Verdi’s Greatest Non-Hits

Airs Wednesday at 10 pm on 105.9 FM and

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

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.


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 





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

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


More in:

Comments [4]

Charles Fischbein from Front Roya, Va.

Buck, you are correct, there are a lot of reruns on WQXR recently. If you think this is annoying try listening to Sirusxm's Met Opera station repeat live from the Met performances. Rather than present replays of the same cast live performances I wish they would go deeper into their archives and present different casts performing Operas presently being produced at the Met.
Since I am 300 miles from New York City and find it difficult to travel long distances with my bad leg I only attend the six performances per year from my subscription.
\This week however I am going to hear Norma for the second time live from the Met myself. I was so taken by the first performance I saw there, that I got a ticket for tomorrow's performance and will push myself to leave early Friday morning and return mid morning Saturday via Amtrak.
The last time I saw two of the same performances live back to back was when The Washington Opera did The Flying Dutchman about five years ago, my favorite Wagner Opera. It was a great production and I just had to return for a second showing at The Kennedy center. God Speed, Charles Fischbein
Perhaps WQXR's program director can spice up his/her selections from their massive library of recordings with more vintage performances of Verdi's operas.
I have not heard WQXR play I Lombardy recently, and SirusXM has only scheduled one performance recently I Lombardi has been called by some an "um pa pa" Opera, however it happens to be my favorite Verdi Opera, and there is a wonderful CD recording of this gem featuring Pavarotti in his prime.
There is so much more to Verdi then Aida. And hopefully WQXR listeners and web site devotees will encourage Fred Plotkin to form a 501 c-3 dedicated to teaching the history of Verdi and his Operas, which can also allocate funds to preserve his old home-site. I am sure many Verdi devotees would be more than happy to contribute to such a cause.
With Italy dealing with financial crises it is too much to think their Government would allocate funds to preserve his home-site. It is up to those who appreciate the accomplishments of Verdi to speak with their checkbooks and preserve the home-site.
I can't understand why the direct descendants of Verdi would not want to use their funds to keep his home-site in repair. As far as I can determine all of his Opera's have renewed copyrights and the heirs of Verdi are receiving royalties for recordings and performances, it should be his descendants who have the obligation to maintain the house not the Italian government, and if they fail then I would encourage the formation of a 501 c-3 to provide funds for this worthy cause. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Oct. 31 2013 08:26 AM
Jeff from NJ

Nothing happens when I click the "Play" button or "Listen" link. Would love to hear the program, is it supposed to still work?

Oct. 15 2013 11:34 AM
buck winston from nyc

With all the wonderful music and opera that Giuseppe Verdi created, why must we repeat programs such as Verdi's Non-Hits which I think I've heard at least 3 times.
This goes for the repeat of other segments which are announced over and over by their now stale commercials and unfunny commercials.
It is a perfect example of why I have withdrawn my financial support, The station has become a home for re-runs.
And I'm not paying for it.

Oct. 12 2013 09:00 PM
Peter O'Malley from Oakland, New Jersey

Odd that WQXR should be running this show! Good idea. This station has become the standard-bearer for "greatest hits" radio. What we tend to hear of Verdi includes some of the very stuff mentioned above and in the lead-in of this show: usually the Triumphal March from "Aida"(minus the chorus); the Anvil Chorus" (though at least you play the vocal parts); "La donna e mobile"; and sometimes "Libiamo". Perhaps it would have been a better use of programming time for "Verdi Week" to have played some of these unheard gems instead of the insufferable opera summaries as read by the almost audibly smirking Jeff Spurgeon.

Oct. 12 2013 08:16 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR