It could have been a very conventional life. He returned from Milan, because his old teacher back in Busseto croaked, and Verdi, who had obligations to the town, was recalled to take over the local Philharmonic Society. During the following four and a half years his future might have seemed predictable: a provincial musician had gone up to the big city for training and now returned to his home town to spend his life.
Verdi composed some occasional music, ran the Philharmonic Society, and continued working, when he could, on his opera. Also, he resumed playing duets with Margherita Barezzi. In 1836, when she was seventeen, they married, and even that seemed like one more strand in a conventional tale: rising hometown boy weds wealthy patron’s daughter.
But Verdi was Verdi, and the story altered. He finished his opera “Oberto” , finished his contractual obligations in Busseto, and took his wife and baby son to Milan. Obero was produced at La Scala with moderate success; enough to bring him a contract for three more operas from the director of La Scala. Then came a cruel paradox to horrible to be called ironic. his small son had died just before “Oberto” was produced. The first of his new operas was to be a comedy and while he was composing it, his wife died in 1840. He managed to finish the comic opera, it bombed and Verdi could not have cared less.
Again, it might have seemed that his future was predictable. He thought his career was over and what was worse, he felt that might be a good idea; he saw himself as being broken by both professional failure and he even questioned whether he could survive by giving music lessons in his town or whether he could survive at all. Suicide likely crossed his mind.
That winter, while still in Milan, Verdi sat around in his obscure lodgings doing nothing. On a rare walk through the streets he accidentally met Merelli, the head of La Scala. Merelli, who had rejected Verdi’s request to be released from his contract, began a sales pitch on how a stubborn composer had declined a libretto by Solera and wanted something else. Verdi, who at that time, was willing to give away everything he owned for nothing, offered a libretto that had been prepared for him and that he would never need.
Merelli, something of a schemer, thought this to be a marvelous gesture and while they walked he talked Verdi into the theatre and his office. There he took out the manuscript that the other composer had rejected and suggested that Verdi take it along with him. Verdi was in no mood for reading librettos, but Merelli weaseled, forced, cajoled and arm twisted the manuscript into Verdi’s hands and ultimately prevailed.
Burdened by a deep sadness and profound distress, Vedi trudged home in the snow. He got home and violently threw the manuscript on the table. The book had opened in falling on the table; without quite realizing how, he gazed at the page that lay before his eyes and read this line: “Va pensiero sull’ ali dorate”…. ” Go, thought, on golden wings.” It is the first line of the chorus of exiled Jews in “Nabucco” . That line served as the slender filament that tugged Verdi back to life. Although he made another effort to return the libretto, something had stirred again in him. Sixty yeas later, at Verdi’s funeral, the immense crowd spontaneously began to sing that chorus of exiled Jews-singing, at the very end of his giant career, the lines that had brought him back to music.
Although not wiidely documented, and mentioned only fleetingly by his biographer, Francis Toye, Meralli had also slipped a smaller, second libretto to Verdi which was pitched against his apartment wall…..
a year ago, a Verdi libretto mysteriously appeared on Craigslist. “Verdi Libretto. Brand new. still in package.” Later the posting vanished. Then it returned. This happened several times. It seems hard to believe that someone could suffer so much in trying to relieve themselves of a Verdi libretto. Until the posting reappeared it was assumed he had sold it, or given it away; and for his own sake had managed to move on to other things. But when it again reappeared, you would have to wonder when this guy would get the idea to just his emotional losses on whatever about the libretto he was so fixated with.
He only wanted Seventy bucks for it. Had someone committed to buying the libretto, but reneged? Maybe some creepy low baller had shown up with only $34. or not shown up at all, and the guy had been left standing outside his house one evening, holding a libretto in his hand. Maybe that libretto is all he has left in the world, and every few months he walks into a public library, libretto under his arm, logs onto the computer , and again attempts to recapitalize in order to rebuild his life. Maybe the listing had been around for so long that it was like it was tainted. Or worse.
Mr. Craigslist poster claimed that he had bought the libretto from the estate of Verdi. But what if he didn’t?What if it hasn’t been one man selling it at all? What if, instead, its one libretto being sold over and over again by different people, because its cursed? Was it always only $70? Or had the price been dropping incrementally by a dollar at a time?
