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March 2013
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Less Miserables

Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo

Hear Ernani on the Tuesday Night Opera starting at 8:00 PM.

Q. Does the name Claude-Michel Schönberg mean anything to you?

The stories and poems of Victor Hugo have inspired hundreds of pieces of music. The recent Academy Award-winning musical pays tribute to the poignancy of his characters over 150 years after they were conceived. Circling back to the author, it is wonderful to consider composers who inhabited the same space as he. Theirs was a world of revolution, censorship, a constantly shifting political landscape, as well as scientific achievement and great art.

Giuseppe Verdi tasted his first major success with his 1842 opera, Nabucco. That he should turn to Victor Hugo the following year was not only inspired, but shrewd. Translations of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame had placed Hugo’s prose in the hands of readers across Europe. With Les Miserables still twenty years away, Verdi selected an early work, Hernani. Verdi’s Ernani premiered at La Fenice in 1844 and made its way to New York by 1847.

The year after publishing his famed Hunchback, Victor Hugo returned to that idea for a play, moving it to the French court for Le roi s’amuse. Though the play isn’t among Hugo’s most celebrated creations, Verdi’s treatment of it is–that hunchback became Rigoletto.

There’s no disputing the tremendous success of “Les Mis,” but how many people can name the composer? That credit goes to Claude-Michel Schönberg.

Tonight WFMT offers Victor Hugo with a nineteenth century sensibility: Giuseppe Verdi’s Ernani. The Tuesday Night Opera starts at 8:00 PM. This is the third installment in a year-long celebration of Verdi at 200.

For a complete experience, download the Italian-English libretto of Ernani.  Ernani Libretto

And while you’re at it, treat yourself to a little Rigoletto at the Civic Opera House throughout the month of March.

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