|Our History and Mission
Following the Fourth International Congress of Verdi Studies (Chicago, 1974), several participants felt the need to link the unprecedented surge of interest in Verdi research with performances of his music. Mary Jane Phillips-Matz, Andrew Porter, and Martin Chusid met and began to plan. Later they were joined by Claire Brook, Patrick Smith, and Philip Gossett. Their efforts were encouraged by Mario Medici, founder and at that time director of the Istituto di studi verdiani of Parma, Italy. It was their international congresses (Venice, 1966; Verona, 1969; Milan, 1972; and Chicago, 1974) and the publications (Bollettini, Quaderni, Atti, and now Studi) of that organization that had fostered so much of the increased Verdi activity.
In order to provide a broad base for an American Institute for Verdi Studies, performers, scholars, operatic organizations, critics, publishers, librarians, and Verdi enthusiasts were approached to serve as advisors. Their response was immediate and enthusiastic. Such an organization, open to public membership, was evidently both desired and needed, and on 1 April 1976 it was officially inaugurated with a meeting of the advisory board in the music division of Bobst Library at New York University.
The Institute publishes the Verdi Forum (formerly Verdi Newsletter) and sponsors meetings for the reading of scholarly papers, sometimes in conjunction with the Greater New York Chapter of the American Musicological Society. In addition to shorter conferences in Vienna (1983), at the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Mariṃ (1991 and 1997), and at the Sarasota, Florida, Opera House (1994 and 1996), the Institute organized three international congresses of Verdi studies (Danville, Kentucky, 1977; Irvine, California, 1980; and Belfast, Northern Ireland, 1993) at which there were performances of the rarely heard first versions of Macbeth (Danville) and La forza del destino (Irvine), both with scores prepared by members of the Institute's advisory board and/or executive boards, as well as a performance of Il trovatore in the new critical edition by David Lawton (Belfast). It also contributed to a Verdi Congress in London at Covent Garden (1995) and, most notably, in January 2001 it co-sponsored the joint congress "Verdi 2001" with the Istituto Nazionale di Studi Verdiani in Parma and the Beinecke Library at Yale University to celebrate the centenary in 2001 of the composer's death. With the loyal support of its members and patrons, in September 2003 the AIVS inaugurated the first Postdoctoral Fellowship in 19th Century Italian Operatic Studies to be offered at any university in the United States.
In addition, the AIVS has sponsored concerts of Verdi's songs, arias, and the string quartet, as well as concert performances of the original Macbethand the first performance in the United States of Il corsaro. The Institute has also offered a series of combined lectures and screenings of videorecorded performances. These have included the original version of La forza del destino (remarks by Andrew Porter), La traviata (David Lawton), Otello (James Hepokoski), and Un ballo in maschera (Siegmund Levarie). Recent events include benefit concerts at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, featuring such renowned artists as Eve Queler, Aprile Millo and Francisco Casanova, and a variety of concerts and lectures presented in collaboration with the Casa Italiana Zerilli-Mariṃ at NYU, which remains a key partner of the AIVS during the Verdi bicentenary in 2013.
Over the years the Institute's Archive has accumulated an extensive collection of Verdi materials, primarily on microfilm. These include films of thousands of the composer's letters, including fifteen hundred written by Verdi to his principal publisher, the Casa Ricordi of Milan, which donated the films. On the other side of the correspondence there are films of many thousands of letters written to the composer and his wife, the soprano Giuseppina Strepponi Verdi, together with drafts of hundreds of letters from Verdi and Giuseppina. There are, furthermore, over two hundred manuscripts of complete orchestral scores of the Verdi operas and several hundred pezzi staccati (individual pieces from the operas), more than twenty-two hundred printed librettos for the composer's operas, most dating from the nineteenth century with a vast majority stemming from Italy, approximately sixty manuscript and printed production books or printed librettos and piano-vocal scores with directions for staging added by hand, and a good selection of French, German, English, and especially Italian periodicals devoted to music and the other arts. The Institute also holds a number of wall posters of premiere and other early performance, as well as many films of sets and costume designs dating from Verdi's time. Recent acquisitions include a substantial collection of nineteenth-century librettos from the collection of the late John D. Mazzarella, a long-time loyal member of of the AIVS. These fascinating materials are described in the current issue of the Verdi Forum and will soon become accessible to the public in the Fales Library & Special Collections at NYU.
2013 is finally here, and the bicentenary of Verdi's birth promises to be a busy and exciting time for all of us. Plans are underway to collaborate with opera houses in the US and abroad and to promote conferences and meetings exploring and (re)imagining the role of Verdi and Italian opera in the world during his own time and at the outset of the 21st century. Verdi and the World is the overarching theme of our activities for 2013, and we look forward to sharing more details with you as they become available.
As mentioned earlier, membership is open to the public. For further information and a free copy of the Verdi Forum, please write to email@example.com or visit our membership information page.
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