One of two photographs of Toscanini, framed and glazed on offer in the upcoming Important Manuscripts, Letters and Memorabilia from the family of Arturo Toscanini sale.Estimate: £1,000 - 1,500.


LONDON - As Giuseppe Verdi lay dying in a hotel near the opera house La Scala, Milan, where he had witnessed many a theatrical triumph, the city council ordered that straw be scattered in the street, so that the horses’ hooves would not disturb the maestro. After suffering a stroke on 21st January 1901, he died six days later. During his last days, he sent a note on a visiting card to Arturo Toscanini, the great hope of Italian music, who had already conducted many Verdi operas, had premiered Puccini’s La Bohème, and would become the greatest conductor of Italian opera of his generation, and one of the most important musical personalities of the 20th century.


Giuseppe Verdi. Photograph signed and inscribed to the soprano teresa stolz ("alla carissma amica teresa stolz g verdi"), on the image. Estimate: £6,000 - 8,000.

The note, written in a very shaky hand, expresses his warm thanks to Toscanini. It is dated 1901 and must be one of the last communications penned by the aged master. The late Howard Taubman, the famed music critic for the New York Times, wrote “Toscanini remembered Verdi on birthdays and holidays and for the New Year of 1901 had exchanged greetings with him. The maestro still carries a yellowed card on which the composer, in a shaky hand, had written best wishes for the New Year to his young friend.”


Giuseppe Verdi. Four Printed Visiting Cards, Inscribed by Verdi to Arturo Toscanini in circa 1900
Estimate £4,000 - 5,000.

This card is found in a lot of visiting cards inscribed to the conductor in the sale of Toscanini’s collection at Sotheby’s London on 28 November. It is an incredibly rich collection, containing two major autographs of Verdi, probably the first draft of the opening of his final opera, Falstaff, and the complete version of the ‘Ave Maria,’ for which Toscanini conducted the premiere. This manuscript may well have been a thank you gift from the admiring composer.

But nothing is more moving than the printed visiting card of Verdi, with its few, almost indecipherable words, expressing great thanks to Toscanini and, in a sense, handing over the great tradition of 19th-century Italian opera to the man who was its major exponent in the 20th century.