Remembering Joe Green: The Life & Art of Giuseppe Verdi, Part III
Poster of the premiere performance of Verdi’s “Nabucco” on March 9th, 1842
“Va Pensiero” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Nabucco
The next installment honoring Giuseppe Verdi is one of his most beloved pieces for full 4 part chorus, “Va, Pensiero”, in English, “Fly, Thought on Golden Wings”, also known as the Chorus of Hebrew Slaves from one of his earliest operas, “Nabucco”. Verdi was a fervent nationalist for his home country of Italy. Yet at the start of his impressive career as a composer, the city located in the far north of his country where the Maestro lived and worked, Milan, was subjected to temporary rule by the Austrian Empire. This, in turn, resulted in Verdi and all of his newly written works being put under the harshest of scrutiny by the Austrian censors.
Verdi’s opera, “Nabucco”, in English “Nebuchadnezzar”, recounts the Biblical story of the Jews as they are conquered and subsequently exiled from Judea by the Babylonian King whom the opera is named after. The Chorus of Hebrew Slaves section of the opera, “Va Pensiero”, is the most memorable piece from the entire work and was wildly well received by the public at its premiere at Milan’s La Scala, on March 9th, 1842. Soon thereafter the choral piece inspired by Psalm 137 was embraced like a secondary national anthem and became a piece of musical solidarity and unification for Italians, at large.
So beloved was the piece that when Verdi’s body was making its way through Milan during the composer’s funeral procession in 1901 it’s been said that “Va, Pensiero” was spontaneously sung among the many crowds lining the streets and in 2009 Senator Umberto Bossi proposed before Italy’s governing body that “Va, Pensiero” be made Italy’s National Anthem.
Giuseppe Verdi, composing great and national treasure.
And it can’t get any more Italiano with my choice of performance since this version of Italy’s 2nd National Anthem comes from the heart of Italia, itself, the Chorus and Orchestra of Opera Roma from a live 2011 performance. The piece actually begins at 3:38 preceded by a lot of applause.
*Brad Kronen’s book “Love in the Stars” published by Llewellyn Worldwide, Inc. is available for purchase at your local book seller or online at amazon.com at the link listed below.