They also reflect the passage of time. In the sketches for “Luisa Miller,” which premiered in 1849, Verdi’s handwriting is the “very ordered” writing of a young man, Ms. Pellegrini said, but it becomes “much looser” in the sketches for “Falstaff,” which had its premiere 44 years later. Many of the pages, she added, are difficult to read: “They’re mostly working drafts and sketches,” not intended for posterity.
The varying quality of the paper — including porous, less valuable paper that Verdi probably used for initial drafts and more expensive sheets on which he jotted fuller musical sketches — could assist scholars in establishing a timeline of Verdi’s thoughts. “It’s an incredibly important” cache of documents, Mr. Cappelletto, the Studi Verdiani editor, said, which will be “essential for future critical editions.”
Verdi’s heirs, the Carrara Verdi family, are less enthusiastic about the trunk’s notoriety, and even less so about the removal from the villa by the culture ministry of another cache of documents — around 24,000, including letters and sundry papers — after experts determined that the family was not preserving them correctly. Those papers are now being held in sealed boxes at the state archive in Parma.
The Verdi villa was never widely open, but scholars complained that under the family’s stewardship, it was far too difficult to access documents — despite the fact that Verdi’s papers were declared of public interest in 2008, and as such had to be made available to the public. The culture ministry took the trunk from the villa in January 2017, partly in response to the complaints.
There is no substitute for original documents, said Fabrizio Della Seta, a professor of music at the University of Pavia in Cremona, who oversaw the critical edition of “La Traviata” 20 years ago. Access is “indispensable,” he said, and “must be guaranteed.”
Angiolo Carrara Verdi, one of the composer’s heirs and the Villa Verdi’s current caretaker, declined to be interviewed. Officials at the culture ministry who oversaw the transfer of the papers, as well as ministry officials at local archives, also declined to comment.