Verdi (TV Mini-Series 1982– ) Poster

(1982– )

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Mean "Joe Green" - Superstar of his team!
theowinthrop18 June 2006
The two dominant opera composers in the middle years of the 19th Century were Richard Wagner of Germany and Giuseppi Verdi of Italy. There are hardly two men who were less like each other in temperament. Wagner, the arrogant genius who used "friends" left and right for his own purposes. Verdi the quiet, thoughtful man who composed some of the loveliest opera music on record. Due to his character flaws, despite the brilliance of his opera music the personality of Wagner does not hold up too well to scrutiny today. But Verdi has gained admirers since his death 105 years ago. One cannot imagine any opera company banishing his music, as Wagner's was banished for decades after World War II put his racial ideas to work. As his name translates to "Joe Green", Verdi remains the Superstar of his team of opera composers.

Oddly enough both Wagner and Verdi were subjects of mini-series about their lives and careers over twenty years ago. I have commented on Wagner's mini-series first because Richard Burton played his last great role as that defective genius. But in the supporting cast of WAGNER was British character actor Ronald Pickup, who played (very well) Friedrich Nietzche, Wagner's one time friend but later persistent critic. Pickup played Verdi in this series made only a year earlier. Again his performance was quite good.

There was less sturm und drang in Verdi's life than in Wagner's. He always lived within his means, did not smash relationships on selfish grounds, and did not preach racial hatreds. But he was a patriot - his first great success, NABUCO (an opera about the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar and the Jewish "Babylonian Captivity") gave a choral song that became an Italian popular nationalist anthem. He had his flops. It took him years to get THE MASKED BALL to be accepted in the international repertory after it's premiere just preceded a bloody assassination attempt against Napoleon III at the Paris Opera House in 1858 - THE MASKED BALL dealt with the events leading to Ankerstrom's murder of King Gustav III of Sweden in 1792, so the libretto had to be moved to colonial Boston in the American Revolution! He had to change plots - RIGALETTO was originally about King Francois I of France (1512 - 1547) to a fictitious Duke of Mantua, so that the French would put the opera on. Still the number of successful operas that came out of Verdi is amazing - NABUCO, RIGALETTO, TRAVIATA, IL TROVATORE, THE MASKED BALL, OTHELLO, FALSTAFF, THE FORTUNES OF DESTINY, and many others.

Verdi did not, like Wagner, write pamphlets advocating mass murders of "undesirables". His life was full of some good works, culminating in his willing a sizable portion of his fortune and property to found a retirement home for opera singers in Italy. Seldom have I heard of anyone in Verdi's situation doing something like that - how refreshing when compared to Wagner's moving heaven and earth to have a lunatic king fund a permanent festival for Wagner's music only at Bayreuth. But for everyone who has heard of Verdi's generosity, far more have heard of Bayreuth.

It was a pleasant series, with famous opera singers singing the arias, duets, trios, and quartets from the operas. Certainly it left a pleasanter feeling at the conclusion about it's hero than WAGNER did. It restores one's faith in mankind that while some swine have genius and misuse it, others exist who leave our Earth a little happier and pleasanter.
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High quality biography!
Rolf D Buckmann1 February 2008
High quality biography! A fantastic, historical, well researched super production. Castellani did a very good job on biography and cinematographic art. The casting is excellent and Ronald Pickup is perfect as Verdi. The musical selection is also superior, and the performance of the interpreters are first class. Very good and famous voices are singing its preferred parts. The operatic performances are well cut. A rich scenario and also a nice review of the theatrical background technology at Verdi's time could be seen on the sunrise in "I Lombardi", the waves and the storms in "Otello", and in waterfalls. They are superb. For Verdi lovers it's a must, but also for non initiates it will be delightful. May be Giuseppina is a little to subservient and a bit away from a real woman. Also the final scenes are a little to long. By the way, the name of the opera is Rigoletto and not Rigaletto.
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A really outstanding series
TheLittleSongbird25 September 2013
An absolute treasure for opera enthusiasts and fans of Verdi(the Sutherland, Bergonzi and Merrill recording of La Traviata was my first complete Verdi listen 10 years ago and I've been a fan since). Not quite as grand as the series on Wagner from the same time-frame, plus Richard Burton gives a performance of a life-time, but Verdi's style, his life and him as a person may be much more accessible. Am a fan of Wagner's music, but he was known as a terrible man(Youtube users never let people forget how he was an Anti-Semetic bigot) and Parsifal especially is exhausting for a first time viewer. Personally first exposure was through the 1983 film of the opera which was admittedly rather too heavy on the symbolism so that could have something to do with it.

Getting onto the point, there is very little wrong with this series. There is however some sloppy dubbing and Burt Lancaster's narration can overbear things(some of his mispronunciations are annoying too). The rest however is fabulous. It is very sumptuously mounted and the photography matches that quality. Nobody really needs to say how good Verdi's music is, fans will argue that his music is some of the best of the entire opera medium, I for one share that opinion. It's even greater when the singing is so good, from some of the best singers ever to sing his music, Pavarotti, Tebaldi, Callas and Nilsson are immediately recognisable and sound incredible.

