After the fiasco suffered from “Un giorno di regno,” a comic opera which Verdi worked on when his two sons and his wife Margaret Barezzi died, the poor Master was now determined to return to Busseto and give up the intentions of becoming a famous composer.
The impresario of the Teatro alla Scala, Mr Merelli, who had confidence in him because he had sensed his extraordinary abilities, invited him to read a book called Nabucodonosor. It It is Verdi in person who described what happened next, speaking to his publisher and friend Giulio Ricordi:
“I went home and, with a violent gesture, I threw the manuscript on the table, standing upright in front of it. The book fell open on the table: without knowing how, my eyes stared at the page in front of me and this sentence appeared to me: “Go, my thought, on golden wings”.
I went through the verses and I was overwhelmed, especially as they were almost a paraphrase of the Bible, which I always like reading.
I read a passage, I read a second one: then, still convinced not to write any longer, I forced myself, closed the book and went to bed! … But, yes … the Nabucco filled my head! … I could not sleep. I got up and read the libretto again; not once, but two, three times, so that in the morning I knew by heart the entire book.”
The day after, however, Verdi went back to the impresario to return the book, saying that it was beautiful but he did not want to set it to music. It ‘s always Verdi who tells about the impresario’s reaction:
“Set it to music. Set it to music!
And while saying these words, he took the book, put it into my coast’s pocket, took me by the shoulders and pushed me out of the dressing room; then, he shut the door, locking it with the key.
What to do now?
I returned home with the Nabucco in my pocket: a verse one day, another verse the day after, once a note, then a phrase … little by little the Opera was composed. ”
And when it went on stage, it was a huge success; the first of many others.