Giuseppe Fortunino Francesco Verdi was born to Carlo and Luigia Uttini in Roncole di Busseto on 10th October 1813, in the small farmhouse that is now a national monument.
In this humble building, also used as a grocer’s, his father ran a tavern with an adjacent shop selling sundry wares, while his mother was a spinner.
He was baptised in the church of San Michele, and already in his early childhood years, under the guidance of Pietro Baistrocchi, used to practise on the organ there which was built in 1797 by Francesco Bossi from Bergamo. He moved to nearby Busseto when he was only ten years old, where he began his studies at the gymnasium and the school of music, directed by Ferdinando Provesi, Chapel Master of the Collegiate Church of San Bartolomeo.
For some months he lived at Barezzi House, already the headquarters of the Busseto Philharmonic and the venue of his first public performance. When he was eighteen, he left for Milan and after being refused admission to the Conservatory, was accepted as a private pupil by Maestro Vincenzo Lavigna, with a grant from Busseto’s Monte di Pietà, advanced and supplemented by the generosity of Antonio Barezzi.
On returning to Busseto three years later, he won the competition for a post as music teacher for the Municipality of Busseto and on 4 May, 1836 married Margherita Barezzi, the daughter of his benefactor. In 1837 their daughter Virginia was born and in 1838 their son Icilio not longer after Virginia’s death. Their son Icilio also died in Milan just a few months before his mother Margherita.
In 1839 Verdi obtained his first operatic success at La Scala with Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio, but this was followed by the death of his wife and his second opera, Un Giorno di Regno (King for a Day), proved a flop.
He returned to the limelight with Nabucco, which established him as one of the greatest composers of the age, so much so that he was commissioned to write one or more works per year by some of the major Italian and European theatres.
In 1847, he moved to Paris and began living with Giuseppina Strepponi, the first interpreter of Abigaille in Nabucco, but whom he already knew in the times of Oberto.
The couple returned to Busseto two years later, where they lived together at the Palazzo Orlandi until 1851, when, on 1st May, they moved into the farmhouse purchased in Sant’Agata which over time the Maestro would transform into the splendid villa that can be visited today.
They did not marry until August 29, 1859 in Collonges-sous-Saleve, Savoy, in absolute secrecy.
They had no children and decided to raise little Maria Filomena Verdi, the daughter of a poor cousin from Roncole, afterwards appointed as universal heir.
Verdi reached the quintessence of Italian “melodrama” with the popular trilogy Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, and La Traviata and, thanks to his Parisian experience, I Vespri Siciliani. The latter brought him closer to the French taste for Grand Opera, and he embarked on the road of renewal, which led him to compose, amongst others, Aida. It was his friendship with Arrigo Boito that gave birth to Otello and Falstaff, but the death of his wife on 14th November 1897, drained his vitality.
Only the performance of Pezzi Sacri, composed between 1887 and 1897, was to follow this painful event.
Verdi died in Milan at dawn on 27th January 1901, in the room of his apartment at the Grand Hotel et de Milan.
The simplest of funerals on the 30th January for burial at the Monumental Cemetery were followed by more solemn ones on 26th February, when his body and that of Giuseppina were finally laid to rest in the Chapel of a rest home for musicians.