The Composer and His Muse: Beethoven, Julie Guicciardi and Moonlight Sonata

Wood engraving after a painting by Lorenz Vogel (1846-1902).
"Die Entstehung von Beethovens "Mondschein-Sonate" 1896.
Beethoven-Haus Bonn, Bonn © 2016 Beethoven-Haus Bonn)

Julie Guicciardi, as she was named by her family, was born in Przemysl, Galicia in 1782. She arrived in Vienna with her parents from Trieste in June 1800, and her beauty caused her to be noticed by high society.

Beethoven became acquainted with Guicciardi through the Brunsvik family. In late 1801, he became Guicciardi's piano teacher, and apparently became infatuated with her. She is probably the "enchanting girl", about whom he wrote on 16 November 1801 to his friend Franz Gerhard Wegeler: "My life is once more a little more pleasant, I'm out and about again, among people – you can hardly believe how desolate, how sad my life has been since these last two years; this change was caused by a sweet, enchanting girl, who loves me and whom I love. After two years, I am again enjoying some moments of bliss, and it is the first time that – I feel that marriage could make me happy, but unfortunately she is not of my station – and now – I certainly could not marry now." 

In 1852, four years before her death, Julie told the scholar Otto Jahn that he had originally given her the manuscript of the Rondo in G Major, Opus 51, no. 2, but asked her to return it because he needed to dedicate that work to Countess Lichnowsky.

Ultimately Beethoven dedicated what has become the most famous piano sonata ever composed to Julie, thereby assuring her a place in music history. He simply called it Piano Sonata No. 14, and it wasn’t given its poetic nickname until 1832, five years after Beethoven’s death. German poet Ludwig Rellstab, (Rellstab had considerable influence as a music critic), said the first movement sounded like moonlight shining upon Lake Lucerne, and the name stuck.

In 1823, Beethoven confessed to his then-secretary and later biographer Anton Schindler, that he was indeed in love with her at the time.

It is certain that Beethoven proposed marriage to Giulietta, and that she was inclined to accept. One of her parents was in favor of the match. But the other - probably her father - forbade her to marry a man "without rank, fortune or permanent engagement; a man, too, of character and temperament so peculiar, and afflicted with the incipient stages of an infirmity which, if not arrested and cured, must deprive him of all hope of obtaining any high and remunerative official appointment and at length compel him to abandon his career as the great pianoforte virtuoso". (Thayer's Life of Beethoven)

Giulietta married instead Count Wenzel Robert Gallenberg, a prolific composer of ballet and occasional music, on 3rd November 1803. The newly married couple left for Italy and were in Naples in the spring of 1806 - there Gallenberg composed music for the fête celebrating Joseph Bonaparte's assumption of the crown of the two Sicilies. In late 1821 he was made an associate director of the Royal Imperial Opera in Vienna, and the couple returned to Vienna, but there is no evidence that Beethoven renewed his friendship with his old flame.

The Composer and His Muse: Salieri, Mozart and Nancy Storace

Did Salieri plot Mozart's demise to the point of actually poisoning him? Or is it just as fanciful as all those serpents and magic bells in the younger composer's opera The Magic Flute?

Antonio Salieri was a hugely influential composer of opera and a much in-demand teacher who taught Schubert, Beethoven and Liszt. The chances are, however, that you've only ever heard of Salieri because he happened to be the arch-rival of the irrepressible Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Or was he?

The rise of the poisoning tale

Mozart's rivalry with Salieri could have originated with an incident in 1781, when Mozart applied to be the music teacher of Princess Elisabeth of Württemberg, and Salieri was selected instead because of his reputation as a singing teacher. In the following year Mozart once again failed to be selected as the Princess' piano teacher.

In addition, when Lorenzo Da Ponte was in Prague preparing the production of Mozart's setting of his Don Giovanni, the poet was ordered back to Vienna for a royal wedding for which Salieri's Axur, re d'Ormus would be performed. Obviously, Mozart was not pleased by this.

Within six years of Salieri's death, the Russian writer Pushkin wrote a play, Mozart and Salieri , which portrayed the danger of envy. In 1898, Rimsky-Korsakov turned Pushkin's play into an opera. In both, it's suggested that Salieri's jealousy of Mozart led him to poison the younger composer.

