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intelligence squared: Verdi vs Wagner: the 200th birthday debate with Stephen Fry

12/07/2019

Think opera and you think Verdi. Verdi created some of the most beloved operas of all time, from the romantic tragedy of La traviata and Rigoletto to the Shakespearian dramas of Macbeth, Otello and Falstaff.

Verdi’s music transcends the barriers between high and low culture. Many of his arias count among the greatest songs ever written, streaming out of opera houses and into football stadiums and even the charts.

Verdi was also the outstanding cultural figure at the heart of the unification of Italy, the musical father of the Risorgimento.

Who needs Wagner when Verdi offers such richness? People who truly appreciate great music, say the Wagnerians. Wagner’s music is on an altogether more intellectual sphere.

You hum Verdi; you think Wagner. Here is opera, and music, at its epic, definitive height. To know The Ring is to be fully immersed in opera at its greatest technical brilliance and compositional originality. To appreciate Wagner’s music is not to forgive his political views, but to cast them aside in the face of irresistible, unassailable genius

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