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Four Last SongsAging and Creativity in Verdi, Strauss, Messiaen, and Britten$
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Linda Hutcheon and Michael Hutcheon

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226255590

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226255620.001.0001

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Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)

Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)

A Generational Tale of Cultural Nationalism

Chapter:
(p.23) Chapter Three Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901)
Source:
Four Last Songs
Author(s):

Linda Hutcheon

Michael Hutcheon

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226255620.003.0003

The last opera of Giuseppe Verdi, the master of Italian tragic opera, was his only successful comedy, Falstaff (1893). This chapter argues that this work was written to offer a model of renovated musical italianità to the younger Italian composers of his time, seduced as they were by the Germanic “symphonism” of Richard Wagner. Verdi’s turn to a late style of irony and parody in Falstaff was his way of simultaneously incorporating (but distancing) the past and moving forward in new directions. Analysis of Wagner’s last opera, Parsifal (1882), alongside Falstaff reveals the very different resolutions offered by these two tales of age and generational crisis. Wagner’s obsession with social degeneration and his worries about his own creativity were countered by Verdi’s healthy ironic laughter at his own as well as Wagner’s expense. This was his pedagogical lesson to young composers about how to be progressive, modern, and still Italian.

Keywords:   Verdi, Wagner, Boito, Symphonism, Irony, Parody, Falstaff, Parsifal, Degeneration, Italianità

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