Het is vandaag 120 jaar geleden dat de Italiaanse sopraan Giuseppina Strepponi is gestorven. Ze zal vooral de geschiedenis ingaan als eerst minnares, daarna tweede echtgenote en tenslotte verstoten vrouw van operacomponist Giuseppe Verdi.
She is often credited with having contributed to Verdi’s first successes, starring in a number of his early operas, including the role of Abigaille in the world premiere of Nabucco in 1842. A highly gifted singer, Strepponi excelled in the bel canto repertoire and spent much of her career portraying roles in operas by Vincenzo Bellini, Gaetano Donizetti, and Gioachino Rossini, often sharing the stage with tenor Napoleone Moriani and baritone Giorgio Ronconi.
She was described as possessing a “limpid, penetrating, smooth voice, seemly action, a lovely figure; and to Nature’s liberal endowments she adds an excellent technique”; her “deep inner feeling” was also lauded.
Both her personal and professional life was complicated by overwork, by at least three known pregnancies, and by her vocal deterioration which caused her to retire from the stage by the age of 31, in 1846 when she moved to Paris to become a singing teacher.
While it is known that she had a professional relationship with Verdi from the time of his first opera, Oberto in 1839, they became a couple by 1847 when they lived together in Paris, then moved to Busetto in 1849 and married in 1859.
Bovendien had deze Strepponi reeds drie kinderen uit vorige “liaisons” à la Traviata, die ze telkens na de geboorte had uitbesteed. Toen Strepponi begon weg te kwijnen en dit compenseerde door overmatig eten, waardoor ze prompt haar slanke lijn verloor, vond Verdi troost in de armen van een ander – jonger – sopraantje, de Tsjechische Teresa Stolz, waarvoor hij “Aida” schreef. Uiteindelijk zou hij ze zelfs meebrengen naar huis om er een “ménage à trois” te vormen.
Ronny De Schepper