RECORDING OF THE MONTH
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Un giorno di regno - Melodramma giocoso in two acts (1840)
Cavaliere Belfiore, posing as Stanislaus, King of Poland - Guido Loconsolo (baritone); Barone di Kelbar, - Andrea Porta (buffa bass); Marchessa del Poggio, a young widow and niece of Baron Kelbar in love with Belfiore - Anna Caterina Antonacci (mezzo); Giuletta di Kelbar, daughter of Baron Kelbar and in love with Eduardo but due to marry the Treasurer at the insistence of her father - Alessandra Marianelli (soprano); Eduardo, a young impecunious officer - Ivan Magrì (tenor); Il Signor La Rocha, Treasurer of Britanny and uncle of Eduardo - Paolo Bordogna (buffa bass); Il Conte Ivrea, Military Governor of Brest - Ricardo Mirabelli (tenor); Delmonte, squire to the false Stanislaus and also a servant - Seung Hwa Paek (tenor)
Orchestra and chorus of the Teatro Reggio, Parma/Donato Renzetti
Stage Director, Sets and Costume Designer: Pier Luigi Pizzii
Video Director: Tiziano Mancini
rec. Teatro Regio, Parma, January 2010
Sound Format: DTS-HD MA 5.01 PCM 2.0. Picture: filmed in HD 1080i. Aspect ratio: 16:9
Subtitles: Italian (original language), English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
Booklet languages: English, German, French
C MAJOR BLU-RAY 720304 [119:00 +10:00 (bonus)]
This recording of Verdi’s second staged opera is, appropriately, numbered two in the complete edition of his operas, called Tutto Verdi. All are recorded in association with the Teatro Reggio in Parma itself, or at the tiny theatre in Busseto, Verdi’s home town. The edition marks the bicentenary of the great Italian opera composer’s birth with recordings of all twenty-six of his operas plus the Requiem.
Following the success of Oberto, Verdi’s first staged opera, at La Scala no less, the composer was contracted by Merelli, the impresario of the theatre, to provide three further operas over the next two years. The first of the three was initially to have been Il Proscritto with a libretto by Gaetano Rossi who had provided Rossini with the libretti for Tancredi and Semiramide. Before Verdi could commence work Merelli’s plans changed; he needed an opera buffa and he passed several texts by Romani, the house poet, to Verdi. None of the proposed subjects appealed, but with time short he settled on Il finto Stanislau,written twenty years earlier and performed at La Scala in 1818 and never revived. The title of the work was changed to Un giorno di Regno (A King for a day). During the work’s composition, life for Verdi was difficult. Money was short and his wife pawned jewels to pay for their lodgings. Always prone to psychosomatic symptoms, Verdi suffered from a bad throat and angina during the composition. Then, in June 1840 on the feast of Corpus Christi his beloved wife died of encephalitis, thus following their two young children to a premature grave. To crown Verdi’s misfortunes Un Giorno di Regno, premiered on 5 September, was whistled off the stage at its first performance. The other five scheduled performances were cancelled. Whilst the composer recognised limitations in his score he was pleased to note, four years later, that what had been hissed at La Scala was a great success in Venice. In Naples in 1852 the work played to full houses under its earlier title.Although Verdi was not to write another comic opera until Falstaff in 1893, revivals of Un giorno di regno, one of which I caught at the Buxton Festival, show it to be a thoroughly enjoyable piece. The quality of the music is quite worthy of the young composer and at least equal to all but the very best of Donizetti’s comic operas.
With his personal and seemingly his professional life in tatters, Verdi returned to his hometown of Busseto determined never to compose again. He later said he spent his time reading bad novels. This was surely self-flagellation for a man who loved Shakespeare and knew the works of Byron, Schiller and Victor Hugo intimately. In reality Verdi’s life in this period was not that simple or desperate. Merelli replaced the scheduled performances of Un giorno di regno with further performances of Oberto a mere six weeks after the failed opening night. For this revival of Oberto Verdi composed entirely new music including an entrance aria for Cuniza and two duets.
The location of the plot of Un giorno di regno, in Brittany, derives from the play by Frenchman Pineu-Duval from which Romani wrote the libretto. Its plot revolves around Cavaliere Belfiore who is posing as Stanislaus, King of Poland, in order to allow the real sovereign to travel to his kingdom to sort out a little local difficulty. Belfiore is invited, as the supposed king, to take part in the festivities of two marriages being held in the mansion of Baron Kelbar in Brittany. Belfiore himself is in love with one of the ladies concerned and in panic sends for the real Stanislaus. Meanwhile he has been recognised as Belfiore by the lady in question, who suspects duplicity. With thwarted love elsewhere, the plot has many twists and turns until all is sorted out for the requisite happy ending, best seen rather than merely described. In this respect, all of the issues in this Tutto Verdi series have a ten-minute bonus introduction with a spoken narrative available in English. This introduction takes the viewer through the complexities of the story alongside snippets from the production. In the case of Un giorno di Regno there are many virtues in taking advantage of this facility, unless you prefer the surprises of the story without foreknowledge.
