Library: Funny stories
  • Giuseppe Verdi
    Verdi! Verdi! While Verdi was cheered by Italian patriots at every performance, their applause was perhaps not entirely attributable to a love of opera. By a curious coincidence, the composer's surname was an acronym of the phrase dearest to the heart of every Italian nationalist after 1861: "Vittorio Emmanuele, Re d'Italia!" Giuseppe Verdi: Aida Giuseppe Verdi once received a letter from a fan who complained that his opera Aida had not evoked a significant emotional response. The man demanded a refund for all of his expenses. Verdi graciously agreed to pay up - but...
  • Giacomo Puccini
    Puccini & Toscanini: The Cake Giacomo Puccini was in the habit, every Christmas, of sending a cake to each of his friends. After quarreling with Toscanini one year, he attempted to cancel the order for his cake. The confection, he was told, had already been shipped. Puccini, peeved, promptly sent Toscanini a telegram: "Cake sent by mistake." Some time later, he received a reply: "Cake eaten by mistake."   Heavenly Blooper During a rehearsal of Puccini's Tosca one day, Maria Jeritza slipped and fell on her way to the sofa from which she was supposed to...
  • Gioacchino Rossini
    Primo Rossini Rossini once received a curious letter before a performance of one of his operas at La Scala in Milan: "A lady who wishes to make the acquaintance of the great Maestro will be at La Scala tonight in Box No. 9 to tell you something she cannot put into writing." Meanwhile, the company's leading tenor announced that the beautiful wife of the French ambassador had arrived in town to see the opera and would occupy Box No. 9. As the overture began Rossini, greatly excited and dressed to the nines, arrived in Box No. 9 - and was dismayed to find it empty. as the lights...
  • Ludwig van Beethoven
    Beethoven's Deafness Beethoven once told Charles Neate (co-founder of the Royal Philharmonic Society) how he had become deaf: "I was once busy writing an opera... I had a very ill-tempered primo tenore to deal with. I had already written two grand airs to the same text, with which he was dissatisfied, and now a third, which, upon trial, he seemed to approve and took away with him. I thanked the stars that I was at length rid of him and sat down immediately to a work which I had laid aside for those airs and which I was anxious to finish. I had not been half an hour at my work...
  • Gaetano Donizetti
    L'Elisir d'amore Donizetti was once approached by a desperate Milanese theater manager who needed a new opera in two weeks. Given the urgency, he suggested that Donizetti revamp another man's work. "Are you making fun of me?" he exclaimed. "I am not accustomed to patching up my own old operas, let alone another composer's. I'll give you a new opera in fourteen days. Now send me Felice Romani..." "I give you one week to prepare the text," he told the librettist. "It must be set to music in fourteen days. Let's see which of us has guts!" The result? L'Elisir d'amore....
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
    G-sharp While visiting a farm with his parents one day, Mozart heard a pig squeal. "G-sharp!" he exclaimed. The curious party promptly ran to a piano; G-sharp it was. The budding composer was just two years old. Young Mozart At the advanced age of six, Mozart accompanied his father, Leopold, and his gifted elder sister on a European tour. "My daughter, twelve years old, and my son of seven," he once advertised, "will execute the concertos of the greatest masters on several kinds of pianos, and my son on the violin likewise. My son will cover the fingerboard of the...
  • Richard Wagner
    Silk & Satin "Wagner's sybaritism is one of the less repellent features of his personality. He could not bear to have any coarse material against his skin, perhaps as the result of a medical condition, and for many years dressed in silk or satin underwear. During his later years, including the period during which he was working on the score of Parsifal, Wagner's working environment too was draped in silks and satins, in his favourite colours, and soaked in perfume. It was [ironically] in these surroundings of extravagant sensuousness that the music of Parsifal, a work that...
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