Verdi, Va’ pensiero
Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco premiered in 1842 when Verdi was not yet 30 years old. It would establish Verdi’s fame as an opera composer at a time when his own life was filled with loss and despair.
The drama centers around King Nabucco (Nebuchadnezzar) and the Babylonian Exile. The Hebrew people sing about the loss of Jerusalem in a choral lament known world-wide by its initial words: Va pensiero. With a text drawn in part from Psalm 137, the chorus addresses the fate of a nation and captures the spirit of the times in Italy, which had yet to become a nation.
But it would, in a movement known as the Risorgimento, a process beginning with the Congress of Vienna in 1815. The political will of the people eventually transformed the loose collection of Italian city-states into the nation of Italy in 1871. Because of opposition to this idea, a secretive rallying cry arose: “Viva Verdi”—an acronym and code for Viva Vittorio Emanuele Re D‘ Italia (Viva Victor Emmanuel King of Italy). Va’ pensiero quickly became an icon of Italian culture. It remains one.
In fact, Professor Carol tells the story in Discovering Music of how she needed an Italian tailor in Dallas to do a rush job for her. He said it would be impossible. Somehow she started talking about opera, and soon the two were enthusiastically singing Va’ pensiero in the tailor shop. He agreed to do the impossible and the skirt was altered on time. You see, knowledge of opera can be useful!
Va’ pensiero, sull’ali dorate;
Del Giordano le rive saluta,
Arpa d’or dei fatidici vati,
O simile di Sòlima ai fati
Go, thought, on wings of gold;
Greet the banks of the Jordan
Golden harp of the prophetic seers,
Either, akin to the fate of Jerusalem,
As we have done in previous years, the Friday Performance Picks will go on hiatus during the season of Advent and resume after Christmas. The daily posts of the Advent Calendar take precedence. If you have not signed up on our mailing list, I encourage you to do that in the side panel so that you will get the calendar post each day.