Francesco Maria Piave

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Francesco Maria Piave

Francesco Maria Piave (18 May 1810 – 5 March 1876) was an Italian opera librettist who was born in Murano in the lagoon of Venice, during the brief Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy.

Libretto text used for an extended musical work

A libretto is the text used in, or intended for, an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata or musical. The term libretto is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as the Mass, requiem and sacred cantata, or the story line of a ballet.

Murano island in the Venitian Lagoon, Italy

Murano is a series of islands linked by bridges in the Venetian Lagoon, northern Italy. It lies about 1.5 kilometres north of Venice and measures about 1.5 km (0.9 mi) across with a population of just over 5,000. It is famous for its glass making. It was once an independent comune, but is now a frazione of the comune of Venice.

Venice Comune in Veneto, Italy

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated on a group of 118 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. The islands are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave rivers. In 2018, 260,897 people resided in the Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historical city of Venice. Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), which is considered a statistical metropolitan area, with a total population of 2.6 million.



Piave's career spanned over twenty years working with many of the significant composers of his day, including Giovanni Pacini (four librettos), Saverio Mercadante (at least one), Federico Ricci, and even one for Michael Balfe. He is most well known as Giuseppe Verdi's librettist, for whom he was to write 10 librettos, the most well-known being those for Rigoletto and La traviata .

Giovanni Pacini Italian composer

Giovanni Pacini was an Italian composer, best known for his operas. Pacini was born in Catania, Sicily, the son of the buffo Luigi Pacini, who was to appear in the premieres of many of Giovanni's operas. The family was of Tuscan origin, and just happened to be in Catania when the composer was born.

Saverio Mercadante Italian composer

Giuseppe Saverio Raffaele Mercadante was an Italian composer, particularly of operas. While Mercadante may not have retained the international celebrity of Gaetano Donizetti or Gioachino Rossini beyond his own lifetime, he composed as prolific a number of works as either; and his development of operatic structures, melodic styles and orchestration contributed significantly to the foundations upon which Giuseppe Verdi built his dramatic technique.

Federico Ricci Italian opera composer

Federico Ricci, was an Italian composer, particularly of operas. Born in Naples, he was the younger brother of Luigi Ricci, with whom he collaborated on several works.

But Piave was not only a librettist: he was a journalist and translator in addition to being the resident poet and stage manager at La Fenice in Venice where he first encountered Verdi. Later, Verdi was helpful in securing him the same position at La Scala in Milan. [1] His expertise as a stage manager and his tact as a negotiator served Verdi very well, but the composer bullied him mercilessly for his pains over many years.

<i>La Fenice</i> Opera house in Venice, Italy

Teatro La Fenice is an opera house in Venice, Italy. It is one of "the most famous and renowned landmarks in the history of Italian theatre", and in the history of opera as a whole. Especially in the 19th century, La Fenice became the site of many famous operatic premieres at which the works of several of the four major bel canto era composers – Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti, Verdi – were performed.

La Scala Opera house in Milan, Italy

La Scala is an opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the Nuovo Regio Ducale Teatro alla Scala. The premiere performance was Antonio Salieri's Europa riconosciuta.

Like Verdi, Piave was an ardent Italian patriot, and in 1848, during Milan's "Cinque Giornate," when Radetzky's Austrian troops retreated from the city, Verdi wrote to Piave in Venice addressing him as "Citizen Piave."

Joseph Radetzky von Radetz Czech nobleman and Austrian general

Johann Josef Wenzel Anton Franz Karl, Graf Radetzky von Radetz was a Czech nobleman and field marshal, a member of House of Radetzky in the Kingdom of Bohemia. He served as chief of the general staff in the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy during the later period of the Napoleonic Wars and afterwards began military reforms. Radetzky is best known for the victories at the Battles of Custoza and Novara during the First Italian War of Independence. He retired at age 90 and was immortalized by Johann Strauss I's Radetzky March.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Piave's grave at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan Francesco Maria Piave grave Milan 2015.jpg
Piave's grave at the Monumental Cemetery of Milan

Together, they worked on ten operas between 1844 and 1862, and Piave would have also prepared the libretto for Aida when Verdi accepted the commission for it in 1870, had he not suffered a stroke which left him paralyzed and unable to speak. Verdi helped to support his wife and daughter, proposing that "an album of pieces by famous composers be compiled and sold for Piave's benefit". [2] The composer paid for his funeral when he died nine years later in Milan aged 65 and arranged for his burial at the Monumental Cemetery.

<i>Aida</i> opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Aida is an opera in four acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni. Set in the Old Kingdom of Egypt, it was commissioned by Cairo's Khedivial Opera House and had its première there on 24 December 1871, in a performance conducted by Giovanni Bottesini. Today the work holds a central place in the operatic canon, receiving performances every year around the world; at New York's Metropolitan Opera alone, Aida has been sung more than 1,100 times since 1886. Ghislanzoni's scheme follows a scenario often attributed to the French Egyptologist Auguste Mariette, but Verdi biographer Mary Jane Phillips-Matz argues that the source is actually Temistocle Solera.

