Italian librettist and composer. Everything about him was larger than
life: his Herculean physique, his torrents of words and invective and,
above all, his career of almost unbelievable contrasts. While his father
languished in the dreaded Spielberg prison, he was educated in Vienna,
ran away to join a circus, completed his studies in Milan and Pavia and,
in his early twenties, published books of verse. His first operatic task
was to rework a text by Piazza for Verdi (Oberto, conte di San
Bonifacio, 1839). Four more librettos followed quickly, two of which
he set to music himself, before Verdi's setting of Nabucodonosor
(Nabucco) brought him fame. I Lombardi alla prima crociata,
Giovanna d'Arco and Attila continued the collaboration
with Verdi but before the last was finished he followed his wife, the
soprano Teresa Rosmina, to Spain, where he became director of
productions in Madrid (and, reputedly, the favourite of Queen Isabella).
Attila was completed by Piave, in the face of Solera's bitter
recriminations. He was soon back in Italy and after 25 years of
extraordinary, picaresque adventures, he died in abject poverty.
He never worked with Verdi after Attila, though he pressed
several librettos on him. Verdi refused to have further dealings with
him, but in 1861 he contributed anonymously to a fund to help him.
Solera always spoke of Verdi with the warmest praise, taking credit for
his success. Verdi however held that Solera had only himself to blame;
had he applied himself to his career, he could have been the foremost
librettist of the day. Solera's successful librettos show an eye for a
theatrical situation, an unquenchable flow of colourful language, an
ability to express emotional and patriotic sentiments in phrases which
evoked a strong response from Verdi, and a style of versification which
propelled his lines forward. Nothing he wrote later matches the force of
his Verdi librettos; if their dramatic structure creaks at times, the
words carry all before them.