In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Giuseppe Verdi

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Biographies and Overviews
  • Catalogues and Bibliographies
  • Journals
  • Iconography and Documents
  • Sources and Editions
  • Collections of Essays
  • Creative Process
  • Forms and Conventions
  • Context
  • The Chorus and Politics
  • Censorship
  • Performance Practice
  • Staging, Ballets, and Gesture
  • Reception
  • Conference Proceedings
  • Organizations Devoted to Verdi’s Work

Music Giuseppe Verdi
Francesco Izzo
  • LAST REVIEWED: 05 May 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 November 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0029


Giuseppe Verdi (b. 1813–d. 1901) was the leading opera composer of 19th-century Italy. During his long and sensationally successful career, many of his operas became permanent fixtures in the repertories of the world’s principal opera houses; Rigoletto, La traviata, Il trovatore, Aida, and Otello are only some of the works by Verdi whose popularity remains undiminished to the present day. His style changed considerably from the early works, which drew significantly on the conventions and formal procedures established during the early part of the century in the operas of Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, and their contemporaries. By the mid-1840s, he was broadly regarded as the leading Italian composer of his time. His authorial voice developed remarkably during his long career, from the rousing choruses and forceful vocal lines of the early operas to the increasing formal freedom and rich psychological nuances of his middle-period works, and finally to the highly individual works of his late years. As his prestige and influence grew, in the mid-19th century Verdi vigorously asserted his authority on numerous fronts, pressuring librettists, singers, impresarios, and publishers to ensure that his artistic intentions were understood and realized and that his rights were adequately protected. He took the lead in selecting the subject matter for many of his operas and in shaping his librettos through intense epistolary exchanges with the poets who worked for him. The sources he chose included plays by Shakespeare, Schiller, Hugo, Dumas, and Gutiérrez. An eminently public figure in Italian society and culture, he became an icon of the Italian national movement known as the Risorgimento; during the first two decades of his career, his operas were often subjected to censorship, and significant compromises had to be reached to make them performable (including changes of title, locale, time, and character names). In the wake of the unification of Italy, he came to be regarded as a national hero and was invited to serve as a member of the first Italian parliament. The success of countless opera singers from the mid-19th century to the present day is closely associated with Verdi’s music, and their role in the dissemination and enduring success of his operas has been essential. Important textual research and the ongoing publication of the Works of Giuseppe Verdi (Verdi 1983–, cited under Sources and Editions), which aims to publish Verdi’s entire opus in critical edition, have sparked renewed interest in some of his lesser-known works, with recent productions of Giovanna d’Arco and I due Foscari at the Verdi Festival in Parma (in 2008 and 2009, respectively) and Attila at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, conducted by Riccardo Muti in 2010.

Reference Works

Virtually all music dictionaries and encyclopedias contain extensive individual entries on Verdi. Parker’s “Verdi, Giuseppe” (Grove Music Online) and Della Seta 2006 are the most current articles, and Porter 1980 remains a worthwhile read, albeit not reflecting recent bibliography and critical perspectives.

  • Della Seta, Fabrizio. “Verdi, Giuseppe.” In Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart: Allgemeine Enzyklopädie der Musik. 2d ed. Edited by Friedrich Blume, 1438–1483. Personenteil 16. Kassel, Germany: Barenreiter, 2006.

    Presents an extraordinarily accessible, thorough, and engaging overview of Verdi’s life, career, compositional methods, and cultural milieu, as well as numerous analytical and interpretive insights. Excellent bibliography.

  • Parker, Roger. “Verdi, Giuseppe.” In Grove Music Online.

    An account of Verdi’s life and works in chronological order, with a final section examining the dissemination and reception of the composer’s work in the 20th century. Good list of works. The bibliography was last updated around 2000.

  • Porter, Andrew. “Verdi, Giuseppe.” In New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Vol. 19. Edited by Stanley Sadie, 635–665. London: Macmillan, 1980.

    An excellent discussion of Verdi’s life and works. Superseded by Parker’s entry in Grove Music Online (Verdi, Giuseppe), it is still a worthwhile read for various critical insights and for the discussion of periodization. The bibliography is out of date.

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