It was back in 1958 that in a local sandwich bar in the centre of Parma called “Grotta Mafalda”, a number of people gathered on their way to or from the Teatro Regio Opera House; men of passion and fire who, between a tasty sandwich and a glass of good local wine, chatted animatedly about singers, voices, lyric opera and the works of Giuseppe Verdi.

As a result, the owners of the bar, Emilio Medici and Carlo Ziveri, took matters into their own hands and the Association of Verdi Enthusiasts “Grotta Mafalda” came into being. The first meeting of the Club took place in the cellars of the sandwich bar and it was then that each member of the 27 was assigned the name of a work by Giuseppe Verdi.

From the offset this Verdi Den attracted visits from the most important names associated with the world of lyric opera: Tebaldi, Corelli, Del Monaco, Tucker, Milnes, Domingo and many others. The press, too, as well as national television, started to show an interest in the Club. Let us remember a memorable article by a famous Italian journalist, Enzo Tortora, who at the time was collaborating with a local Emilian newspaper “Il Resto del Carlino”, which began with the intriguing opening sentence: “May I ? My name is Traviata…….”

From the Grotta Mafalda to the Club of the 27

In 1974 with the creation of the new autonomous seat in a former cellar in Via Farini in the centre of Parma, the association decided to change its name and the group became the “GROUP OF VERDI ENTHUSIASTS – CLUB OF THE 27”. The group drew up a statute which stated that the aim was to “honour and remember Maestro Giuseppe Verdi as one of the most significant musical virtuosi of all time, and to spread knowledge and appreciation of his work, in particular amongst young people, through any initiative considered useful to this end” (art.2)

During this period some of the most significant enterprises undertaken by the Club emerged, above all, the creation of the insignia “Cavaliere di Verdi – Knight of Verdi” assigned to those people whose activities have carried the name and fame of the great Maestro all over the world. Another exciting undertaking has been the prize “Do you know Verdi ?” aimed at the last 2 years of primary schools in Parma and the Province of Parma. Last, but not least, the annual official celebrations on the 10th October to commemorate Verdi’s birth and on the 27th January to remember his death.

In 2013 on the occasion of the bicentenary of Verdi’s birth, two new initiatives emerged, both destined to become permanent additions to the Club’s calendar: “Fuoco di Gioia – Firework of Joy”, the charity concert organized every year during the Festival Verdi and an event entitled “The Young for Verdi” which allows young singers to test their skills with Verdian arias.

The current home of the club, in the kingdom of music

The Club moved its seat in 2006 following a need for more space and thanks to the involvement of the then Mayor of Parma, Elvio Ubaldi. The new seat is in the underground area of the Casa della Musica – the House of Music within Palazzo Cusani, and it is here that every Thursday the Club meets to listen to music, to chat about music and to receive friends who share the same ideals. The Association’s anthem is the “Va’ pensiero” chorus from Nabucco which is probably the best known Verdi aria of all, and the guests who descend into the Verdi den are greeted with these notes intoned in the semi darkness where only a tiny spotlight illuminates the bust of the Maestro.

On certain special occasions it is possible to visit the haunt and enjoy this unforgettable experience