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Shelley Hansen - Lady of Lines

Giuseppe Verdi - Italian Opera Composer

Honourable Mention - 2014 Adelaide Plains Open Poetry Competition on the theme "My Passion"

The year 2013 marked 200 years since the birth of Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). Verdi's operas, with their masterful melodies, rousing choruses, sublime ensembles and stirring stories, are among the most well-loved in the world. Nearly everyone can hum "La Donna e Mobile" - even if they do associate it with a pasta commercial!

Verdi's genius was that he never lost the common touch. He wrote stories that touched the hearts of ordinary people - and through his own life experiences, he portrayed the joys and sorrows of the whole world. He stands alone!

My personal tribute in Verdi's bicentenary year traces my own journey of discovery into the works of this wonderful musician. If you are an opera lover, you will recognise the characters ... if not, I encourage to discover the operas of Verdi for yourself!

Viva Verdi!

The sublime Rigoletto quartet was the first
piece of opera I ever heard.
Thus quite early in life I developed a thirst
for the joy that each note and each word
of the magic of Verdi awakened in me,
through the stories of hope and of strife
he created in love and with sweet melody
as he fashioned the fabric of life.

As the seasons passed by, I began to explore
the enigma of myth and of man.
As I deepened my knowledge, I learned more and more
how his musical journey began
and progressed to its zenith of glorious height,
plumbed the chasms of human despair,
with the softness of shade and the brilliance of light
as the song of the soul he laid bare.

He expressed through his music the shattering pain
of the loss of his children and wife.
He impassioned the grief of Don Carlos of Spain
who was torn from the love of his life.
There is young Fenton's joy with his pretty Nanette,
and the cold heart of Mantua's Duke;
and the love that helped poor Violetta forget
bitter words of Alfredo's rebuke.

With his Chorus of Hebrews he lifted the voice
of oppressed ones who yearned to be free;
and he showed through Aida the difficult choice
between love and ingrained loyalty.
He examined relationships - mother and son -
And the struggles of father and heir,
and forbidden liaisons through which came undone
vows that once had been promised with care.

With Stiffelio's mercy, Otello's black rage,
he contrasted the motives of men,
while with Foscari and Boccanegra, the page
of injustice was sketched with his pen.
Bitter conflict and rivalry ended the life
of Manrico, and led to the fall
of Riccardo who, loving another man's wife,
reaped a harvest as bitter as gall.

With Ernani's stiff honour, Alvaro's sad fate,
he brought longing for what might have been.
From crusader to courtesan, small and the great,
the rare depth of his insight was seen.
He portrayed the emotions of plain, simple folk
just as easily as those of kings.
To the man on the street, with his music he spoke
of the joy and the sorrow life brings.

It is two hundred years since Giuseppe was born
to enrich the great art of the world,
and each score still resounds with the freshness of dawn
as it did when its pages unfurled.
To the soundtrack of centuries he penned the theme
and my heart beats in rhythm and rhyme
as I cry "Viva Verdi!" - Grand Maestro supreme -
evergreen through the forests of time.

(c) Shelley Hansen 2013

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