Not Callas but Verdi

This film shows a 1901 funeral cortège of Giuseppe Verdi. I write “a” cortège, because I don’t know whether this is Verdi’s coffin being borne to temporary interment at Milan’s Cimitero monumentale in January 1901, or the coffins of Verdi and his wife Giuseppina en route a month later to the Casa di riposo per musicisti, where they can be visited today.

I think that the film shows the latter, because Verdi’s January funeral, in accordance with his wishes, was austere. He had asked for “one priest, one candle, one cross,” and the New York Times report indicated that his coffin was placed on “a very modest funeral car.” The February cortège, in contrast, was an elaborate state affair.

On both occasions, the chorus “Va, pensiero” was sung—in February, by a chorus of some 800 people led by Arturo Toscanini; and in January, spontaneously, by the assembled throngs.

Maria Callas’s Milan home was not far from the Casa di riposo, but I do not know whether she ever visited the tombs of Verdi and Giuseppina.

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