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Verdi’s Greatest Non-Hits

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Giuseppe Verdi is probably best known as the composer of certain “hit opera tunes” – tunes that have been stuck in millions of people’s heads for the past century and a half – like the drinking song from La traviata, “La donna è mobile,” from Rigoletto, the Anvil Chorus, from Il Trovatore.

But if you’ve seen a Verdi opera in person, start to finish, you know that Verdi’s genius goes far deeper than sound bites. Judging Verdi on his hits alone is like claiming to be a Beatles expert because you’ve heard “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”

In this hour-long special, Matt Aucoin, a composer and the youngest-ever assistant conductor at the Metropolitan Opera, looks at what he thinks are Verdi’s most under-appreciated gems. We hear a lot of Verdi at his best – but unless you’re already a devoted Operavore like Aucoin, you might not have heard these pieces before.

Weigh in: What do you think is Verdi's most under-appreciated work? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Playlist

Il trovatore: Deserto sulla terra

Sherrill Milnes, Baritone; Fiorenza Cossotto, Mezzo Soprano; Placido Domingo, Tenor; Leontyne Price, Soprano
Zubin Mehta, Conductor
New Philharmonia Orchestra
Rca Victor Red Seal 39504

Un ballo in maschera: È scherzo od è follia...

Peter Weber, Baritone; Christa Ludwig, Mezzo Soprano; Luciano Pavarotti, Tenor;
Renato Bruson, Baritone; Margaret Price, Soprano; Kathleen Battle, Soprano;
Malcolm King, Bass; Robert Lloyd, Bass; Peter Hall, Tenor; Alexander Oliver, Tenor
Sir Georg Solti, Conductor
London Opera Chorus; National Philharmonic Orchestra; Royal College of Music Choir
Decca 410210

Falstaff (ensemble) 

ensemble members include Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Soprano; Tito Gobbi, Baritone; Fedora Barbieri, Mezzo soprano; Anna Moffo, Soprano; Luigi Alva, Tenor; Rolando Panerai, Baritone
Herbert von Karajan, Conductor
Philharmonia Orchestra
EMI 48199

 

Don Carlo: Io vengo a domandar grazia...
Live recording from London’s Covent Garden
Jon Vickers, Tenor; Gré Brouwenstijn, Soprano
Carlo Maria Giulini, Conductor
Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra; Royal Opera House Covent Garden Chorus
Live Recording - Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London
Myto Records  94197 

 

 

BREAK

 

Macbeth: Patria oppressa
Claudio Abbado, Conductor
Milan Teatro alla Scala Orchestra,  Milan Teatro alla Scala Chorus
Deutsche Grammophon 

 

Falstaff: Dal labbro il canto (tenor aria)
Alfredo Kraus, Tenor
Sir Georg Solti, Conductor
RCA Italian Opera Orchestra, RCA Italian Opera Chorus
Decca 001746202 


Otello: Se incoscia contro te (Quartet)
Placido Domingo, Tenor; Cheryl Studer, Soprano; Sergei Leiferkus, Baritone; Denyce Graves, Mezzo Soprano
Myung-Whun Chung, Conductor
Orchestre de l'Opéra Bastille
Deutsche Grammophon 439805  

 

Requiem: Quid sum miser
Arturo Toscanini, Conductor
NBC Symphony Orchestra, NBC Symphony Chorus
RCA

Otello: Dio! mi potevi
Jon Vickers, Tenor
Tullio Serafin, Conductor
Rome Opera House Orchestra,  Rome Opera House Chorus
Regis   9012