However, even with Mozart and Salieri's rivalry for certain jobs, there is very little evidence that the relationship between the two composers was at all acrimonious beyond this, especially after 1785 or so, when Mozart had become established in Vienna. Rather, they appeared to usually see each other as friends and colleagues, and supported each other's work. In several of Mozart’s letters, there is evidence that the Italians (supposedly lead by Salieri) in Emperor Joseph’s court did get in the way of several attempts to advance Mozart's career, and some of these are portrayed in the film Amadeus. There is, however, no clear proof that Salieri hated Mozart or plotted against him or planned his death, although those ideas made for a much more exciting story.

Where the film rings true is in its portrayal of Mozart's uncanny improvisational ability, his computer memory and instant recall, his effortless skill at composition - "without setting down his billiard cue" - his talent for languages and his genius for musical and verbal mimicry. That the divine Mozart could also curse like a sailor, improvise obscene verses and even talk backwards was also true  though its doubtful Salieri and his faction would have been as offended by Mozart's language as he is in the film. The late 18th century was not noted for its delicacy of language. However - all quibbles aside - this moving and hugely entertaining film is still an excellent introduction to Mozart, his music and his world.

Lost cantata by Mozart and Salieri found in Prague

A long-lost composition co-written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Antonio Salieri has been rediscovered in the Czech National Museum in Prague. German musicologist and composer Timo Jouko Herrmann found the piece last month while doing research on Antonio Salieri in the collection of the Czech Museum of Music. It’s a libretto written by Lorenzo Da Ponte, a Venetian priest and poet who wrote the librettos for three of Mozarts most beloved operas — Don Giovanni, The Marriage of Figaro and Così fan tutte — and published by printer to the Imperial court in Vienna Joseph von Kurzböck. Very unusually for a libretto, this one includes the sheet music in a simple piano arrangement. Mozart and Salieri’s names do not appear anywhere in the pamphlet, only their initials in the musical notation identifying which measures were written by which composer. There is also a third composer credited, one Cornetti, who is unknown under that name.

The piece is entitled Per la Ricuperata Salute di Ofelia (“For the recovered health of Ophelia”) and was written in 1785. The Ophelia in question was Nancy Storace, an English coloratura soprano who was friends with and muse to both Mozart and Salieri.

Nancy was a musical prodigy from a very young age. She gave her first public performance when she was eight years old and debuted at London’s Haymarket Theatre the next year. Her older brother Stephen was also a child prodigy, taught by his father to play violin so expertly that by the age of 10 he was performing the most complex, difficult pieces of the time.

Nancy traveled to Venice to take voice lessons from composer Antonio Sacchini and began getting professional gigs, rapidly rising from minor parts to leads and becoming something of a sensation. While still a teenager in 1782 she performed the role of Dorina in the Milan premiere of Giuseppe Sarti’s opera Fra I Due Litiganti Il Terzo Gode, a part that Sarti wrote specifically for her, to great acclaim.

When in 1783 Austrian Emperor Joseph II decided to put together a company dedicated to performances of Italian opera buffa (comic opera), he snapped up the 18-year-old Nancy Storace for his prima donna.

The opera that Nancy premiered was Antonio Salieri's La scuola de gelosi (The School of Jealousy), in which she took the role of the Countess Bandiera.  The plot of the opera involves love intrigues, attempted seductions and provocations to jealousy between members of the three different social strata: the aristocracy, the bourgeoisie and the working class, which was typical for plots in the early to late 1780s.

Mozart had first seen Nancy when she made her Viennese debut in Salieri’s La Scuola De’ Gelosi. He immediately fell in love with her as an artist and, it was rumored, their relationship actually went much deeper. Certainly Nancy and Stephen became part of Mozart’s circle and were often at his house, while he frequently had dinner with them and their mother.

The role of Susanna in Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro was written for and first performed by her. it is possible that her lively acting style was the inspiration for the central character of Susanna.

When she was about to leave Vienna, Storace performed in a farewell concert on 23 February 1787. For this occasion Mozart wrote the concert recitative and aria "Ch'io mi scordi di te?

The rediscovery of Per la Ricuperata Salute di Ofelia underscores that Mozart and Salieri were on good terms in 1785, even though a few years earlier Mozart had written in letters to his father of his frustration with the Italian cabal at the Viennese court. He thought Salieri, Da Ponte and other Italians who had the ear of the Emperor were blocking his ascent, but by 1785 Mozart was well-established and was working closely with said Italians. Salieri would go out of his way to express approval of Mozart’s work, even directing performances of several of his compositions.

