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Francesco Maria Piave

Librettist

Biography

Italian librettist Francesco Maria Piave (1810–76) is best known for his long-standing association with Verdi, for whom he wrote the librettos of operas including Macbeth, Rigoletto, La traviata, Simon Boccanegra and La forza del destino.

Piave was born in Murano, the son of a glassmaker. He studied for the church and then found employment as a proofreader. He moved to Rome and joined the literary circle that included the librettist Jacopo Ferretti. He returned to Venice in 1838 and in 1842 wrote his first libretto, Don Marzio for Levi (never performed), and completed Giovanni Peruzzini’s libretto Il duca d’Alba for Pacini. His first worked with Verdi in 1844 on Ernani; over the next 18 years they collaborated on I due Foscari, Macbeth, Il corsaro, Stiffelio, Rigoletto, La traviata, Simon Boccanegra, Aroldo and La forza del destino in 1862. During this period he also worked as a poet and as a stage director for La Fenice. In 1859 he moved to Milan to work as stage director at La Scala. A stroke in 1867 left him unable to speak or move; at his death he left an unfinished libretto for Ponchielli.

Throughout his career Piave wrote librettos for several composers, but he achieved his greatest works with Verdi.

News and features

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.

Opera Essentials: I due Foscari

Opera Essentials: I due Foscari

6 October 2014

Our quick guide to Verdi's early tragedy.

Rigoletto: How Verdi revolutionized opera

Rigoletto: How Verdi revolutionized opera

4 September 2014

The composer shook up the operatic establishment with what he saw as his 'best opera', pushing his star singer to the limits.