Giuseppe Verdi: Uniting Italy With Music

Born alongside Italy’s press for nationhood, Verdi’s operas provided Italians with the music that expressed the passion for their cause and became an important part of Italy’s national identity.

A writer named Gianrinaldo Carli told a story that became famous in Italy in the 1760s: A stranger walks into a cafe in Milan, and the patrons ask if he is a foreigner. No, he replies. Then you must be Milanese, they say, and once again he replies in the negative. Scratching their heads, they tell him that if he is not Milanese, he must be foreign, to which he replies, “I am Italian ... and an Italian in Italy can never be foreign.”

In the 18th century, the Italian peninsula was fractured into parts controlled by different nations. A century later, the notion of a united Italy had evolved into a battle for independence, pitting Italy’s revolutionaries against the might of Austria and the Papal States. Although soldiers and statesmen played a key role in what unfolded, Giuseppe Verdi’s music provided the soundtrack to the desire for independence. Through his many works, Verdi reflected, and even shaped, the struggle for Italian unification known as Il Risorgimento: the Resurgence.

Italy’s fragmentation had deep roots in its past. The collapse of the Western Roman Empire in the Middle Ages broke Italy into city-states that took center stage during the European Renaissance. In the early modern period, central Italy was dominated by the papacy, while the rest of the Italian peninsula fell under the control of foreign powers, such as Spain and France.

Read This Next

Why you shouldn’t panic over the Omicron variant
How fall foliage was disrupted by climate change
A rare look inside the Smithsonian’s secret storerooms

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet