Arrigo Boito (Italian: [arˈriɡo ˈbɔito]; born 24 February 1842 – died 10 June 1918), aka Enrico Giuseppe Giovanni Boito, pseudonym 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, Józefina 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 novelist.
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.
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 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. Boito successfully revised the libretto for Verdi's original 1857 Simon Boccanegra, which then premiered to great acclaim in 1881. With that, their mutual friendship and respect blossomed. After their years of close association, when Verdi died in 1901, Boito was at his bedside.
Although Verdi's aim to write the music for an opera based on Shakespeare's King Lear never came to anything, (except that a libretto for Re Lear does exist), 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.
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.
Recordings of two operas exist:
Depictions in media
- The play After Aida — a 1985 play-with-music by Julian Mitchell — depicts the struggle of Giulio Ricordi and Franco Faccio to get the retired Verdi to collaborate with young Boito on a project, which resulted in Otello.
- "Elegy in memory of Arrigo Boito" on YouTube, a piece by the composer Victor Copytsko. Using texts by F.I.Chaliapin, V.Doroshevitch, C.Pepoli (2000).
- Businelli, p. 51
- Boito, Arrigo; Przeslica, Agnieszka, ed. "Publication of Boito's A minor Symphony". Boccaccini E Spada. Retrieved 11 November 2008.
- [author missing], The Independent Review, 4 August 2003, p. 15.
- Recordings source: operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Ashbrook, William (1998), "Boito, Arrigo", in Stanley Sadie, (Ed.), The New Grove Dictionary of Opera, Vol. One, pp. 527–529. London: MacMillan Publishers, Inc. 1998 ISBN 0-333-73432-7 ISBN 1-56159-228-5
- "Arrigo Enrico Boïto", Opera Glass Composer Index, (Stanford University) on opera.stanford.edu. Retrieved 17 January 2014
- Budden, Julian (1984), The Operas of Verdi, Volume 2: From Il Trovatore to La Forza del Destino. London: Cassell. ISBN 9780195200683 (hardcover) ISBN 9-78019520450-6 (paperback).
- Budden, Julian (1984), The Operas of Verdi, Volume 3: From Don Carlos to Falstaff. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-30740-8
- Businelli, Mariella; Giampiero Tintori (1986), Arrigo Boito, Musicista e Letteratto, Nuove Edizioni
- D'Angelo, Emanuele (2007), "Arrigo Boito", in Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies, edited by Gaetana Marrone. New York: Routledge. Vol. 1, pp. 271–274.
- D'Angelo, Emanuele (2010), Arrigo Boito drammaturgo per musica: Idee, visioni, forma e battaglie, Venezia, Marsilio.
- De Van, Gilles (trans. Gilda Roberts) (1998), Verdi’s Theater: Creating Drama Through Music. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-14369-4 (hardback), ISBN 0-226-14370-8
- Kimball, David (2001), in Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-140-29312-4
- Maeder, Costantino, Il real fu dolore e l'ideal sogno. Arrigo Boito e i limiti dell'arte, Cesati: Firenze, 2002.
- Viagrande, Riccardo (2008), Arrigo Boito "Un caduto chèrubo", poeta e musicista, Palermo, L'Epos.
- Viagrande, Riccardo (2013), Verdi e Boito. "All'arte dell'avvenire". Storia di un'amicizia e di una collaborazione artistica, Monza, Casa Musicale Eco.
- Walker, Frank (1982), "Boito and Verdi" in The Man Verdi, New York: Knopf, 1962, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-87132-0
- Mefistofele Creative Commons MP3 Recording