Hearing the Four Degrees of Verdi Square

There is a small triangular patch of land, roughly a fifth of an acre, on Manhattan’s Upper Westside, known to most New Yorkers as the 72nd Street Subway Station.  Other than housing the station’s entrance and a few park benches, this small patch of concrete is surrounded by wrought-iron fencing, trees, a few splashes of daffodils and an impressive, often overlooked, twenty-five-feet tall monument of a man, who is holding a cape in his left arm, looking straight down Broadway towards Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Opera House, almost as if he is the needle of the compass for all things regal and important. 

His name is Giuseppe Verdi, the celebrated Italian operatic composer of the nineteenth century.  Encircling the base of Signor Verdi are four other—smaller figures that are rightly positioned north, south, east and west:  Falstaff, Leonora (of La Forza del Destino), Aïda, and Otello.  All of whom are characters in his celebrated operatic works.  Verdi never took public transportation in New York nor had he ever set foot in New York.  Yet, we have a beautiful marble and Montechiaro limestone statue of him, for which this surrounding plot of land is officially named Verdi Square—not the 72nd Street Subway Station, as we often refer to it as.

As far as actual music being pumped into the square via speakers, celebrating the operatic scores of Verdi, there’s none. But if you sit on a bench, near the back of the green iron-clad station-house, you can hear a different kind of music, bringing you four degrees closer to Verdi: 

  1. You hear the subway, as if it’s that roaring timpani in the Overture to La Forza Del Destino.
  2. The usually annoying honking of automobile horns sound-like the trumpet solo in the final scene of Falstaff.
  3. The birds of spring (not the pigeons) make sounds similar to that final high-C in Aïda’s “O patria mia.”
  4. The children who walk-by, with their nannies, giggling and conversing, ring chords comparable to those heard in Otello’s Second Act Chorus, “Dove guardi splendono raggi.

At times, the sounds of the city can be rather operatic—if you take the time to listen…

To hear real music:  Starting in September (11, 18, 25), there will be three, one-hour concerts in Verdi Square, which are free to the public.  For details about the Verdi Square Festival 2011 click HERE.

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4 thoughts on “Hearing the Four Degrees of Verdi Square

  1. Fantastic article. I noticed that the chickadees in my yard sung the beginning of “Something’s Coming” from the score of “Westside Story” the other day. I listen to that song often and wonder if the birds had heard it OR if it was just my imagination.

  2. Thank you, Patricia. I just perused your site, and love the “Agnes et Yves (Ma Vie en Bleu)” story–good luck to you–getting it into print!

  3. Didn’t this very spot used to be known as “Needle Park” in the late 60’s early 70’s? It was part of the location for the 1971 Pacino film, “The Panic in Needle Park”, if I’m not mistaken.

    1. Bryant Park (behind the NYPL) was the area referred to as Needle Park. And, I need to add THE PANIC IN NEEDLE PARK to my must see films (never heard of it until your comment–so thanks for throwing it on my film-radar, Ragu4u.)

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