Verdi and essence of evil

G. Verdi. (Wikipedia Commons)

What Makes Verdi Verdi? Have you thought this question? When I came to listen to and watch Verdi's lesser-known opera Louisa Miller, the atmosphere of the opera stayed with me afterwards, as always. Maybe this was all visible from my face when I noticed newcomers paying attention to me with a smile. Maybe the power of feeling was transmitted. What was and is my experience?

The cliché saying of "cold vibes" is true to me almost every time I listen to Verdi. Even today. There were some beautiful arias in the opera and I admit that I listened to them tirelessly before and after the opera experience. Louisa Miller has left Verdi's production in shadow of other major operas, which is damage. It is a remarkable opera where certain features that are characteristic of Verdi are clearly visible. This Metropolitan performance was really so good that I share my experience with some critics  with five stars. I still do not consider myself as a special opera expert, only as an "experience expert", to whom operas are passion. What makes Verdi as Verdi? Is there a "certain Verdi" - though he had changed his own style of composition three times in his life?

Some years ago I tried to enter the world of Verdi's mind by reading a brick-like biography of over 900 pages. I had the feeling that in his long life there were constant hardships and disappointments, sadness and depression, but also a bright side. Verdi's operas are characterized by his ability to look directly and honestly in human nature. So he gives glimpses of anger, intrigue, greed, crime, immorality, irresponsibility, deception: brief and evil in human being. At the same time, she balances this with the beauty of music. There is a harmony of opposites. Only the contradiction is interesting. In roles, the contrast between good and evil is usually strong, and often compassion is the female victim's  side.

What is Verd's "evil" that he describes? Is this exactly which has been intrigued so many constantly and created him so great as composer? Does he touch on the experiences we have in ourselves: are we familiar with them, and that's why they are so familiar? In the Macbeth, evil intertwines with the endless lust of power of human. The tragedy of Louisa Miller was in unfulfilled love and in finding that she was unable to influence her own destiny. The way the plot and the music passed towards the end was deeply emotional.

Watching Verdi's opera is about seeing how humans act when there is no conscience. Or a strange twist of fate throws one in the middle of a storm there is no escape. Opera often is like a fairy tale story. The plot development is often childlike, but it works until the grande finale has been reached, and with Verdi, the evil won't get paid. Is he a cynic? Is he a mourning artist who, with his sharp eyes, sees the complex core of our action? He does not offer positive solutions. The operas go fatefully towards their unfortunate end. "It has always been like this and always will be". Have I seen any happy ending in his operas? Maybe the only exception is Falstaff.

The evil described by Verdi is the psychological evil in man. Everyone recognizes it but presses it away from one's consciousness. It is easier to look at evil acted in the opera, in a book, in a movie than in yourself.  Though  I sometimes dislike his music, I am astonished by its beauty and by knowing - on the basis of experience - it will be accelerated into a storm, pak experience, before the end. The evil seen by Verdi is something we cannot punish and we are constantly seeing around us. Art often tells the human mind more skillfully than any theory.

Only the contradiction is interesting. Verdi's last opera is comedy: Falstaff. Tutto nel Mondo è Burla ... Tutti gabbati! Everything in life is joke.

(Originally published on 21/4/2018 in Finnish; translated 13.1.2019)

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