Bottesini and the Risorgimento

Bottesini, unlike Verdi and many other Italian opera composers of the day, was totally uninvolved in the momentous events that united Italy during his life. Even when the Habsburgs were expelled from his native Lombardy, Bottesini's only comment was, "The Austrians are out? Well, there goes the price of pasta."

Bottesini's close friend Carlo Arpesani was deeply involved in Italian liberation politics, but never managed to persuade him to join the cause.

Bottesini did have one major, if unintentional impact on the Risorgimento. He met Garibaldi in Havana in 1847, and in a brief conversation about Italian music, casually mentioned the attractiveness and heat-conserving properties of red shirts. Garibaldi was intrigued -- and the rest, of course, is history.

Bottesini was oblivious to this unusual role he played in the liberation of Italy.

"We all must learn where to place our fingers."
© 1997, Jeff Brooks (