He was not so lucky. The composer toiled and ached over the score; and even wrote to a friend, in a moment of self-flagellation familiar to many of us, “I’m not doing anything. I don’t read, I don’t write. I walk in the fields from morning to evening, trying to recover, so far without success, from the stomach trouble caused me by I Vespri Siciliani. Cursed operas!”
Luckily for us, Verdi was being far too hard on himself (and of course he was – this is the man who famously wondered after La traviata initially flopped whether it was his fault, or the fault of the singers: “time will tell”, he said). The ballet from I Vespri Siciliani is sumptuous, theatrical and deeply enjoyable. To hear it now, performed with great gusto by a modern orchestra, is to forget that anything but ease went into its creation.
Megan Steller is an arts manager, writer, producer, and friend of the MSO.