Piave's librettos for Verdi

From the beginnings of their working relationship in 1844, scholars such as Gabriele Baldini see Verdi's overall influence upon the structure of his work take a big leap forward when he notes:

Working with Piave was Verdi's first opportunity to work with himself. [...] The composer completely dominates and enslaves the librettist, who becomes scarcely more than an instrument in his hands...[Piave's] libretti are in fact those best suited to Verdi's music [....] simply because, in detail as well as in general shape, Verdi himself composed them. [1]

This statement suggests that, almost for the first time, the composer was going to be the one who determined "that drama essentially consisted of the arrangement of pieces and the clarity of the musical forms..[so that]..he began to become aware of the structure and architecture of musical composition, something which was not even clearly hinted at during the period with Solera. [1] The composer began to control the overall dramatic arc of the drama and no longer would he "suffer under" [1] such librettists as Temistocle Solera, who wrote the libretti for five Verdi operas beginning with Oberto and up to Attila in 1846.

Temistocle Solera Italian opera librettist

Temistocle Solera was an Italian opera composer and librettist.

<i>Oberto</i> (opera) opera by Giuseppe Verdi

Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio is an opera in two acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Temistocle Solera, based on an existing libretto by Antonio Piazza probably called Rocester.

Attila 5th-century ruler of the Hunnic Empire

Attila, frequently called Attila the Hun, was the ruler of the Huns from 434 until his death in March 453. He was also the leader of a tribal empire consisting of Huns, Ostrogoths, and Alans among others, in Central and Eastern Europe.

Caricature of Piave as "a theatrical jack-of-all-trades", after 1861 Piave caricature.jpg
Caricature of Piave as "a theatrical jack-of-all-trades", after 1861

An example of the pressure which Verdi exerted on Piave was in the struggle to have the Venetian censors approve Rigoletto: "Turn Venice upside down to make the censors permit this subject" [3] he demanded, following that up with the admonition not to allow the matter to drag on: "If I were the poet I would be very, very concerned, all the more because you would be greatly responsible if by chance (may the Devil not make it happen) they should not allow this drama [to be staged]" [4]

Nonetheless, another Verdi scholar notes that "Verdi always harried him unmercifully, often having his work revised by others [as in the case of Simon Boccanegra ] [but] Piave rewarded him with doglike devotion, and the two remained on terms of sincere friendship." [5] Piave became "someone Verdi loved". [6]

In following Salvadore Cammarano as Verdi's main mid-career librettist, Piave firstly wrote Ernani in 1844, and then I due Foscari (1844), Attila (1846), Macbeth (the 1847 first version), Il Corsaro (1848), Stiffelio (1850), Rigoletto (1851), La traviata (1853), Simon Boccanegra (the 1857 first version), Aroldo (1857), La forza del destino (the 1862 first version), and Macbeth (the 1865 second version).

Librettos by Piave

YearTitle [7] Composer
1842Il duca d'Alba Giovanni Pacini
(Libretto also used by Giovanni Peruzzini)
1844 Ernani Giuseppe Verdi
1844 I due Foscari Giuseppe Verdi
1845Lorenzino de' Medici Giovanni Pacini
1846 Attila Giuseppe Verdi
1846 Estella di Murcia Federico Ricci
1847Griselda Federico Ricci
1847 Macbeth (first version) Giuseppe Verdi
1847 Tutti amanti Carlo Romani
1848Allan Cameron Giovanni Pacini
1848 Giovanna di Fiandra Carlo Boniforti
1848 Il corsaro Giuseppe Verdi
1848 La Schiava Saracena Saverio Mercadante
1850 Crispino e la comare Luigi Ricci and Federico Ricci
1850 Elisabetta di Valois Antonio Buzzolla
1850 Stiffelio Giuseppe Verdi
1851 La Sposa di Murçia Andrea Casalini
1851 Rigoletto Giuseppe Verdi
1853 Baschina Federico Guglielmo De Liguoro
1853La donna delle isole Giovanni Pacini
1853 La prigioniera Carlo Ercole Bosoni
1853 La traviata Giuseppe Verdi
1854Margherita di Borgogna Francesco Petrocini
1854 Pittore e Duca Michael William Balfe
1856 I Fidanzati Achille Peri
1857 Simon Boccanegra (first version) Giuseppe Verdi
1857 Aroldo (revision of Stiffelio) Giuseppe Verdi
1857 Vittore Pisani Achille Peri
1859 Margherita la mendicante Gaetano Braga
1860 La Biscaglina Samuele Levi
1861 Guglielmo Shakspeare Tomaso Benvenuti
1862 La forza del destino (first version) Giuseppe Verdi
1862 Mormile Gaetano Braga
1862Rienzi Achille Peri
1865 La Duchessa di Guisa Paolo Serrao
1865 Macbeth (second version) Giuseppe Verdi
1865Rebecca Bartolomeo Pisani
1867 Berta di Varnol Giovanni Pacini
1867 Don Diego de Mendoza Giovanni Pacini
1868 La tombola Antonio Cagnoni
1872Olema Carlo Pedrotti


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  1. 1 2 3 4 Baldini 1970, pp. 70 - 74
  2. Werfel and Stefan 1973, p. 262, referring to a letter of 1 August 1869 from Verdi to publisher Léon Escudier requesting him to furnish his own contribution to the album
  3. Verdi to Piave, 6 May 1850, in Phillips-Matz 1993, p. 265
  4. Verdi to Piave, 29 November 1850, in Phillips-Matz 1993, p. 270
  5. Black 1998, p. 999
  6. Phiilips-Matz 1993, p. 644
  7. List of operas for which Piave wrote the libretto taken from Retrieved 9 September 2013