Verdi’s music lives on as Italy readies to Mark the Death of Composer

Italy's reverence for the composer survives undiminished a century later: As the 100th anniversary of Verdi's death approaches Saturday, people here are preparing a passionate tribute to the man whose emotion-soaked music helped define their nation's identity. His music still plays in opera houses, television commercials and soccer games. Many Italians want one of his works, a chorus from ''Nabucco'' applauding liberty, to be their national anthem. Starting this week, cities across Italy will pay tribute to the patriotic composer, whose works include ''Rigoletto,'' ''La Traviata'' and ''Aida,'' among others. In Rome's Santa Maria in Trastevere, an ancient basilica near the Tiber, French Cardinal Paul Poupard will celebrate a Mass Saturday afternoon in the composer's memory. The music will be one of Verdi's greatest triumphs: ''Requiem,'' conducted by Gianluigi Gelmetti. In Milan, where the composer died, Verdi-lovers on Friday will spread straw on the street outside the Grand Hotel to recreate the reverent atmosphere that surrounded Verdi when he lay dying in the hotel at age 87 (the straw was intended to mute the clatter of passing carriages). Medical bulletins will be posted outside the hotel, just as they were on the eve of the master's death. On Saturday, the notes of ''Requiem'' will resound where they were first heard, in Milan's Basilica of San Marco. Riccardo Muti will conduct La Scala's orchestra. Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi will hear the same program on Saturday, but conducted by Valery Gergiev in Parma, The Associated Press reports.

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