Confronting Bodies: Italian Church and Government
Date of Action: 1850
Description of Artwork: An opera entitled Stiffelio about "a contemporary Protestant minister in Salzburg whose non-violent beliefs are shaken by his wife's infidelity." Within the course of the narrative "the preacher, searching for a sermon subject, hits on Christ's defense of the woman about to be stoned for adultery."
Description of Incident: Due to the staunch Catholic population of 1850's Italy, and the historical policy which prohibited in a church service on stage, Stiffelio was considered completely inappropriate and was thus transformed into Aroldo, "with the hero a returning English crusader, not a man of peace, but of war, the blood of countless infidels staining his sword."
Results of Incident: Stiffelio (its original score) was successfully buried during Verdi's lifetime and its existence remained unknown until 1968 when two copyists manuscripts were discovered in the Naples library, Biblioteca Di San Pietro a Majella. Since that time several Verdi scholars have lead the search to recover the entire original version of Stiffelio, with the Verdi family's consent to access Verdi's Sant' Agata estate. Speculative productions in Italy as well as its 1976 U.S. premiere at Vincent La Selva's New York Grand Opera at the Brooklyn Academy of Music have preceded the expected publication of the 'critical score' by Ricordi of Milan (Verdi's original publisher) and the University of Chicago Press, pending the discovery of "Verdi's autograph for the short but most censored final scene."
Source: Village Voice
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