Giuseppe Verdi was born on 10 October 1813 in Parma, Northern Italy. He's known locally as 'the swan of Busseto' in reference to the town in which he lived. An opera composer of the 'Romantic' style, Verdi was fortunate to be recognised within his lifetime, receiving accolade upon accolade for his many compositions.
Whether it's 'Otello', 'La Traviata' or 'Falstaff' that tops your list of his 27 works, Verdi's brilliance continues to astound and delight audiences. His music is known by millions, even those that claim not to know opera. Most of us would find it hard not to hum along to 'The Anvil Chorus', 'La donna e mobile', 'Va, pensiero' or 'Libiamo ne' lieti calici', whether conscious it was Verdi or not.
Thus 2013 marks the bicentenary of Verdi's birth and fans the world-over will be commemorating in his honour. To celebrate along with other 'Verdians', here are some of the venues and organisations that are holding events in Italy during the anniversary year:
Gran Teatro La Fenice
Of all the cities to visit in Italy, Venice is surely number one and its premier theatre enjoys strong connections with Verdi. During the 1844 Venice Carnival, Verdi staged 'Ernani' there, one of his earliest works. The premieres of 'Attila', 'Rigoletto', 'La Traviata' and 'Simon Boccanegra' followed over the next 13 years. Little wonder the teatro will be doffing its proverbial cap to the composer by staging several of his works.
The celebrations kick off with a New Year's concert of 'Aida', directed by Sir John Eliot Gardiner and Daniele Rustoni's production of 'I Masnadieri' in January. 'Otello' and 'Messa de Requiem', both directed by the acclaimed conductor Myung-Whun Chung, are scheduled for July, while 'La Traviata' is to be performed throughout August and September.
Arena di Verona
The biggest bicentenary celebration will arguably occur at the Arena di Verona during the 2013 Verona Opera Festival. Dedicated to Verdi, it is coincidently the Festival's 100th anniversary, thus cause for a double celebration. In fact, the entire Verona Festival was founded upon the desire to celebrate 100 years since Verdi's birth back in 1913, with 'Aida' the very first opera to be staged. The Arena has since been celebrated as one of the foremost operatic theatres on the planet and many dedicated Verona Opera packages have been created to enable opera lovers to experience performances in this unforgettable venue.
To honour both of these anniversaries, the Festival will comprise 58 performances of 'Aida', 'Rigoletto', 'Il Trovatore', 'La Traviata' and 'Nabucco'. Aida is to be staged in two guises: in its '1913 recalling' and also with a new and eagerly awaited 2013 set design.
What's more, Spanish tenor Placido Domingo will take up temporary residence as Honorary Artistic Director, in addition to playing the eponymous Nabucco on 4 July and 18 August.
Gala Verdi, also at the Arena, is to take place on 17 July featuring three conductors: Riccardo Frizza, Andrea Battistoni and Guiliano Carella. This takes place a few days after what promises to be an incredible rendition of 'Messa da Requiem', conducted by the aforementioned Myung-Whun Chung. He will direct orchestras and choirs from both the Arena di Verona and from the Gran Teatro La Fenice.
Arena Muse Opera
Situated in Verona, the AMO is the first museum dedicated specifically to Italian opera. Opened in June 2012, it has received rave reviews. What's more, show an Arena ticket and you can get in at half price. The museum features not only interesting information on opera but real memorabilia from a host of well-known composers.
Verdi fans will be thrilled to see on display many items relating to the man himself and his many works. This includes notes, autographed scores and letters, plus original operatic texts for 'La Traviata', 'Rigoletto', 'Aida' and 'Il Trovatore'. 'Aida' is one of the most featured operas, whereby visitors can see sketches, listen to 'grand voices' that have performed in their past, see costumes and wander round an entire room dedicated to the sets of Franco Zefferelli's production.
Museo Nazionale Giuseppe Verdi
About an hour and a half's drive from Verona is Parma, proud birthplace of Verdi. Here you will find the National Giuseppe Verdi Museum which celebrates all things about Joseph Green, to give him his translated English name. The complex at Villa Pallavicino features rooms dedicated to individual operas, each of which tell the Verdi story as his career progressed. The special exhibitions and displays enable visitors to learn about and listen to Verdi's operas, uncovering the man from the myth.
Giuseppe Verdi is widely accepted as one of Italy's greatest opera composers, if not acknowledged as the best in the world. The bicentenary is likely to be a passionate and unforgettable time, full of joy and of course, wonderful music. It stands to reason, therefore, that 2013 is definitely the year opera lovers new and old should visit Italy.