Verdi and the Risorgimento
During the course of Verdi’s long life, which lasted nearly a century, Italy was transformed from a divided country subjected to rule by foreign powers into a unified independent state, wishing to play its part alongside the other great European powers.
Verdi’s soul could not remain untouched by the Risorgimento, the struggle for the unification of Italy. Nabucco, I Lombardi, Attila
all express his sincere patriotism and the pain he felt for oppressed peoples. In Milan he frequented the intellectual salons of the city, especially that of his friend Clara Maffei, which was most anti-Austrian in sentiment and the uprising of 1848 led him to openly express his patriotic ideals.
The maestro remained enduringly linked to the ideals of the Risorgimento (the struggle for unity and independence) and his name was transformed into a revolutionary acronym “Viva Verdi” (Long live Verdi) was read as “Viva Vittorio Emanuele re d’Italia” -Long live Victor Emanuel King of Italy!” which appeared on the walls of Rome the first time in the period of Un ballo in Maschera
. The graffiti alluded to a desire which was becoming increasingly popular and widespread year after year. Verdi himself came to believe in this project and understood that the unity of the country would not be achieved through a popular insurrection and the utopian republicanism of Mazzini but exclusively through a slow patient diplomatic process.
However political alchemy was alien to Verdi’s personality. When the unity of Italy became a reality, the composer entered Parliament. But he only remained briefly, from 1861-1865, convinced that he would be more useful to his country in his role as an artist rather than as a politician.