Perhaps, as with the bottle in Robert Louis Stevenson’s story “The Bottle Imp” whoever owns the libretto achieves greatness and sometimes comes into a vast fortune, but experiences crushing personal tragedy and, on pain of having his immortal soul burn in hell, he must, as a condition of sale, agree to resell the libretto for less than what they paid for it?
That libretto may have been brought to Earth by the devil, purchased by Mozart,Janis Joplin, Buddy Holly,John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Sly Stone, Phil Spector and the Rolling Stones- explaining all of their various successes.
there have been a number of people who have come into possession and to avoid insanity and tragedy they have only recorded bits and fragments in disparate and unexpected form since the risk associated with working with the entire libretto could extend to mortality. This has resulted in fragmentation of the original ideas though some artists have enjoyed the temptation of perhaps getting a little to close to the flame and singing their backsides in the process. A most recent case in point, one which recalls the theme of the Billy Wilder film “Double Indemnity,” is that of Brian Wilson and George Gershwin. Both men played with fragments of the libretto, with Wilson the result was a recording AWOL for twenty-five years. The effect is somewhat like opening the tomb of an Egyptian Pharoah or a complementary box containing the background notes and preliminary research on the Ark of the Convenant:
That’s essentially what happened when the estate of George and Ira Gershwin contacted Brian Wilson about recording an album of Gershwin material. Wilson wasn’t simply encouraged to put his own stamp on existing classics; in addition, the former Beach Boy was given piano demos for over 100 unfinished or unpublished Gershwin songs and allowed to rework the material.
“He chose two: Will You Remember Me?, which had been written in 1924 for the Broadway musical Lady Be Good but was cut from the show; andSay My Say, an uncompleted fragment from 1929. And with the release of Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin earlier this week, he not only earns an asterisk in the Gershwin catalogue, but is added to the list of grave-robbers and revisionists who have cobbled together posthumous “new” work from the archives of dead geniuses.
No matter how they’re brought into existence, though, there’s still a bit of Frankenstein’s monster about these cobbled-together creations. Unlike lost paintings or newly discovered manuscripts, which merely seem unfamiliar, these reworkings of creative scraps seldom feel right – it’s all too easy to notice the seams, or to hear the living reanimator’s voice crowding out the spark of the departed great.
Still, he should have known better. When Gustav Mahler died, leaving behind sketches for uncompleted movements of what would have been his 10th Symphony, Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg, Anton Webern and Ernst Krenek were each invited to finish the work, and all declined. As musicologist Philip Barford writes, “In their view, the work had not reached a stage in Mahler’s conception where others could confidently predict his intentions.” Although a version of the 10th, completed by Deryck Cooke, does exist, many noted Mahlerians – Leonard Bernstein chief among them – have refused to perform it.” ( J.D. Considine )
Still, the inability to predict intentions has not stopped artists from dabbling with the libretto, some singing their fingers and others carefully picking their spots so as not to awake or arouse the sleeping music gods. Among those who seemed to have outmanoeuvred the wrath is Gwyneth Paltrow. Nothing arouses an angry spirit like singing off-key and out of tune. She simply programmed the recording equipment by auto-tuning her country torch ballads of grit and determination to death. And tuned to death seemed to pacify them…for now.
Josiah leming is another case in point. Although there is some rather dubious Karma associated with the family name, he does hail from the southern States, thereby circumventing the fate of his northern brethren known for periodic mass migrations that sometimes end in drowning.He has been counseled to live beyond walking distance from rivers and streams. Also, he wisely knocked himself out of the “idol” series by an intentional sub-par performance so as not to be lumped with alleged Canadian terrorist Khurram Sher, arrested last Thursday by Canadian authorities for allegedly being part of an Ottawa terrorist cell. Sher had also been exposed to the volatile compounds in the Verdi Libretto in an experiment of cross-fertilization between Italian Opera and Islamic fundamentalism. In 2008, he crooned on nationwide TV while auditioning for “Canadian Idol.”
“The YouTube video of the CTV telecast reveals a bearded Sher, who was born and raised in Montreal, telling the “Canadian Idol” judges he came to Canada in “2k5″ from Pakistan. Sher, a doctor trained at McGill University, Canada’s top medical school, then proceeded to badly sing Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated” while moon-walking and doing the robot dance in traditional Pakistani clothes.It wasn’t complicated for the four “Canadian Idols” judges to pan Sher’s performance. “Have you ever thought of being a comedian?” Sass Jordan asked a smirking Sher.”