Phil Gossett, a founding member of Critical Inquiry’s editorial board, and a long-time friend and supporter of this journal, passed away on Wednesday, June 14th at age 75. Professor Gossett was the greatest scholar of Italian opera the world has ever known, producing authoritative editions of all the great composers, and consulting with opera companies all over the world about their productions. A long time professor and chair of the Music Department at University of Chicago, he was also Dean of the Division of Humanities for ten years, in which capacity he was widely admired for his imagination, energy, and charisma. He delighted gatherings of alumni and donors to the University with his impromptu performances of scenes from grand opera, and his wicked, infectious wit made him a precious friend to all who knew him. —WJTM
Philip Gossett, "Verdi, Ghislanzoni, and 'Aida': The Uses of Convention," Critical Inquiry 1 (Winter 1974): 291-334.
"The existence of extensive written communications between Verdi and his librettists should have prompted scholars to prepare editions of the correspondence and to analyze its meaning and implications. Only rarely can we participate directly in the formative stages of an opera, and available material such as the correspondence between Richard Strauss
and Hugo von Hofmannsthal is invaluable. Obeisance, at least, has been done to Verdi's correspondence. Alessandro Luzio calls the letters of Verdi to Antonio Ghislanzoni, 'versifier' of Aida (we shall return to this formulation in a moment), 'the most marvelous course in musical aesthetics in action.' Yet, for no opera do we have available a complete edition of the surviving letters between Verdi and a librettist. . . ."
Read the essay for free here.