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From celebrity chefs to Hollywood stars: Giuseppe Verdi on Desert Island Discs

The BBC Radio 4 archive reveals Verdi is a top choice for famous castaways from across the globe.

By Lottie Butler (Former Assistant Content Producer (News and Social Media))

25 September 2013 at 3.28pm | Comment on this article

It comes as no surprise that Giuseppe Verdi is a popular choice on BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs. Considered by some to be the most influential composer of operas, Verdi wrote classic works, ranging from La traviata to Macbeth, Rigoletto to Don Carlo.

A look through the BBC Radio 4 archive shows that some 334 castaways have chosen music by Verdi to accompany them on their desert island.  Those selecting works by the great Italian include Harry Potter actor and West End star Zoë Wanamaker, who chose ‘Offertorio’ from the Requiem Mass; and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who explains that he was introduced to Verdi at as a teenager when his mother, on realizing he did not know 'Sempre libera' from La traviata, feared she was 'raising a barbarian'.

Michelin-starred TV chef Heston Blumenthal chose the ‘Grand March’ from Aidawhile James Bond star Roger Moore chose the prelude to Act 1 of La traviata. Hollywood star Hugh Grant chose the famous ‘Va, pensiero’ chorus from Nabucco, which was recently performed by a flashmob in Covent Garden as part of Deloitte Ignite’s Festival of Voices.

Giuseppe Verdi is currently one of the subjects of Deloitte Ignite 2013, a festival curated by Stephen Fry to mark the joint bicentenary of the births of both Verdi and Richard Wagner. As part of the final weekend, medical scientists will explore the reactions of opera fan Stephen Fry and opera novice Alan Davies to a performance of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra. The event, entitled The Science of Opera will be live-streamed on Twitter.

This Season, one of Verdi’s lesser-known works, Les Vêpres siciliennes, will be staged by The Royal Opera in a new production by Stefan Herheim. The production opens on 17 October and will be screened live in cinemas around the world on 4 November. Richard Eyre's production of La traviata will return in April 2014.

The BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Disc archive lists every castaway interviewed since 1942, with a number of programmes available to listen to onlineFind out which castaways chose music by Wagner.

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