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From celebrity chefs to Hollywood stars: Verdi’s far-reaching influence, as shown 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 Il trovatore, 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; actor Richard Briers and politician Neil Kinnock, who both chose the fiery tenor aria ‘Di quella pira’ from Il trovatore; 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 I of La traviata. Il trovatore’s ‘Tacea la notte placida’ was selected by soprano Renée Fleming, while comedian Harry Enfield included the rousing soldiers’ chorus ‘Or co’dadi’ from the same opera. Hollywood star Hugh Grant chose the famous ‘Va, pensiero’ chorus from Nabucco.

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.

Nabucco runs 6–30 July 2016. Tickets are still available.

Il trovatore runs 2–17 July 2016. Tickets are still available.

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