"There is in Giuseppe Verdi's life and work an almost overpowering vital force," writes music critic Edward Rothstein, "restless and sometimes ruthless, at once humane and uncompromisingly brutal. Verdi lived long enough, composed enough, aroused hostility and adulation enough, and contradicted himself enough in the process to defy easy classification. Provincial music master, farmer, and family man, he moved easily amidst the cosmopolitan capitals of Europe, lived for years in an open relationship with a woman of dubious reputation, dispossessed his parents of their own home, and came to be viewed by his servants and tenants as a severe landlord and domestic tyrant. Acclaimed as the musical voice of the Italian Risorgimento, he proved to be a reluctant Deputy to the first Italian Parliament and in later years rejected the radical politics of a new generation of patriotic hotheads. An agnostic, he composed a mighty Requiem that is one of the greatest spiritual documents of the age.