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Guiseppe Verdi Composer Study

Updated on July 14, 2015

Verdi, the Master of Opera

Choosing Giuseppe Verdi for your homeschool composer study will add the variety of opera to your music curriculum. In his lifetime (1813 –1901), Verdi composed 28 operas! And those operas have continued to be loved right through modern days.

In fact, on the list of top 20 operas performed in America, Giuseppe Verdi is listed four times for these operas:

1. La traviata
2. Rigoletto
3. Aida
4. Il trovatore

Although Verdi did write other pieces of music -- songs and sacred works, he is best known for his brilliant operatic compositions. So as you study Verdi, you're also studying opera. We chose Verdi for one term of our Charlotte Mason styled composer study. Here are some things we used for our study that can help you design your own Verdi homeschool composer study or unit study.

Studying Verdi - Homeschool Composer Study

Traviata by B Rosen, on Flickr
Traviata by B Rosen, on Flickr

Verdi is almost synonymous with opera, so to study Verdi, you'll want to listen to lots of his famous opera pieces. The absolute best option would be to watch a live opera in person. But it that's not feasible, watching a recorded performance is also option.

Another choice would be to listen to audio recordings. Of course, with audio you won't get the entire opera experience -- the stage, the costumes, and the orchestra pit. But at least you're hearing the music and the vocals. An advantage of only listening is that you won't have to delve into some of the unseemly aspects of the story-lines. So choose what best fits your situation, possibly using a combination of options for the best exposure to Verdi.

If you do choose individual operas to study, you have many options because Verdi was such a prolific composer. See his complete list of works here. These operas were written for adults, so there are adult themes of love affairs, jealousy, murder, and suicide. Be sure to read summaries of the operas before sharing them with your children.

Free opera summary sources:

Opera Stories (public domain text)

The Victor Book of the Opera(public domain text)

Opera Opera (website)

Most of the story lines are better saved for older children. Here are some notes about several more popular operas by Verdi.

Aida, an Ethiopian princess, is captured and brought into slavery in Egypt. A military commander, Radames, struggles to choose between his love for her and his loyalty to the Pharaoh. To complicate the story further, Radames is loved by the Pharaoh's daughter Amneris, although he does not return her feelings.

State Theater of New Jersey Key Notes for Aida

Libretto of Aida

  • Il trovatore

This is a good choice as long as you don't mind a tragedy -- both main characters die in the end. We watched a DVD of this opera; my daughter and I both loved it!How to pronounce Il trovatore (audio)Il Trovatore Education Materials from San Francisco OperaMacbethHere you have a great Shakespeare tie-in.Macbeth Study Guide (PDF) from Metropolitan OperaOtelloThis is another opera based on a Shakespearean play. It's a tragedy, of course, and characters die in the story.Otello Education Materials from San Fransisco OperaFalstaffThis opera is based on Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor and scenes from Henry IV.

For biographical information about Verdi, the book The World's Great Men of Music by Harriette Brower has a chapter about Verdi. Find this public domain book at Google Books.

Verdi: Greatest Hits

To study a composer, the most critical thing is to listen to music as much and as often as possible. Buying a "best of" CD is a wonderful way to get a good sampling of the composer's most famous works. And it requires no research on your part. A music expert has already chosen the titles! This CD offers a varied selection from Verdi's most popular operas. See the list below for the specific songs.

Verdi: Greatest Hits
Verdi: Greatest Hits

1. Aida, opera: Grand March

2. Rigoletto, opera: La donna e mobile

3. Il Trovatore, opera: Anvil Chorus

4. La forza del destino, opera: overture

5. Aida, opera: Celeste Aida

6. Don Carlo, opera: O don fatala

7. La Traviata, opera: Drinking Song

8. La Traviata, opera: E strano!...Ah, fors'e lui

9. Falstaff, opera: L'onore!...L'onore! ladri

10. Aida, opera: Ritorna vincitor

11. Luisa Miller, opera: Quando le sere al placido

12. Nabucco, opera (Nabucodonosor): Slave Chorus

13. Requiem Mass, for soloists, chorus & orchestra (Manzoni Requiem): Dies Irae

14. Simon Boccanegra, opera: Come in quest'ora bruna

15. Don Carlo, opera: E lui!...desso!...I'Infante


Verdi Free Audio

Story Of Verdi In Words And Music

The Story of Verdi in Words and Music
The Story of Verdi in Words and Music

The VOX audio CDs are part of the Beautiful Feet History of Classical Music unit study. I have quite a few of them and find them excellent resources for learning about composers. I like how the music snips are woven into the biographical story. These are suitable for intermediate and higher students.


Verdi Notebooking and Lapbooking - free printable pages and minibooks

These are freebies I created for our own homeschool use. You're welcome to use them too.

Verdi Printables

Aida by fr_z, on Flickr
Aida by fr_z, on Flickr

Pavarotti Singing in Il Trovatore

This is a portion of the video production listed below. Enjoy a preview.

Verdi's Il Trovatore Opera DVD - Metropolitan Opera (1988)

Staring --Levine, Milnes, Marton, and Pavarotti.

Verdi - Il Trovatore / Levine, Milnes, Marton, Pavarotti, Metropolitan Opera
Verdi - Il Trovatore / Levine, Milnes, Marton, Pavarotti, Metropolitan Opera

This is the way we're studying opera -- through DVD recordings of live opera productions. The videos have English subtitles so that you know what the singers are expressing. As we watched, I kept a summary handy to review the characters and the plot.

The entire opera has been uploaded to YouTube. You can start watching with the links below.


Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew

Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew
Bravo! Brava! A Night at the Opera: Behind the Scenes with Composers, Cast, and Crew

If you've got little ones tagging along for the composer study, this picture book about the opera would be perfect for them. And of course, the older kids will learn from it too!


Verdi Guestbook

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    • profile image

      jimmyworldstar 6 years ago

      I've heard about a famous Italian opera, about a barber I think which sticks in my mind.

    • GioiaMulas LM profile image

      GioiaMulas LM 7 years ago

      How not to love Verdi, the composer of ' > Italian national anthem, who through his music gave hope to a people, gave Volga patriotism ... Thanks

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 8 years ago from Royalton

      Thank you for sharing another wonderful unit study. I have just recommended it on Likaholicx Hope it helps with traffic:)