Isaiah Berlin

The 'Naiveté' of Verdi
October 06, 1979

For W. H. Auden My topic is Verdi’s “naiveté.” I hope that this phrase will not be misunderstood. To say that Verdi was naive in any ordinary sense is an absurd suggestion. But it seems to me that he was so in a very special—now forgotten—sense, in which this term was once used by Friedrich Schiller. Verdi greatly admired Schiller’s dramatic works, which inspired four of his operas. But it is not this—the affinity of Verdi and Schiller, which has often been remarked—that I wish to discuss.