Vasiliy Shkafer as Mozart and Fyodor Shalyapin as Salieri
(Russian Private Opera, 1898)

Nonetheless, decades after Mozart’s premature death rumors were rife that Salieri had poisoned his rival. The rumor was immortalized in art when, six years after Salieri’s 1825 death, revered Russian poet Alexander Pushkin wrote a verse drama Mozart and Salieri that posited Salieri as the bitterly jealous poisoner of the greater man. Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov set the play to music in the opera Mozart and Salieri, and playwright Peter Shaffer based his 1979 play Amadeus on Pushkin’s drama. That in turn was adapted for film in the Oscar-winning movie of the same name directed by Miloš Forman. So now when people think of Mozart and Salieri they think of a rivalry unto the death, when in fact the two men were on quite good terms.

And now, possibly for the first time and certainly for the first time in centuries, here is Per la Ricuperata Salute di Ofelia by Wolfgang Mozart and Antonio Salieri, played on the harpsichord by Lukas Vendl.


Five of the Greatest Pianists of all Time

Who are the greatest pianists who've ever lived? That's a question that no doubt is the cause much heated debate.  Nevertheless, these are a few of my favorites.

I think perhaps you expected this pianist would be at the top of my list.

Martha Argerich (1941-)

The world woke up to the phenomenal talent of the Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich in 1964 when she won the International Chopin Piano Competition at the age of 24. She is now arguably the greatest living pianist and can sell out concerts in minutes.

Lang Lang (1982-)

Lang Lang changed the classical music world forever with his inimitable panache both on and off stage. Thousands of children in China took up the piano in what has become know as ‘the Lang-Lang effect’. So, like his style or not, there’s no denying the impact Lang Lang has had on the classical scene.

Glenn Gould (1932-1982)

If there were ever a pianist who divided classical music fans, Glenn Gould is it. The Canadian pianist is best-known for his performances of the music of J.S. Bach, and particularly The Goldberg Variations. But he's also famous for humming along while he played, performing on a tiny chair which he took to all his concerts and his exacting demands for recording and performing conditions.

Vladimir Horowitz (1903-1989)

There's a strong case to be made for Vladimir Horowitz to be crowned the greatest pianist of all time. He made his debut in 1920 in a solo recital in Kharkiv. In 1925 his fame had grown substantially and he crossed into the West, saying he wished to study with Artur Schnabel in Berlin – but he'd decided to leave for good and had stuffed American and British money into his shoes. He gave his debut in the US in 1928 at Carnegie Hall and he went on to become an American citizen. He is best known for his performances of Romantic works including music by Chopin, Rachmaninov and Schumann.

Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982)

This Polish American pianist is often quoted as the best Chopin performer of all time. He was found to have perfect pitch at the age of two and he made his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic when he was just 13. He was taught by a pianist called Karl Heinrich Barth, who had been a pupil of Liszt, meaning that Rubinstein was part of a formidable pianistic tradition.

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Can music make you a better athlete?

Can boosting the volume on your favorite songs improve athletic performance.

Photo by Ryan Edy and Getty Images

Can music improve athletic performance?  Can running faster or working out harder be as simple as boosting the volume on your favorite songs?

Music can be a stimulant or a sedative.  It can enhance mood, improve muscle control and help the brain build key muscle memories. Here’s how:

It uses the whole brain

Listening to music activates several major brain areas at once, his research shows: the parietal lobe, which contains the motor cortex;  the occipital, or visual processing lobe, the brain’s center for  rhythm and coordination; the temporal lobe, which regulates pitch, tone and structure; and the frontal lobe and cerebellum, which regulate emotion.

These brain areas are critical to athletic performance. It is in the temporal lobe that cortisol — a stress hormone — is released. Music helps regulate stress by reducing cortisol levels. The motor cortex, which is located in the parietal lobe, regulates our body’s motor function, which helps determine how straight we throw a football or how well we coordinate our limbs when running, and allows us to fall into our own “rhythm” as we work.

Reyna Gordon, a neuroscientist with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, says it’s unusual for so many parts of the brain to act in concert.

It helps regulate your emotions

The key is to use music to tap into the brain’s secretion of dopamine and natural opioids — two naturally occurring chemicals that help block our perception of fatigue and pain.

Music can also enhance mood and increase confidence.

Based on research, music can be like a performance-enhancing drug. It’s just that intoxicating.

For example, listening to Beyonce’s “Run the World” might send a positive message to the brain about performance, which might in turn boosts confidence. Conversely, the sad message in Pink’s “Sober” can help curb excess adrenaline and bring our anxiety levels back to neutral, post-workout or competition.

