Giuseppe Verdi, an Italian composer, born at Busseto, in the duchy of Parma, Oct. 9, 1814. His father was an innkeeper, and his first instructions in music were given him by an obscure organist. In 1833 Antonio Barezzi offered to provide the means for his instruction at Milan. Failing to obtain an entrance into the conservatory, he was placed under the instruction of Lavigna, a member of the orchestra of La Scala. After studying operatic composition for six years, Verdi produced in 1839 his first work, Oberto di San Bonifazio, which met with moderate success. His next effort, a comic opera hastily written to order in 1841, called Un giorno di regno, was a positive failure. In 1842 he presented Nabucco, which instantly established his fame. In this work he developed those characteristics of brilliant melody and vivid musico-dramatic effects which have maintained his popularity undiminished to the present time. In 1843 he produced I Lombardi, a work of similar musical character to Nabucco, though somewhat more finished in detail. During the years 1844-'5 he wrote four grand operas, Ernani, I due Foscari, Giovanna d'Arco, and Alzira. For a time Ernani was the most popular of his works.
Its qualities are extreme vigor and brilliancy of melody, without floridity, strongly marked melodramatic effects, and very resonant orchestration. It was first represented at Venice in March, 1844. At Venice he produced in 1846 his Attila, a feeble work, and at Florence in 1847 Macbeth, which, though exceedingly faulty, secured extraordinary public recognition. The composer was called before the audience more than 30 times at each of the first three performances, escorted to and from the theatre by triumphal processions, and offered the testimonial of a golden crown. This, however, was not exclusively an artistic laudation. Verdi was an ardent sympathizer with the liberal politicians of Italy, and the libretto of Macbeth was full of allusions to which the populace attached a political significance. In 1847 Verdi also visited London, and there produced I masnadieri, in the representation of which Jenny Lind took the principal part. In the same year his Lombardi was given, with French words and under the title Jerusalem, at the grand opera in Paris. In 1848 he wrote for Trieste Il corsdro, which failed, and for Rome La battaglia di Legnano, which was interdicted on account of the political bearing of the story.
In 1849 he wrote for Naples Luisa Miller; in 1850, for Trieste, Stiffelio; in 1851, for Venice, Rigoletto; in 1853, for Rome, Il trovatore; and in the same year, for Venice, La tramata. In 1855 Les včpres siciliennes was produced at the grand opera in Paris; and Un ballo in mascliera was first represented in 1859 at Rome. His subsequent operas are Aroldo (a revision of his Stiffelio), Simone Boccanegra, Una vendetta in domino, La forza del destino (St. Petersburg, 1863), don Carlos! (1867), and Aida (Cairo, 1871). This last opera did much to elevate the reputation of its composer, being written with great elaboration. In 1874 he composed a requiem mass for the anniversary of Manzoni's death, which was performed under his direction in Paris, and in 1875 in London. He generally spends the winter at the Doria palace in Genoa. Verdi in 1859 was a member of the national assembly of Parma, and in 1861 of the Italian parliament; and in November, 1874, the king made him a senator.