Discover music by one of the most famous opera composers of all times and learn some Italian words.

About the composer

  • Giuseppe Verdi [pronounced djoo-SEP-pe VER-dee’] was born in Italy in 1813.
  • He is one of the greatest composers of Italian opera, even though the critics at the time didn’t always appreciate his music.
  • He started playing music when he was about four years old.
  • He wrote a total of 28 operas! They are full of drama and emotions, and the main characters often die at the end.
  • With his music, he supported the Italian people and became a national hero. When he died in 1901, his funeral was attended by more people than any event in the history of Italy!

Verdi's top 3 operas

Giuseppe Verdi’s operas are the most performed operas worldwide today! Here is the top 3:

La traviata

La traviata is currently the most performed opera in the world! It is based on a French Novel called The Lady of Camelias written by Alexandre Dumas, who also wrote The Three Musketeers! In this story, Violetta is the most glamorous courtesan in all of Paris. She falls in love with Alfredo, but she’s forced to sacrifice what may be her only chance of real love.

The most famous tune in La traviata is a drinking song which appears at a party at the beginning of the opera. It is called ‘Brindisi’ (toast or cheers).

Have a listen and see if you recognise the song. If you do, can you remember where you might have heard it before?


Rigoletto is one of Verdi’s most dramatic operas. In a world controlled by the privileged and powerful, Rigoletto is mocked for his difference. He only lives for is his beautiful daughter Gilda, whom he hides away. But when she is discovered by the Duke, Rigoletto sets out on a path of vengeance from which there is no return.

The most famous melody in Rigoletto is the Duke’s song ‘La Donna e Mobile’ (woman is fickle).

Do you know it? Can you remember where you might have heard the tune before?


Aida, one of Verdi’s best operas, is set during a war between Egypt and Ethiopia. Aida, and Ethiopian princess, secretly loves an Egyptian general, Radamès, who returns her love. When Radamès is selected to lead a battle against the Ethiopian forces, Aida is forced to choose between betraying her country and betraying her heart.

Listen to the ‘Marcia Trionfale’ (Triumphal March) performed by Opera North. In the opera, this scene happens when the Egyptian army celebrate their victory.

Have you heard this song before?

Learn Italian words

In case you ever want to go and see an opera by Verdi in Italy, it might be useful to learn some essential Italian words…

Italian is known as a musical language because every sound is pronounced clearly and precisely but remains soft rather than hard. You can have fun rolling your R sound! The top of the tongue lightly touches the roof of the mouth. Practise this by saying ‘T-D-T-D’ faster and faster until you let it go on a ‘TR’.

Now use the recordings below to help you pronounce the Italian words correctly. Let’s start with the easy ones!

Bravo [pronounced BRAH-vo] = Bravo
Opera [pronounced OH-pe-ra] = Opera
Orchestra [pronounced or-KEH-stra] = Orchestra

Now on to level 2…

Applauso [pronounced app-LOW-zo] = Applause
Melodia [pronounced may-lo-DEE-ah] = Melody
Musica [pronounced MOO-zee-kah] = Music
Silenzio [pronounced see-LEN-tsee-yo] = Silence
Strumento [pronounced stroo-MEN-to] = Instrument
Teatro [pronounced tay-AH-tro] = Theater

Are you ready to learn words that are a little bit more tricky to remember?

Astro [pronounced AS-tro] = Star
Cantante [pronounced can-TAN-tay] = Singer
Coro [pronounced KOH-ro] = Chorus
Luce [pronounced LOO-tchay] = Lights
Palcoscenico [pronounced pal-ko-SHAY-nee-ko] = Stage
Serata [pronounced say-RAH-ta] = Evening

We would love to hear how you get on with your Italian. If you want to, you can record yourself speaking the words and share them with us on Twitter using #ONLittleSchool.

Experience 'La traviata' live!

If you enjoyed discovering Giusepe Verdi’s music and would like to hear more, Opera North’s production of La traviata will be at Leeds Grand Theatre and on tour this Autumn.

Book now


Search our site