Verdi in 19th Century Malta The University of Malta Library is commemorating the first centenary from the demise of Giuseppe Verdi (1813 -1901) with an exhibition of librettos of the great composerís opera performances in 19th century Malta. The exhibition draws heavily from the Universityís prestigious collection of opera librettos which was acquired in various stages through purchases from the antiquarian market and from the estate of theatre lovers Mikiel Ang Borg and Tancred Gouder. The University's collection covers 384 librettos from 1812 to date, and a number of benefit-night gala-performance programmes printed on silk. The collection reflects the tastes of the theatre-loving public and is particularly strong in late 19th century productions when performances at the Teatro Manoel and the Theatre Royal were enthusiastically acclaimed by Maltese middle-class society, and a strong British garrison. From a bibliographical point of view the University librettos are particularly interesting. Their production reflects the vicissitudes of press freedom, religious and political censorship, the emergence of foreign copyright legislation, and the flowering of a number of Maltese printing presses which specialized in libretto printing. Particularly fascinating is the re-issue of original librettos, with cancel leaves, years after the original performance; the predilection towards productions based on British history and literature and the, at times hilarious, English renderings of the Italian text.
The exhibition was inaugurated by University Rector Professor Roger Ellul Micallef on Wednesday 24th October 2001 at 11.30a.m., with a programme that included choral selections from Verdi under the direction of Dr Mro. Dion Buhagiar, and a short talk on the libretto collection by Dr P. Xuereb. The exhibition will be open to the general public during office hours until the end of November 2001.