VERDI, Giuseppe (1813-1901). Autograph letter signed ('G Verdi') to Romilda [Pantaleoni], Sant'Agata, 30 July 1887.
In Italian. Three pages (170 x 108mm), (p.2 bearing trace of adhesive and adhered paper). Provenance: Edwin Franko Goldman collection.
To Romilda Pantaleoni, denying openly criticising her Desdemona at the premiere of Otello in the face of 'this controversy'. Verdi is surprised and disappointed by the contents of Romilda's letter of the 28th: 'it is never a happy affair to have to deal, directly or indirectly, with the courts. After all, if I were to be questioned, my report would not amount to much: simply to deny what your lawyer has said "that at the first performance of Otello, that I shouted, hands in my hair, 'This is not my Desdemona'; never, never!" I have never stooped to such vulgarities and those words are completely false'. His opinion hasn't changed from what he wrote to Pantaleoni and [Franco] Faccio.
Of the many Verdi roles that the soprano Romilda Pantaleoni (1847-1917) counted amongst her wide repertoire, most important was as creator of Desdemona in his Otello, the composer's penultimate opera, which premiered at La Scala on the 5 February 1887. Verdi's last new opera had been Aida, in 1871, and Otello had been long in the making: it opened in Milan after months of intense speculation and public excitement with Pantaleoni as Desdemona, a part she had taken in the face of stiff competition. In fact, Verdi had thought Pantaleoni unsuitable for the part – her voice too harsh, her intonation wrong – but had been persuaded by the conductor, Franco Faccio, with whom Pantaleoni was intimately involved. Despite favourable reviews, Pantaleoni was forced by ill-health and a voice fading throughout the season to give up her contract for the tour, leading to unpleasant legal ramifications. Despite his protestations here, on 29 April 1887 Verdi had written to Faccio: 'Let's have no illusions, Pantaleoni was not good'.
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