October 10, 1813 – January 27, 1901
Giuseppe Verdi was born in the Italian town of Le Roncole. When he showed early talent, a music-loving grocer paid for his music education.
Back then, Italy was not a united country, and a lot of it was under Austrian rule. Nabucco, one of the earliest operas that Verdi wrote, included a chorus of Hebrew slaves longing for their country “so beautiful and lost.” Italians latched onto Verdi’s “Chorus of Hebrew Slaves” as an unofficial anthem for a nation that wasn’t even born yet.
Verdi and his music became part of the Italian struggle for independence. Even his name became a political statement. The letters V-E-R-D-I are the first letters of the phrase “Vittorio Emanuele, Rei D’Italia,” which translates to “Victor Emanuel, King of Italy.” Victor Emanuel was the man Italians wanted to be their ruler. When Italians shouted “Viva Verdi (long live Verdi)!” their Austrian rulers didn’t know that they were talking politics, not opera, because the Austrians knew how much the Italians loved opera.
Verdi was one of the greatest opera composers who ever lived, and one of the few composers to die rich and famous!