Nathan Keith Schrimsher, a 2016 Olympian competing for team USA in the modern pentathlon competition, listened to “One Day Too Late” during his last competition.

“It just put me into an attitude to not quit and to give everything I have to make my life matter,” he said.

Gordon’s research shows that music can also have a lasting effect on our emotions. When she exposed test subjects to sad music and then showed them a face expressing a certain emotion, the subjects were more likely to assume the face was frowning.

“Our brains want to make sense of the info coming in,” Gordon said. “People are able to recognize emotion in music from very short excerpts.”

It Makes You Want to Move

Rindings show that syncing the tempo of the music to an athlete’s heart rate can have powerful outcomes, such as improved stamina, speed and athletic performance.

Jessica Grahn, a cognitive neuroscientist at Western University in London, Ontario, said the body responds best to steady rhythms. She found that among patients with Parkinson’s Disease, for example, having a steady beat that matches their movements seemed to improve muscle control.

It Helps with Muscle Memory

Finally, listening to songs with lyrics that mimic physical movement can help an athlete’s brain form muscle memories. The Salt n’ Pepper song “Push it”, she said, is the perfect song for those practicing shot put, or any exercise that requires the athlete to physically push something. The brain forms pathways more effectively when it has a song to back up the physical goal.

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Classical Music Works Inextricably Linked to the Olympics

The Olympic Games haven't only inspired athletes to perform their best but artists as well.

Athletic feats take center stage at the Olympics, but classical music has always been an important element of the games. From the tradition of playing national anthems to larger-than-life performances at the opening and closing ceremonies to accompanying events such as gymnastics and figure skating, Olympic music captures the energy and grandeur of the event.

However, during the first half of the 20th century, arts was not just an accompaniment to the Olympic experience, medals were awarded for works of art in five categories — architecture, literature, painting, sculpture and music — and the panels of judges included esteemed composers, including Stravinsky, Ravel and Fauré.

In recognition of this tradition, here are of some well known pieces of classical music written for the Olympics:

A Greek composer known for his operas, Spyridon Samaras composed the Olympic Hymn, performed for the first time at the opening ceremonies of the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens. The anthem — a choral cantata with lyrics by Greek poet Kostis Palamas — begat a tradition of hosting nations commissioning a special anthem for the event.

Danish composer Rudolph Simonsen won the bronze medal in the music competition during the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam for his Symphony No. 2: Hellas (he was the only composer awarded a medal by the jury that year). He later went on to head the Royal Danish Academy of Music.

Although not originally written for the Olympics, Josef Suk’s Toward a New Life was submitted for consideration at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. Suk first began writing this patriotic march in 1919, when the Czech army was called to protect the southern districts of Slovakia. He later extended the march and scored it for a symphony orchestra. It won the top prize in L.A. (silver).

Canadian composer Jean Weinzweig won silver during the 1948 Summer Olympics in London, the highest medal honored that year in the instrumental category, for his Divertimenti for Solo Flute and Strings. Weinzweig later joined the music faculty at the University of Toronto.

In addition to being America’s most iconic film composer, John Williams is also the most prolific Olympics composer, having created themes for four Olympic Games. His Olympic Fanfare and Theme, written for the 1984 Olympic Games in L.A., marked the first time a major American composer had contributed a lasting fanfare for the event.

In 1996, Williams's Olympic Fanfare was fused with Leo Arnaud’s equally recognizable Bugler’s Dream, a piece that was not initially written for the games but came to symbolize them when the Olympic telecasts adopted his stately tune in 1958.

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Verdi Requiem “Behind-the-Scenes”

Since the 1930’s, the Requiem has been a staple of the choral repertory on both sides of the Atlantic. Common wisdom would have us believe that the work requires the world from its performers, but also gives it back in return. When Verdi sat down to write it, he had specific soloists in mind and the score is reflective of their special gifts as technicians as well as interpreters. Because we can compare the earlier source, we know that Verdi re-wrote the music with the talents of a particular singer in mind.

Stolz as Aida, Parma, 1872
Her name was Teresa Stolz. She was born in Bohemia but she spent most of her career in Italy. Stolz was a powerful singer, both passionate and with exceptional technical control, and Verdi was enamored with her in more ways than one. She sang in several of his operas, including Don Carlo and Aida. Verdi wrote for her without concern for technical limitation. He enhanced the soprano part in a variety of ways. He added measures. He made her part higher and more virtuosic.

He also gave her music that was originally given to the choir. These changes tend to happen in prominent places, like the end.

