The Verdi-Boito Correspondence
Edited by Marcello Conati & Mario Medici.
English-language edition prepared by William Weaver
The University of Chicago Press, 1994
January 2000

With both Verdi's
Otello and Boito's Mefistofele being performed at the Metropolitan Opera this year, I thought that it would be appropriate to read the correspondence between Giuseppe Verdi and Arrigo Boito. Boito was the librettist of Verdi's Otello and Falstaff, and also assisted in revision of the libretto of Simon Boccanegra.

The volume contains 301 letters dating from December 2, 1879, to October 20, 1900, a few months before Verdi's death on January 27, 1901. Many, but not all, of the letters relate to work on the libretti of
Otello, Falstaff, and Simon Boccanegra. Many of the letters are also very mundane and have little of intrinsic interest. Text linking the letters expalins much that would otherwise be unclear to the reader. One learns from the text, for example, that Boito, who was adapting Shakespeare for the Italian operatic stage, actually had "shaky" English, and relied on translations of Shakespeare made by François Victor Hugo, son of the famous writer. An introduction by Marcelo Conati provides some background material, but sacrifices clarity somewhat by providing unnecessary detail.

This volume could be mildly pleasant, but not terribly interesting, for the general reader. It would be appreciated more by one who is already very familiar with Verdi's life and wants to know even more.

     --John R. Pierce
Opera Pages
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