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Scholars Defend Verdi as Scandal Erupts

A major new biography of Giuseppe Verdi has resuscitated the breath of scandal surrounding the composer's private life. ``Verdi: A Biography,'' by Mary Jane Phillips-Matz (Oxford University Press, 1993), seems to suggest that the great man's mistress bore him an out-of-wedlock child.

That has ruffled feathers in Verdi's hometown of Busseto and among scholars in Italy, even though the author pointedly says there is absolutely no proof Verdi was the father.

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The director of the National Institute for Verdi Studies, Pierluigi Petrobelli, called the biography ``scandal-mongering.''

Ms. Phillips-Matz sounds bitter that attention has focused on a tiny section of her 941-page tome, which was 30 years in the making.

``I think it is a grave, grave injustice [to Verdi] to dwell on these two or three pages. It is also an injustice to me,'' the author said in a telephone interview.

``You have a man who is a colossus of the theater, a deputy in the first Italian Parliament, a senator.... All that I can wish is that he be remembered for these things,'' she said.

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