Second Thoughts

Second Thoughts
By Henry C. Mayer

Kentucky Opera's Smillie Lectures on Verdi to Capacity Crowd

Kentucky Opera Guild began its preseason series of luncheon intros with two winners. General Manager Thomson Smillie captivated a capacity crowd with a stunning and enlightening talk about composer Giuseppe Verdi while the menu at Vincenzo's was at first tantalizing, then delicious. That put everyone in the mood for a third winner – the 1996-1997 season opener, Don Carlo.

With all that, it was a bittersweet event, for we also realized that Impresario Smillie has begun his last season in our community.

During his talk, Thomson unveiled the Italian master as unique in the history of opera. For instance, the word, opera is a plural noun; yet it is applied to individual works. So how come? Smillie emphasized in opera, all the arts come together – and thus, the work of various artists comes together.

He also revealed that Verdi was a tireless worker: what other composer completed 19 operas in only 16 years, he asked. What other composer undertook a silence for a similar number of years, only to break it with two masterpieces, Otello and Falstaff – both inspired by two of Shakespeare's immortal dramas. And after a long career, during which his operas presented blood, tragedy and intrigue, his finale, Falstaff is simply comedy at its zenith!

Verdi also became a living symbol of 19th century Italy's struggle for unity and independence. Even the letters of his name, VERDI, could also be rendered as the name of the man they wanted to be their king: Victor Emmanell, Re d' Italia!

Smillie also noted that the two masters of operatic composition, Richard Wagner and Verdi, were both born in the same year, 1813. Unlike Wagner, who wrote music dramas that were at times ponderous, lengthy and sometimes overextended, Verdi was simply a master creator of melody! Verdi's characters were simply human – need we say more?