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Arrigo Boito

Arrigo Boito

Arrigo Boito's life

Arrigo Boito was born Enrico Boito in Padua, Italy, in 1842 but changed his name to Arrigo. His father was a minor painter, and his mother was a Polish noblewoman. Poet, novelist, and composer, Boito is known for the single opera he completed, Mefistofele. Boito underwent some kind of crisis and worked for 54 years, unsuccessfully, at completing his second opera.
When he showed musical ability, his mother encouraged it and managed to get him into the Conservatory in Milan on scholarship. Boito was awarded a stipend after winning composition prizes that enabled him to travel and study abroad for two years. He took advantage of the prize to visit Poland, his mother's birthplace, as well as England, Germany, and France. He was much impressed with the dramatic power of the operas of Beethoven and especially of Wagner. Boito had a brilliant and wide-ranging mind, with a devouring appetite for classical literature. He wrote numerous cantatas and other music, and he conceived plans for operas based on Nero and Goethe's Faust.
In 1868 he premiered his Mefistofele at La Scala. Boito also wrote the work's libretto. The critics didn't appreciate his work at first and after the second performance, Boito withdrew the opera and undertook modifications. Later in life he came close to completing another opera, Nerone. The conductor Arturo Toscanini championed the work, but it has not found a secure foothold in the repertory. He wrote librettos for Ponchielli's La Gioconda and for Verdi's operas, Falstaff and Othello.

Boito's Operas

Mefistofele (1868 and 1875) Nerone (1924 but represented after his death in 1862 and 1915).


Boito's Mefistofele

What an outstanding opera is Mefistofele by Arrigo Boito whose first version is dated 1868 and was revised in 1875. Irrevocable title for its originality, among Nineteenth Century's Italian productions (a favourite of great conductors such as Arturo Toscanini and Riccardo Muti), it is based on the previous model of Faust by Gonoud, but modified in a more personal version (it is Boito after all). His devil is very Italian, passionate and terrestrial. The choir, since the prologue in heaven, has an important role and lives in fascinating melodies over an orchestral thread, very demanding. Pages like «Ecco il mondo», la «Ballata del fischio», «L'altra notte in fondo al mare», «Dai campi, dai prati», «Giunti sul passo estremo» will always remain in your memory. Between infernal and classical Sabbaths, especially with the vision of Helen of Troy, it would have been easy to become “kitsch” but the theatrical and musical power of Arrigo Boito plays its role, turning it into a strong, infernal piece of work.
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