of the collection, and newly-digitized operas will be added monthly until the completion of the project.
Three versions of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Don Carlos, from the library’s collection of Digital Scores and Libretti. From left to right: the final four-act French revision from 1883; the first edition of 1867; and the first edition incorporating revision for a Neapolitan production, 1872.
Several of the operas of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), Italy’s most renowned composer and creator of some of the greatest masterpieces of operatic literature, exist in multiple versions. While many of Verdi’s operas were subject to some form of revision, select operas underwent drastic recomposition resulting in ostensibly new works. These revisions not only illuminate Verdi’s compositional process and demonstrate his continual growth as a composer, they also serve as important documents in the study of the works’ reception, and provide fascinating evidence of the mutual influence, sociological as well as musical, of Verdi’s operas on cultural life in the capitals of 19th-century Europe.
Verdi’s revisions fall into two categories, those for the Italian stage and those for Paris. Stiffelio (1850, Trieste) was refashioned as Aroldo (1857, Rimini) owing to censorship issues. Three works of Verdi’s full maturity, Simon Boccanegra (Venice, 1857), La Forza del Destino (St. Petersburg, 1862), and Don Carlos (Paris, 1867) underwent major revisions for their premieres at Milan’s La Scala (Forza in 1869, Boccanegra in 1881, Don Carlos in 1884). Don Carlos is an exceptional example of a composer reworking a 5-act Parisian grand opera into a four act work for Italian theaters.
Verdi’s other revisions were prepared for Paris, then the reigning operatic capital of Europe, beginning with Jérusalem, his first composition for the Paris Opera in 1847, a reworking of I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata from 1843. The composer subsequently adapted Il Trovatore (as Le Trouvère) in 1857, Macbeth in 1865, and Otello in 1894, for which Verdi composed his last music for the operatic stage.