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Rick Steves Classroom Europe™ is a free resource allowing teachers to share the best of European art, history, and culture with their students and fellow educators.

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A Symphonic Journey: Italy’s Celebratory Aria (6:25)

Europe

Giuseppe Verdi’s dramatic “Triumphal March from Aida” celebrates the triumph of the decades-long struggle of Italians to create their own independent country in 1870. Verdi’s grand operas, beloved by Italians who’d sing along with the arias, served as a rallying cry for statehood.

Complete Video Script

Our next piece is from Italy, and it evokes the struggles of the Italian-speaking states as they set their sights on independence.

Remember, before 1870, like Germany, Italy was just a bunch of little states surrounded by mightier states that really didn't want to make room for a new country on the map. For Italian nationalists, Romantic music served as a bugle call on the battlefield, and their favorite music was opera. Melodramatic, bombastic, it just seemed to fit a country that expresses itself with such emotion.

The very most popular opera composer was Giuseppe Verdi. His operas were the rage. People would fill the opera houses. They'd stand on their seats and together they'd sing the dramatic Verdi arias, as if raising their voices in unison for Italian statehood.

This next piece was written in 1871, the same year that Italy was united. It's from the Verdi opera "Aida." While it's set in ancient Egypt, when you listen to it, the pharaoh could almost be a stand-in for the triumphant king of a newly united Italy. Up next from Verdi's "Aida," the “Triumphal March.”