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Monument to Giuseppe Verdi | © Club dei 27
Monument to Giuseppe Verdi | © Club dei 27

Francesco Campanini Searches For Verdi's Lost Monument

Picture of Livia Hengel
Updated: 29 December 2016
There’s something so compelling about lost historical sites — pieces of history that once existed and were admired by our predecessors, yet that no longer possess a physical presence in the world. From the lost wonders of the ancient world to the recent destruction of monuments in Iraq and Syria, the idea that we can know and hear of sites that only exist in oral histories, written record, film or photography can be dizzying. In some instances it can prompt a desire to revisit and revive the past, which is precisely what motivated director Francesco Campanini to produce a documentary about the lost Giuseppe Verdi monument in Parma, a majestic monument built to commemorate one of Italy’s most beloved opera composers.


Monument to Giuseppe Verdi | © Club dei 27

Monument to Giuseppe Verdi | © Club dei 27

The ceremonial structure was erected in 1913 on the bicentennial anniversary of Giuseppe Verdi’s birth, and was truly an expression of grandeur and admiration for the composer. It was not unlike other triumphal altars, a smaller replica of ancient buildings such as the ancient Altar of Pergamon or the National Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Rome (the latter of which was inaugurated just 2 years prior). It included 28 statues to represent Verdi’s most beloved operas, and occupied a prime position in the city of Parma that was close to the train station to ensure that all visitors would bear witness to the structure during a visit to the city. Unfortunately, the monument was hit by Allied bombings in World War II and was ultimately dissembled, in spite of heated debates at the time. Only nine of the statues were saved (now on view in the Arena del Sole in Roccabianca), along with a base relief depicting Giuseppe Verdi surrounded by muses.

Surviving Base Relief | © Pramzan/WikiCommons

Surviving base relief | © Pramzan/WikiCommons

This loss of cultural heritage fascinated young director Francesco Campanini, a fan of Verdi’s operas (in particular La Traviata), prompting him to address the construction, and eventual destruction, of this imposing structure in his documentary Giuseppe Verdi and the Glory: The Monument of the Centennial. Campanini, in paying homage to Verdi and documenting the unique story of his lost monument, sifted through hundreds of forgotten state archives detailing everything from the figures and expenses of the composer, to offering a glimpse into the lives of the structure’s architect, Lamberto Cusani, and sculptor, Ettore Ximenez. Campanini was also able to reconstruct a 3D model of the altar thanks to a crowdfunding campaign.

Campanini’s admiration of Giuseppe Verdi should come as no surprise: Verdi is widely regarded as one of Italy’s most important composers and penned 37 operas during his long life. Born in 1813 in Bussetto, a small town in Emilia-Romagna, his work flourished during the ‘golden age’ of opera that occurred in the mid-to-late 19th century, and his productions are enduringly popular. His best-known operas – Nabucco, Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata – enchanted audiences with their vigor and emphasis not only on powerful vocals but on theatrical elements and storytelling.

Giuseppe Verdi and the Glory was released in Parma last year and will be released in Rome on November 25th, 2016. For more information, visit the Giuseppe Verdi Documentary Facebook page.