In June 1832, 18-year-old Giuseppe Verdi applied for a place at Milan’s music conservatory. Eight days following his audition, he was turned down on account of his ‘erratic’ keyboard technique, and the fact that he had exceeded the admission age quota. We know all this because, 48 years later, still baffled, he bitterly recounted the events to an Italian journalist.

Verdi got his revenge in the end: at the twilight of his career as the reigning patriarch of Italian opera, the Milan conservatory ingratiatingly offered to rename itself in his honour, to which he responded, ‘You didn’t need me as a young man, so you don’t need me now that I’m old and tired.’ (The conservatory eventually had the last word in the matter: it later changed its name to ‘Conservatorio G Verdi di Milano’ without the maestro’s blessing.)

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