Verdi is intelligently written, sensitively staged with no over-doing. The composer's story is fascinating and is told in an absorbing way, a way that also shows great enthusiasm for the subject. Any important parts are not skimmed over and have their impact. Ronald Pickup's Verdi is note-perfect and Carla Fracci matches him in a nuanced performance. All the roles are well-done and don't fall into caricature- and it is easy to do that- too much. Overall, an outstanding series that is deserving of a much better DVD release, the Kultur version doesn't really do it justice. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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Kirpianuscus12 January 2016
for the inspired reconstruction of atmosphere of a page from Italy's past. for beautiful performance of Ronald Pickup. for the seduction of a fight for values who impress scene by scene. for the grace of music. and as homage to a great composer who becomes vulnerable, courageous hero of his nation. good introduction to his life. and interesting piece of biographic portrait who use the clichés for large, convincing, powerful image of a personality who becomes symbol of his mother land. and that transforms the film in a manifesto, like the music of Verdi. short, a beautiful film. who could represent a nice surprise for the viewer who prefers this genre.
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Brilliant evocation of the life of the great composer
THE LIFE OF VERDI is a stunning, beautiful and virtually exhaustive (at about 10 hours) chronicle of the life of Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Formerly available on the controversial Kultur label, this new DVD release by Acorn Media is a dream come true for people who appreciate composer biographies, historical epics and, especially, this particular film, which was the last film by Italian director/writer Renato Castellani. The transfer is excellent, whereas the previously available print was mediocre at best. This new release looks crisp and does justice to the film's visual artistry--it looks very much like a series of paintings.

Verdi lived a long, rich life and his output was truly amazing, mostly operas--and most of his operas were masterpieces. There are generous allotments of Verdi's glorious music throughout this film and the period detail is lushly evocative of Verdi's life and times. Ronald Pickup is perfect as Verdi. He is probably the only "name" and face that will be familiar to at least some outside of Europe. Pickup has been in countless films and television programs, including several other composer biographies, though here, finally, he plays the title role. Speaking of names, when THE LIFE OF VERDI was shown on PBS way back in the early eighties, Burt Lancaster was the on camera narrator. I recall this very clearly because I remember being enthralled by the series even back then. In this version--perhaps for the better--Lancaster is not seen on camera (his star power was a bit distracting, if I recall). He does, however, continue to narrate in voice-over. Lancaster was a big fan of opera and his enthusiasm bubbles through in his voice, despite some mispronunciations that some will find distracting.

That's a minor observance compared to the beauty and lovingly re-created world that director/writer Castellani presents. Castellani will not be entirely unfamiliar to North American audiences, though your tastes might have to be a bit specialized to recognize his name and style of film making. One of his first films, from 1954, was a version of Romeo & Juliet starring Laurence Harvey and is a gorgeous evocation of Shakespeare's play, if a bit slowly paced. It even has John Gielgud as the Chorus! It took another Italian, Franco Zeffirelli, to bring Italy and Shakespeare to life for a contemporary audience back in 1968.

A few years before making THE LIFE OF VERDI, Castellani turned his attention to another great Italian, Leonardo Da Vinci, in a five part television film that I recall with great fondness, for it really brought Leonardo to life and gave me a deeper appreciation of his incredible achievements.

But back to THE LIFE OF VERDI. Thank you to the distributors of this magnificent film! The time you invest in watching it will pay dividends, for like any great work of art, it will stay with you long afterwards.
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Armand10 January 2015
each biographic movie is a challenge. for entire artistic team. and for viewer. Verdi is not an exception. and more important than the accuracy of events, music or costumes, landscapes and performances of actors is the atmosphere. far to be a masterpiece, it is a honest good series about the life, the fights, the work, the success and the search of the best musical phrase by one of the essentials Italian composers. a film who not ignores romanticism and old recipes for conquer the public but it preserves and presents the air of a period, the force of characters and a Giuseppe Verdi who is more than a decent sketch. and that details are basis for an admirable job. because the drama and the music and the lights and the landscapes are keys for a beautiful universe episode by episode.
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rps-24 December 2012
At this point I have watched only two of the seven episodes but I am questioning my decision to buy this series. Even allowing for the fact it was done in 1982, the production values are mediocre. Both the audio and video quality on the 4 DVD set are poor.They appear to be dubs from the original VHS. The performances become incidental rather than the highlights they should be. Worst of all is the dubbed in English sound track which gives the whole thing an artificial quality. It is like watching a radio program. I'll slog through the rest of it and may amend this review if it improves. But I am not optimistic. One positive is that the series is historically accurate both in the story line and the occasionally inserted voice over narration. But if that's all I had wanted, I would have bought a book.
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