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The Leopard, the Bear and the Album-leaf: Giuseppe Verdi’s Waltz in F Major in Il Gattopardo

Caroline Anne Ellsmore


Giuseppe Verdi, and Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s great-grandfather, Giulio Fabrizio, Prince of Lampedusa, (memorialized as ‘Don Fabrizio, Prince of Salina’, with his ‘Leopard’ family crest) were connected as contemporaries during the Italian Risorgimento and Unification. They were also connected by allusions to Verdi’s La traviata, in Lampedusa’s novel. Giuseppe Verdi, like the composer Nino Rota, not born to great wealth, spent his life as a dedicated artist. While also known for his generosity, he lacked social grace and was nick-named “The Bear of Busseto”. Rota’s art and the aristocratic Luchino Visconti’s direction, in their re-creation of the era, brought back to life a long-lost album-leaf, Verdi’s Waltz in F Major. Verdi and ‘Don Fabrizio’, both autocrats temperamentally bemused by their times, were separated by the ineffable artistry of Verdi’s music. This artistry was exemplified in that one mysteriously resurrected sheet of paper, containing triple rhythms so reminiscent of the music in La traviata. The film, Il Gattopardo, drew Verdi from his camouflaging terrain while also revealing Visconti’s affectionate nostalgia for the beauties of a lost world. It ultimately brought together artists and aristocrats, revolutionaries and reactionaries through the dance’s musical evocation of a doomed campaign to salvage the old by subverting the new.

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ISSN (Print): 0816-5432.
ISSN (Electronic): 2200-8942.