This production, by Pier Luigi Pizzi who was also responsible for the sets and costumes, was first staged in the Teatro Reggio in 1997. It was revived for the first time since for the opening of the 2010 season, doubtless with these Tutto Verdi recordings in mind. It features both Pizzi himself as the revival director, and Anna Caterina Antonacci, who was also the Marchessa in that original 1997 staging.
As is the norm with Pizzi, the sets and costumes are in period and the production straightforward; no gimmicks, concepts or Regietheater! The set, the Breton home of Baron Kelbar, is appropriately grand yet easily flexible to facilitate the quick scene-changes required for the different internal locations and the garden. The costumes of the ladies are superbly colourful. Pizzi also has the facility of staging the various scenes so as to give the singers maximum opportunity to fill their role with an ease that is evident throughout.
Some of the cast look very young, not least Paolo Bordogna as Il Signor La Rocha, who is scheduled to marry the Marchessa. His acting, in voice as well as body, especially when La Rocha tries to get out of his intended marriage is masterful. The duet between him and his host, two buffa basses, is a particular highlight of the opera and of this performance (CH.24). Also enjoyable is their earlier duet (CHs.24-25) with the Kelbar of Andrea Porta well up to the competition in singing and acting. The young lovers, Eduardo and Giuletta di Kelbar, sung by Ivan Magrì and Alessandra Marianelli, are winsome in appearance and act well. She is somewhat thin in the mid-voice at the start, but her voice becomes fuller as act one progresses (CHs. 16-17). He, however, is often unable to staunch the quick fluttery vibrato that almost becomes a bleat at times. Nonetheless he does have moments of elegant phrasing and vocal strength in the demanding high lying role (CHs.29-31).
A lot of the vocal and acting demands fall on the shoulders of Guido Loconsolo as Belfiore and Anna Caterina Antonacci as the Marchessa. He is new to me. His acting and singing in this performance, in matters of diction, vocal characterisation and sheer beauty of tone and colour is first rate: CHs.6. 8-11 and in the ensembles and finales. Add his physical stature and stage presence and I can foretell a considerable future in roles in Mozart and Rossini for a start. Anna Caterina Antonacci is well known on the international circuit in a wide variety of roles from Carmen (Decca DVD 074 3312) to Rossini (see review). As in those performances her portrayal of the Marchessa del Poggio, whether appearing in a cerise outfit, and semi-stripping to take a bath, to the lovely tone she brings throughout is consummate and aided by the committed acting for which she is renowned. Notable is her vocal tone and phrasing, as well as acted portrayal, as the Marchessa manoeuvres the marriage of Giulietta and Eduardo (CHs.21-23) and later keeps Belfiore on a string (CHs.36-38).
With the quality of singing, wonderfully natural sets and elegant costumes, it is with special relief that I note that the conducting of Donato Renzetti and the acting and singing of the chorus are icing on the cake. Renzetti’s scintillating rendition of the overture, with visuals in the form of ballet dancers, sets the tone for the whole of the captivating performance of this rarely staged Verdi opera. Not as rare as others, as it comes out at twentieth in terms of performances of the composers twenty-six operas!
The booklet with the introductory sampler to this Tutto Verdi series claims this performance, and the forthcoming Alzira, Verdi’s eighth opera, as firsts in the visual medium. Well, the 1997 performance of this production is on offer on the Hardy Classics label on Amazon with Paolo Cioni, Cecilia Gaasdia and Bruno Pratico among the cast alongside Anna Caterina Antonacci with Maurizio Benini on the rostrum. It is in 4:3 aspect ratio. On CD the Italian company Cetra thought the piece sufficiently strong to issue a recording at the time of the fiftieth anniversary of the composer’s death in 1951. Although re-issued by Warner-Fonit it is not a serious competitor against the 1973 recording in Philips’ early Verdi series under Gardelli’s sympathetic baton. Featuring José Carreras, Jessye Norman and Fiorenza Cossotto (422 429 2) it is thoroughly recommendable if you must have CD. Otherwise this performance is unmatchable for photography and. sound and is well conducted and sung.
Robert J Farr
A joy to watch and to hear. An absolute must for all Verdi lovers.
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