It must have been impossible for Verdi not to have remembered Stolz’s extraordinary voice as he composed. This meant he also prepared for her presence in the score by saving the force of her dramatic impact for later.

In one instance, he examined an older passage featuring soprano and choir alone. He took the melody from the soloist, gave it to the orchestra, shortened it, and then placed this passage at the beginning of his new work. In the Libera me, you will hear something that sounds like the very opening of the Requiem but this time it is led by the soprano in its full poignancy.

The Requiem text also allowed Verdi to explore the voice in ways that he couldn’t in his operas. This may sound kind of surprising because we’re used to thinking of his operatic writing as a complete exploration of the voice. But here I don’t mean expressive range -- I mean “voice” in the poetic sense– in the sense of who is speaking. In opera, characters are delineated. Their relationships with others and with themselves are the tensions that push the drama forward. In this work, these roles aren’t so clear cut. In fact, they are often exchanged. The singers must ask themselves “am I telling a story about someone else?” or “Is this my voice, must I embody these words?” In this way, Verdi complicates the medieval poem and its spiritual meanings.

Sometimes the move from characters to story-telling is blatant, like the return of the Dies Irae music. You don’t need me to tell you when this gripping music returns. You can’t miss it. But why this music at those particular points? Why would Verdi go out of his way to break the flow of the story? The answer, at least in part, is that the Dies Irae music forcibly tears the soloists away from one role to another. At one point the soloists move from their role as narrators to fearful sinners who plead for their own salvation. “What can a wretch like me say?” But these are the obvious shifts in poetic voice. Verdi sometimes clouds the issue for everyone involved. This happens in the Rex tremendae, where the bass temporarily stops being a character and aligns himself with the narrative voice of the choir.

So we come full circle, back to the genesis of the Libera me. We can appreciate again the opening for its drama, but perhaps now we can also see its shifts in character. The soprano begins freely in a kind of monotone chanting. Suddenly, she releases herself and embodies her fearful predicament; her line becomes more articulated, more angular, more urgent. In a few short bars, Verdi has read musically against the grain of the text. He does this throughout the work – asking the singers to morph between worlds and sometimes to live between them.

This blurring of story-telling and embodiment makes this work richer and its paradoxes more immediate. We are about to experience an upbeat fugue for double chorus, and a gentle set of theme and variations in the Agnus Dei, but soon enough we come upon those questions again. The last movement ends with the soprano grounded in the dark regions of her voice, in steady prayer. We could say that all is resolved but the epic questioning that preceded this, makes it    an uneasy promise.

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The Composer and His Muse: Giuseppe Verdi, Giuseppina Strepponiuse and Tereza Stolzová

Ritratto di Giuseppina Strepponi con lo spartito di Nabucco eseguito ad olio su tela, 1842 ca (Museo Teatrale alla Scala)Image 1 of 15
Clelia Maria Josepha Strepponi was an operatic soprano of great renown and the second wife of composer Giuseppe Verdi.

She is often credited with having contributed to Verdi's first successes, starring in a number of his early operas, including the role of Abigaille in the world premiere of Nabucco in 1842. A highly gifted singer, Strepponi excelled in the bel canto repertoire. Both her personal and professional life was complicated by overwork, by at least three known pregnancies, and by her vocal deterioration which caused her to retire from the stage by the age of 31, in 1846 when she moved to Paris to become a singing teacher.

She came out of her stage retirement briefly for one last opera appearance at the Comédie-Italienne which was not well received. Verdi, who was in England for the premiere of his opera I masnadieri in July 1847, returned via Paris and the two began a romantic relationship, with the composer remaining there for two years.

The couple returned to Italy by July 1849 and began living together in Busseto, Verdi's hometown where they first lived at the Palazzo Orlandi. The reaction of many of the people of Busseto towards Giuseppina, a woman of the theatre living openly with the composer in an unmarried state concerned Verdi, and as such, she was shunned in the town and at church.While Verdi could "treat the Bussetani with contempt Giuseppina, in the next few years, suffered greatly."

From May 1851 they moved to Verdi's house in Sant'Agata just outside the town, which today is known as the Villa Verdi.

Although unmarried until 1859, the marriage was a happy one and the couple remained together for the rest of their lives and she supported her husband in his career in many ways, her knowledge of French and English being especially useful. It is even thought that it was she who translated the original play by Antonio García Gutiérrez, El trovador of 1836, which became Il trovatore in 1853.

