Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008
It was not false modesty that prompted Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) to write to thenfamous singer Maria Waldmann, inviting her to participate in the premiere of his 1883 Messa da Requiem. “You would gain neither reputation nor money from it,” he wrote, continuing that the work’s main attribute was simply that it commemorated a great man. It might, Verdi added, “make history,” not due to “the merit of the music but because of the man to whom it is dedicated.” One supposes he had reason to doubt its lasting value, given its difficult birth. The piece had originally been conceived as a requiem mass to be performed on the first anniversary of the death of the Italian opera master Gioacchino Rossini—a work to be contributed to by several different composers. Verdi wrote a “Libera me” portion for this work, but it just never came off.