Home > History of Wine > “I toasted every line I wrote”: Giuseppe Verdi’s librettist Temistocle Solera

“I toasted every line I wrote”: Giuseppe Verdi’s librettist Temistocle Solera


Giuseppe Verdi. 1859.  Image from Wikipedia.

Giuseppe Verdi. 1859. Image from Wikipedia.

There was an interesting bit of wine history broadcast this morning on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac.[1]  Today is the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi.  Instead of the wine laden scenes in his opera, Garrison Keillor mentioned wine in relation to the librettist Temistocle Solera of Nabucco.  Nabucco is short for Nabucodonosor or in English, Nebuchadnezzar.  That this piece relates to wine is only  natural, given that wine lovers are sure to immediately recall that a Nebuchadnezzar is a bottle so large as to hold 20 regular wine bottles.  Any one of the four Babylonian kings would come as an afterthought.

Temistocle Solera.  Image from Wikipedia.

Temistocle Solera. Image from Wikipedia.

The premier of Nabucco was so “stunning” that the audience applauded for ten minutes after the first scene.  Giuseppe Verdi again used Temistocle Solera for his next opera Lombardi.  Temistocle Solera was not one to work on any given schedule so Giuseppe Verdi was forced to lock him in a room.  As Garrison Keillor noted, “Once Verdi made the mistake of sticking him in the room with his wine collection. Hours later, the librettist emerged drunk.”

Lombardi alla prima crociata.

Temistocle Solera was not just drinking wine, he was working according to his own recollection.  “I opened a cupboard.  A half dozen bottles of wine were lined up in there seeming to invite me to taste them.  I took one and opened it.  Getting back to work, I toasted every line I wrote, welcoming it with a good swig of wine.  When Verdi came back, it looked as if my were shining rather brightly.”[2]  What might these bottles have been?  We do know that in preparing for a trip to Russia Giuseppi Verdi ordered 100 bottles of ordinary Bordeaux, 20 bottles of good Bordeaux, and 20 bottles of Champagne.[3]


[1] The Writer’s Almanac with Garrison Keillor.  Friday, October 10, 2014. NPR. URL: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/?refid=3
[2] Clarinet and Saxophone, Volume 29. 2004. Hathi Trust Digital Library and Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane. Verdi: A Biography. 1996.
[3] Martin, George Whitney. Verdi: His Music, Life, and Times. 2004.

Categories: History of Wine

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