Sarasota Opera and the Definitive Young Verdi

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Pictured: Portrait of Verdi as a young man. Courtesy of Sarasota Opera.

Through the course of the Verdi Cycle, opera enthusiasts have enjoyed an in-depth look at the artist’s varied and celebrated work onstage, but true fans will know that Giuseppe Verdi’s talents extended beyond the world of opera. Tomorrow night, Sarasota Opera gives those fans a chance to explore the artist as a young man with the Young Verdi Concert, featuring a series of non-operatic musical performances composed by Verdi before his first opera, Oberto.

Comprising three overtures and a series of musical works composed for churches, religious institutions and the patrons of his hometown of Le Roncole, the first part showcases Verdi’s early orchestral work. The latter half brings in more of the dramatist’s vocal work, with songs and something akin to a long aria and duet written for tenor voice and orchestra. With some pieces recently discovered in private collections, found in fragments or hidden in libraries around Verdi’s hometown, Maestro Victor DeRenzi estimates some of the work hasn’t been heard in decades or more.

“Rarely do you have the chance to see this budding genius,” said DeRenzi of the planned performance. “Most of it has been destroyed.” The collection seems all the more extraordinary given Verdi’s penchant for destroying his own early work, and DeRenzi admits that much that has been saved is due to it not being in Verdi’s direct possession.

More than a local celebration, the Verdi Cycle has become an international affair in the opera world and representatives from both Casa Ricordi, the publisher of Verdi’s work, and the University of Chicago Press will be in attendance as part of the Verdi Critical Edition project. Begun in the 1970s and halfway completed, the project aims to record the definitive performances of Verdi’s work, as in line with the artist’s original composition according to autographed scores, early manuscripts and the like. Many conductors and performers will place their own spin or emphasis on a work and nobody bats an eye, said DeRenzi, “whereas with the Critical Edition, they tell you exactly what Verdi wrote and if they decide that something may be a mistake, they let you know rather than just letting the mistake lie.” Sarasota Opera has contributed before with Verdi’s King for a Day, but this could be another opportunity to stand next to venues such as Milan’s La Scala and The Met in New York.

The Young Verdi Concert begins 7:30pm this Thurs, Mar. 17, at the Sarasota Opera House. “It’s really interesting because you see how his writing changed,” added DeRenzi. “And if you love Verdi, you should see it.” Tickets are on sale.

Pictured: Portrait of Verdi as a young man. Courtesy of Sarasota Opera.

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