Two hundred years after his birth, we celebrate one of the most influential composers of the nineteenth century, Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). As 2013 marks his bicentennial, the operatic world honors his contributions and achievements with hundreds of performances worldwide. By the time he was 40, Verdi was the most famous and most frequently performed Italian opera composer in Europe. But if not for Nabucco, he might have turned away from opera permanently while still in his late 20s.

In November of 1839 Verdi’s first opera, Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio, was accepted at La Scala. It ran for multiple performances and was well received, winning him a contract for three additional operas. Tragically, the composer’s wife, Margherita, and two young children all died shortly after the premiere, and as a result Verdi’s second opera, Un giorno di regno, was a complete failure. The despondent Verdi resolved never to compose again until the maestro at La Scala, Bartolomeo Merelli, forced the libretto for Nabucco on him. He was deeply moved by the Biblical story and the opera premiered two years later in 1842. Nabucco enjoyed glorious success and carried Verdi’s reputation across Italy, Europe, and the New World.