The father-child relationship in Verdi’s operas: the "sentimental landscape" of his operas
In Verdi's operas the father-child relationship is one of the most tirelessly investigated issues. Although not an exclusive prerogative, this theme recurs with particular frequency in Verdi's theater, and since his very first opera, Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio.
Among the types of father figures, undoubtedly stands out that constituted by fathers forced to intervene to restore the respectability and honor of daughters led astray by feelings of love that are as inappropriate and forbidden as, obviously, irresistible. Our thoughts immediately turn to two of the most popular operas in the Verdi catalog, Rigoletto and La traviata. Moreover, in the latter opera, Violetta is treated by Germont just like a daughter whose behavior must be contained, even though she is not linked to him by family ties.
In The Force of Destiny (La forza del destino), Don Carlo di Vargas acts as a substitute for his father against his sister. The outcomes are generally catastrophic, with fathers who, although repentant, acknowledge their mistakes too late to remedy them. Among the most significant variants, at least the one constituted by Luisa Miller deserves to be remembered, where a problematic father-son couple is flanked by a father- daughter couple for once decidedly virtuous.
Although to a slightly lesser extent, the theme of the relationship between fathers and sons is also part of Verdi's 'sentimental landscape'; just think of I due Foscari, Don Carlo, I Masnadieri, Luisa Miller and I vespri siciliani. The fathers on stage in these operas, all holders of positions of power, are united by traits of weariness and vulnerability that regularly come into conflict with their duties, but also with their feelings as a father: not only the old Foscari, Massimiliano of the Masnadieri, Filippo of Don Carlo, but also Monforte of the Vespri, who, because of his affection for his son Arrigo, leaves open the crack that will allow Procida and the Sicilians to take revenge on the French.
The tragedy does not arise from unconquerable contrasts between opposed strong ideas, but rather from the unbridgeable gap between aspirations and results. In Verdi's fathers and sons appear united by the same destiny of defeat: victims alike, fathers and sons, of the superstructures in the shadow of which they act, and which oppress them to the point of annihilation. Thus, family happiness ends up being admitted, in Verdi’s operas, only in the key of a broken idyll.