Giuseppe Verdi, undoubtedly the greatest of all Italian opera composers, was born on October 10, 1813 in the village of Le Roncole, near Busseto. He began studying music at age three and by age nine was playing professionally in the local church. Verdi's first opera, "Oberto", was well received at La Scala in Milan and he was subsequently invited to write three more operas for the noted opera house. Verdi achieved his first great success with "Nabucco", in 1842. The composer, an Italian patriot during a period in which the country was far from unified, expressed his patriotic-national sentiments through the famous chorus of the Hebrew slaves in "Nabucco" and again in the chorus of the Crusaders in his opera "I Lombardi". Both of these choruses constituted a clear and unequivocal call for a reawakening of Lombardia and they helped to pave the way for political demonstrations that called for the unification of Italy. As Verdi was a known patriot, his name quickly began to be used as an acronym for the name of Victor Emmanuel, the king of Sardinia (Vittorio Emannuele Re D'Italia). Thus the slogan "Viva Verdi", which was used on the streets by the Risorgimento - the renewal movement that aspired to reunite the Italian nation - was first and foremost a call for the unification of Italy under one single king.
The words to the chorus of the Hebrew slaves in "Nabucco" are based on the well known lamentation, "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion" (Psalms 137:1). Verdi composed 28 operas, most of which have become popular over the years and are widely performed throughout the world. The most well known are "La traviata", "Rigoletto", "II trovatore", "La forza del desfino" and "Aida".
Giuseppe Verdi died on January 27, 1901 in Milan.
The first opera ever performed in Israel, prior to the establishment of the State, was "La traviata", in 1923. Since the (New) Israeli Opera was founded in 1985, it has produced the works of Verdi more than those of any other composer. In 2010 Ms. Hanna Munitz, General Director of the Israeli Opera, initiated the founding of an international opera festival at the foot of Masada. The festival, which has been widely successful in Israel and around the world and has brought thousands of cultural tourists to Israel, opened with a huge production of Verdi's "Nabucco", which was seen by 40,000 spectators.
Artistic Administrator of the Israeli Opera