Conceived, according to his own words, between adventures of his father, a Garibaldian soldier, Arturo Alessandro Toscanini was born on March 25, 1867. His prodigious memory and extraordinary musical ear earned him admission to the Royal School of Music (the current Arrigo Boito Conservatory) in Parma.
Serious, tireless in studying, he reacts to the iron discipline of the Conservatory with memorable jokes such as "the mockery of the moustache" when together with some of his classmates he cuts off the moustache of the hated tutor who is peacefully sleeping in the common room.
Toscanini grew up musically in Parma where, for obvious geographical reasons, Verdi music was mainly played.
On the Christmas night of 1883, Parma hosted the first Italian performance of Wagner's Lohengrin. For the student Toscanini, who attended the show from the orchestra as a cellist, it was love at first sight, or rather, first ear. The novelty and originality of this new music made Arturo take an unshakable decision: he would never compose again. The spectators at the Teatro Regio in Parma were divided into two opposing factions: for and against Wagner. In any case Toscanini's musical career will be deeply marked by both composers.
Verdi's Aida is his first orchestral direction, an occasional debut. He went on tour to Brazil as a cellist when he was only 19 years old and had to replace the conductor who was challenged by the orchestra members who did not think he was good enough. He took the podium in Rio De Janeiro and conducted by heart. It was a triumph.
The return home means a return to the role of cellist and to Verdi, for whom he plays at the premiere of Otello at La Scala. The rigor in execution, that the Maestro demanded under Toscanini's eyes, will become one of his characteristic feature as a conductor. A rigor obtained in a very energetic way. It is said that, when his American orchestra made mistakes, Toscanini would start screaming in English to switch to Italian and then end up, furiously, in Parma dialect.
He interrupts his collaboration with the Wagner Festival of Bayreuth, despite being the only non-German musician invited, for political reasons. To the telegram of Hitler that in 1933 exhorts him to remain he answers: 'With you, never'.
He began his carreer with Verdi and ended it with Wagner. On April 4, 1954 Toscanini falters on the podium while conducting the New York NBC orchestra, he covers his eyes with one hand, he continues but is unable to complete the Prelude of Tannhauser.
After 68 years of an extraordinary career, the time had come to rest.
For total immersion in Verdi’s places, we can walk in the Master’s steps starting with his birthplace at Roncole and the nearby Church of Saint Michael the Archangel where Verdi was baptised, continuing towards the Verdi Theatre, inaugurated on August 15, 1868, in the Pallavicino Busseto Castle, and the splendid Villa Sant’Agata which preserves intact the rooms containing the Master’s furniture and souvenirs.
For true music enthusiasts, the trip begins in Parma with a Musical Promenade that lets you explore the musical history of the city by choosing these steps: Regio Theatre, Farnese Theatre, Opera Museum, and Arturo Toscanini’s birthplace.
Other significant places, which can be included in a two-day itinerary in Busseto, are:
The Verdi Museum in Villa Pallavicino
The Convent of Santa Maria degli Angeli
A journey through the heart of music under the sign of Verdi and Toscanini, discovering the unwavering connection of the city with opera, older than what you expect and deeply rooted. We will talk about arias and concertos, openings and upper balconies, enchanted batons and generous duchesses.
Musical Promenades can be arranged to pass through
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