Having finally tied the knot, Peppe Verdi and Peppina Strepponi enjoyed an extended period of matrimonial peace. Whenever possible, they spent quality time at the Villa Verdi, located in the village of Sant’Agata.  As his fame and fortune grew, Verdi invested a considerable amount of money into expanding his estate, which eventually included various farms, extended forests and fisheries. When Peppe was once asked which of his operas he liked best, he replied “Rigoletto and Aida, because they bring in the money!” 

In other respects, she offered him much advice and, as Walker recalls from her account of being curled up in an armchair nearby, all the while offering comments and criticism while Verdi was composing, he speculates that "she must have sung many of these world-famous melodies for the first time from the manuscript sketches." At one point he took her advice not to have to compose on order by a certain date, but to find a suitable subject, then compose the music at his own convenience, and then find a suitable venue and suitable singers, and he so informed Corticelli, the theatrical agent from Bologna.

Verdi remained highly active in his musical career. In 1869 he supervised rehearsals for revisions to his opera La forza del destino (The Force of Destiny), which included a new overture and an alternate ending. It might have been fate and not necessarily destiny that the character of “Leonora” was sung by Teresa Stolz.  Read more

Tereza Stolzová
Born Tereza Stolzová in the Bohemian town of Kostelec, she became the “Verdian dramatic soprano par excellence, powerful, passionate in utterance, but dignified in manner and secure in tone and control.” Between 1865 and 1877, Teresa appeared in a number of significant premieres, including the first European performance of Aida in 1872. In 1869 she was the mistress of the conductor and composer Angelo Mariani. At that time, Mariani was also good friends with Peppe Verdi and Teresa enjoyed the attention of both men, although presumably not at the same time. Verdi kept a suite in the Grand Hotel in Milan, just minutes from Teresa’s home, and the relationship was frequently and regularly consummated.

Meanwhile, Peppina Verdi did not have to rely on woman’s intuition at all, as her husband Peppe simply forced her to accept Teresa Stolz as part of the domestic arrangement. He certainly wished for Peppina to be happy on his behalf, because after all, Teresa had brought happiness into his life. He once remarked to a friend, “how ridiculous that Peppina is jealous of Teresa! Every time she visits me, she brings vitality and big smiles!” Since Peppina was not inclined to confront the situation head on, she initially adopted a “wait and see” attitude in hopes that her rival would go away sooner rather than later.  For a while thing stayed relatively calm, and the uneasy threesome even went on summer holiday together. Peppina even suggested that Teresa buys a little villa near their home in Sant’Agata. That way, the affair between Teresa and Peppe could at least be carried on discreetly, and Peppina could keep a close eye on things.

Garden of the villa in Sant’Agata, (from left, seated) Maria Carrara Verdi, Barberina Strepponi, Giuseppe Verdi, Giuditta Ricordi, (from left, standing) Teresa Stolz, Umberto Campanari, Giulio Ricordi, Leopoldo Metlicovitz, late 19th century. (source:

Things came to a head upon their return to Sant’Agata, however. Peppina ordered Peppe to send Teresea away, “let’s end this once and for all,” she wrote. “I think sometimes I, your wife am living à trios. I have the right at least to your respect, if not to your caresses.” Verdi heatedly responded by threatening to kill himself if Teresa left. In the end, it was Teresa who made the decision to leave, aided undoubtedly by a lucrative engagement in St. Petersburg. Twenty years past, and after Peppina Strepponi’s death in 1897 Teresa Stolz once more became Verdi’s constant companion. Unlike Aida, however, Verdi was buried next to his wife, and not his lover.  Read more

In those years, Strepponi frequently suffered from stomach problems and arthritis and during her last year of life she could barely move from her bed. In the autumn of 1897, when the couple was once again preparing to spend the winter in Genoa in a more salubrious climate with proximity to the sea, Verdi made the decision to stay in Sant'Agata because his wife was bedridden. Giuseppina Strepponi died after a long illness on 14 November that year at Sant'Agata, due to pneumonia. She was initially buried in Milan. With the death of Giuseppina, Verdi became a widower for the second time, and was once again tormented by the pain of losing one of the most important figures in his life.

When Verdi died in 1901 he left instructions in his will to be buried next to Giuseppina, but he was buried in the main cemetery of Milan. The desire to see the couple together in the afterlife eventually led on 26 February 1901 to the transfer of both of their the bodies to the oratory of the Casa di Riposo in Milan, the retirement home for musicians which Verdi had created. Arturo Toscanini directed a choir of 900 singers in the famous Va, pensiero from Nabucco.