Arrigo Boito (Italian: [arˈriɡo ˈbɔito];
24 February 1842 ľ 10 June 1918) (whose original name was Enrico
Giuseppe Giovanni Boito and who wrote essays under the anagrammatic
pseudonym of Tobia Gorrio), was an Italian poet, journalist,
novelist, librettist and composer, best known today for his
libretti, especially those for Giuseppe Verdi's operas Otello and
Falstaff, and his own opera Mefistofele. Along with Emilio Praga, he
is regarded as one of the prominent representatives of the
Scapigliatura artistic movement.
Born in Padua, the son of Silvestro Boito, an Italian painter of
miniatures and his wife, a Polish countess, Jˇzefina Radolińska,
Boito studied music at the Milan Conservatory with Alberto Mazzucato
until 1861. His older brother, Camillo Boito, was an Italian
architect and engineer, and a noted art critic, art historian and
In 1866 he fought under Giuseppe
Garibaldi in the Seven Weeks War in which the Kingdom of Italy and
Prussia fought against Austria, after which Venice was ceded to
Towards the end of his musical
career, Boito succeeded Giovanni Bottesini as director of the Parma
Conservatory after the latter's death in 1889 and held the post
until 1897. He received the honorary degree of doctor of music from
the University of Cambridge in 1893, and when he died in Milan, and
was interred there in the Cimitero Monumentale. He was an atheist.
A memorial concert was given in his
honor at La Scala in 1948. The orchestra was conducted by Arturo
Toscanini. Recorded in very primitive sound, the concert has been
issued on CD.
Career in music
Boito wrote very little music, but completed (and later destroyed)
the opera, Ero e Leandro, and left incomplete a further opera,
Nerone, which he had been working at, on and off, between 1877 and
1915. Excluding its last act, for which Boito left only a few
sketches, Nerone was finished after his death by Arturo Toscanini
and Vincenzo Tommasini and premiered at La Scala, 1924. He also left
a Symphony in A minor in manuscript.
His only finished opera,
Mefistofele, based on Goethe's Faust, was given its first
performance on 5 March 1868, at La Scala, Milan. The premiere, which
he conducted himself, was badly received, provoking riots and duels
over its supposed "Wagnerism", and it was closed by the police after
two performances. Verdi commented, "He aspires to originality but
succeeds only at being strange." Boito withdrew the opera from
further performances to rework it, and it had a more successful
second premiere, in Bologna on 10 April 1875. Boito's revised and
drastically- cut version also changed Faust from a baritone to a
tenor. Mefistofele is the only work of his performed with any
regularity today, and Enrico Caruso included its two tenor arias in
his first recording session. The Prologue to the opera, set in
Heaven, is a favorite concert excerpt.
Boito's literary powers never dried
up. As well as writing the libretti for his own operas, he wrote
them for other composers. As "Tobia Gorrio" (an anagram of his name)
he provided the libretto for Amilcare Ponchielli's La Gioconda.
Collaboration with Verdi
His rapprochement with Verdi, whom
he had offended in a toast to his long-time friend, the composer
(and later conductor) Franco Faccio shortly after they had
collaborated on Verdi's Inno delle nazioni ("Anthem of the Nations",
London, 1862), was effected by the music publisher Giulio Ricordi
whose long-term aim was to persuade Verdi to write another opera.
Verdi agreed to Boito revising the libretto for the original 1857
Simon Boccanegra, which musicologist Roger Parker speculates was
based on a desire to "test the possibility" of working with Boito
before possibly embarking on the larger project, which eventually
became Otello. The revised Boccanegra premiered to great acclaim in
1881. With that, their mutual friendship and respect blossomed.
Although Verdi's aim to write the
music for an opera based on Shakespeare's King Lear never came to
fruition (except that a libretto for Lear was written), Boito
provided subtle and resonant libretti for Verdi's last masterpieces,
Otello in 1887 (which was based on Shakespeare's play Othello) and
then Falstaff in 1893, the composer's second comedy, based on The
Merry Wives of Windsor and parts of Henry IV. After their years of
close association, when Verdi died in 1901, Boito was at his
Libretti by Boito
The years given are those of the premieres. Boito also provided the
text to Verdi's cantata Inno delle Nazioni which was first given on
24 May 1862 at Her Majesty's Theatre, London.
Amleto (Franco Faccio; 1865)
Un tramonto (Gaetano Coronaro; 1873)
La falce (Alfredo Catalani; 1875)
La Gioconda (Amilcare Ponchielli; 1876)
Semira (L. San Germano; never perf.)
Ero e Leandro (Giovanni Bottesini; 1879 - Luigi Mancinelli; 1897)
Simon Boccanegra (Giuseppe Verdi; 1881 [revised version of the 1857
Basi e bote (Riccardo Pick-Mangiagalli; 1927)
Otello (Verdi; 1887)
Falstaff (Verdi; 1893)
Nerone (Boito, unfinished, lacking act V; 1924)
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Mefistofele. Composer: Arrigo Boito
(1842-1918). Performers: Samuel Ramey (Mefistofele), Eva Marton (Margherita/Elena),
Placido Domingo (Faust), Sergio Tedesco (Wagner), Tamara Takacs
(Marta), Eva Farkas (Pantalis), Antal Pataki (Nereo), the Hungaroton
Opera Chorus, the Nyiregyhazi Boys' Choir, the Hungarian State
Orchestra, and conductor Giuseppe PatanÚ. Recorded in co-production
with Hungaroton at the Italian Institute, Budapest, Hungary, July
2-10, 1988. Enjoy!
Prologue in Heaven: 1. Prelude. 2.
Ave Signor. 3. Scherzo istrumentale. 4. Ave Signor. 5. T'Ŕ noto
Faust? 6. Siam nimbi volanti. 7. Salve Regina!
Act One: 8. PerchÚ di lÓ? 9. Qua il
bicchier! 10. Al souave raggiar. 11. Movere a diporto. 12. Sediam
sovra quel sasso. 13. Dai campi, dai prati. 14. OlÓ! Chi urla? 15.
Son lo Spirito. 16. Strano figlio del Caos. 17. Se tu mi doni un'
Act Two: 18. Cavaliero illustre e
saggio. 19. Colma il tuo cor.
Act Two (cont'd): 1. Su, cammina.
2. Folletto! 3. Ascolta. S'agita il bosco. 4. Largo, largo a
Mefistofele. 5. Danza di streghe - Popoli! 6. Ecco il mondo. 7.
Riddiamo! 8. Ah! Su! Riddiamo.
Act Three: 9. L'altra notte in
fondo. 10. Dio di pietÓ. 11. Lontano, lontano, lontano. 12. Sorge il
dý! 13. Spunta l'aurora pallida.
Act Four: 14. La luna immobile. 15.
Ecco la notte del classico Sabba. 16. Andantino danzante. 17. Ah!
Triofini ad Elena. 18. Chi vien? O strana. 19. Forma ideal.
Epilogue: 20. Cammina, cammina. 21.
Giunto sul passo estremo. 22. Ecco la nuova turba. 23. Vien! Io
distendo questo mantel.