Verdi’s second opera was premiered, as was his first, at Milan’s La Scala. Unlike Oberto, Un Giorno Di Regno was a complete failure. Its first performance on September 5, 1840 was its last. Verdi was devastated to the point where he considered abandoning his career as an opera composer. In a later reminiscence he attributed the opera’s failure to his grief over the loss of his wife and two children over a three month period immediately preceding the composition this comic opera – his last in this genre until Falstaff 53 (!) years later. He had conflated this terrible loss which, in reality, took place over two years into three months.
A listener today will not understand why Un Giorno Di Regno was such a flop. The opera is better than its predecessor Oberto and, while not at the level of Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore or Don Pasquale (written before and after, respectively), it’s a jolly enough affair to warrant a production every now and then. The libretto is by Felice Romani who wrote the scenario long before Verdi came along. He chose the libretto from those offered him by La Scala’s impresario, Bartolomeo Merelli; he felt it was the least bad of the lot .
The story is simple and silly enough. It’s 1733 and Cavaliere di Belfiore pretends to be King Stansilas of Poland – why doesn’t matter. In the course of a day he gets back together with his old girlfriend the Marchesa del Poggio and gets young Giulietta out of an arranged marriage with an older man and into one with her young lover Edoardo. Pretty standard buffo stuff except that there are two comic basses instead of the usual one.
The music is full of energy and bounce. But the 26 year old Verdi does not yet have the effortless grace of Rossini or the easy facility of Donizetti. The latter had to write 30 operas before he had a big success. Verdi’s big success was in the on deck circle. I think the most beautiful number in the score is the quintet that takes place in the first act. Belfiore is distracting the two basses by making them examine a map while the young lovers sing of their love on the other side of the stage. The standard buffo accompaniment nicely contrasts with the lyrical declarations of the romantic duo. Here you can easily imagine the glories soon to come. Un Giorno di Regno Quintet
A typical Italian comic opera of the period was in two acts. The second act was always shorter than the first. The conclusion of the initial act was a slow ensemble followed by a stretta. Verdi does quite well here. The lyrical start of the finale is lovely and the fast conclusion energetic and uses the main melody of the overture.
The production was recorded at the Teatro Regio di Parma on January 31, 2010. The costumes are brightly colored and time specific for the story. The action is well staged. The only jarring note is when Anna Caterina Antonacci, who sings the Marchesa with beauty and grace, does a striptease while singing her first act cavatina. She was wearing an awful pantsuit when she entered and ends up in a bathtub after she’s removed it. She and the bathtub then exit stage right. There seems to be no reason for any of this.
The other lead female role is that of Giulietta sung by the young soprano Alessandra Marianelli. Though less than 25 at the time of the performance she has trouble with her high notes which tend to wobble. In her mid range her sound is pleasant. Her lover, Edoardo, was sung by tenor Ivan Magrí. His sound is thin and tends to flutter.
For this opera to really have worked the character of the imitation king need a more forceful delineation than Verdi provided. Baritone Guido Loconsolo does as much as can be done with his part. His light baritone navigates the unchallenging role with ease. The two buffo basses – the Baron (Giulietta’s father) and the Treasurer (her older suitor) are performed with energy and panache by Andrea Porta and Paolo Bordogna. Vocally they are fine, but never rise above the competent. Conductor Donato Renzetti is another competent artist. He has led the Met Orchestra in La Boheme and L’elisir d’amore in performances separated by 23 years. Tiziano Mancini’s video direction was unobtrusive, which is to say it was very good.
So who is this DVD for? Any Verdi buff will want to have it. Those less than fully devoted to the Bear of Bussetto (his second wife’s appellation) might want to borrow it. Nabucco is next and here we get to serious Verdi.