Giuseppe Verdi counts as one of the most influential composers of the 19th century, not least for his consistent exploration of political themes within a cultural context. This was a time and a place when opera mattered, and placing on stage the themes of familial tension and social upheaval was a vital catalyst for his country?s own turbulent progress towards unification. The preludes and overtures to his operas fulfil different functions according to the nature of the main work, and when he wrote it. This broad selection encompasses the potpourri style of the overtures to I masnadieri and his first great triumph, Nabucco, showcasing the unforgettable melodies in a parade of expressive light and shade. The terse preludes to Aida and Otello are more designed to set the scene for what follows by heightening without anticipating the tension of the drama; and finally there are the fully worked-out, grand schemes of the overtures to La forza del destino and I vespri siciliani, which in their quasi-symphonic incorporation of the opera?s themes within an independent narrative design are worthy of the example of Beethoven whom Verdi so revered. Marko Letonja is Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. He has conducted the German and Italian opera repertoire in various of the great European houses, including La traviata in Berlin, Nabucco in Dresden and The Makropoulos Case at La Scala, Milan. His Verdian pedigree is assured; as, of course, is that of the native musicians of the Orchestra Regionale Filarmonia Veneta.