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Arrigo Boito

Biography

Italian librettist, composer, poet and critic Arrigo Boito (1842–1918) was an important figure in late 19th-century Italian musical life. He is best known today for his librettos for Verdi’s Otello and Falstaff and Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, and his own opera Mefistofele.

Boito was born in Padua and was raised by his Polish mother in Venice. He studied at the Milan Conservatory, and many early works display his dual talent for words and music. After the initial failure of his Mefistofele at La Scala in 1868 he began to concentrate on his literary career, translating many German Lieder and operas into Italian and writing librettos for numerous Italian operas, including La Gioconda (1876). His collaboration with Verdi began in 1879; in addition to Otello (1887) and Falstaff (1893) he adapted Simon Boccanegra for revival in 1881 and made sketches for Re Lear, though never set by Verdi. In later life Boito also supported a number of young composers.

Boito revised Mefistofele substantially for a performance in Bologna in 1875, in which form the work had more success and returned to La Scala in 1881. His second opera, Nerone, was never completed, though it occupied him fitfully for more than sixty years. Six years after his death, a version was performed at La Scala, having been heavily revised by a committee that included Arturo Toscanini.

News and features

Verdi and Boito: the fiery friendship that produced two great final operas

Verdi and Boito: the fiery friendship that produced two great final operas

28 June 2017

After tempestuous beginnings, this partnership brought the master of Italian opera out of retirement to write the magnificent final works Otello and Falstaff.

Opera Essentials: Verdi’s <em>Otello</em>

Opera Essentials: Verdi’s Otello

12 June 2017

Everything you need to know about this fiery Shakespearean tragedy, a late work from the master of Italian opera.

Verdi unpacked: A guide to the master of Italian opera

Verdi unpacked: A guide to the master of Italian opera

21 May 2015

The composer of La traviata, Macbeth and Otello consolidated and innovated the opera of his time.