Although there is some uncertainty regarding the exact birth date of Giuseppe Verdi, there’s no question at all that he was one of the greatest composers of the nineteenth century — a century that produced a mind-boggling number of great composers. During his lifetime (1813-1901), Verdi was the most popular opera composer in Italy, and many of his operas continue to be staples of the repertoire more than a century after his death.
“Va pensiero” comes from the third act of Nabucco, composed in 1841. The text was inspired by Psalm 137 and recalls the story of the Hebrew exiles in Babylon during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar.
Three race horses in adjoining stalls were arguing over which of them was the best.
“Of my last sixteen races, I’ve won nine,” said the first horse.
“Not bad,” said the second horse. “But of my last twenty-two races, I’ve won fourteen.”
“Impressive,” said the third horse. “But of my last twenty-nine races, I’ve won twenty-three.”
A greyhound who was lurking nearby overheard the horses arguing and decided to join the conversation.
“I don’t mean to brag,” the greyhound said, “but of my last forty-six races, I’ve won forty-three.”
The horses were clearly astonished. After a long silence, one of the horses said in an awestruck voice, “Wow! A talking dog!”