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Verdi in Victorian London

Massimo Zicari

2. Ernani (1845)

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As early as 1844, Henry Fothergill Chorley, whose tastes and beliefs were marked by a strong tint of conservativism, introduced his readers to the operatic composer who was creating a furore all over Europe. The critic, who had not yet had the occasion to hear any of Verdi’s works, availed himself of the recent publication in London of some of his operatic airs. Chorley felt obliged to turn his attention to the emerging Italian composer because of his increasing popularity and on account of those recent events that “had called attention of our English public to the modern style, or rather no-style, of Italian singing.”1 Popularity, rather than value, had compelled him to take into account the recent rise of the young Verdi. Chorley’s conservative attitude emerges as soon as he sets his aesthetic coordinates and defines the criteria determining success in any operatic undertaking.

But first, we must remind the reader that the distinctive basis of Italian Opera, from its outset, has be...

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