Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Project Verdi : Un giorno di regno

The second opera of the project, and it's this unloved comedy from 1840. It dates from perhaps the blackest period in Verdi's life :  in the space of two years he had lost both his wife and his two children. He found himself with a commission from La Scala to write a comedy to an existing libretto but his heart really wasn't in it.  In the end he ended up choosing the one he disliked the least.

Un giorno di regno (roughly translated as King for a day) was an absolute disaster. Cancelled after just one performance, it almost stopped Verdi's career in its tracks. It would be over fifty years before he attempted another comic opera. It's rarely performed, even today, and carries a reputation as an early, clumsy misfire.

The plot : A French cavalry officer needs to impersonate the King of Poland and...oh look, you can probably work it out from the title. Mistaken identities with hilarious consequences, and it all comes right in the end.

The recording : There aren't all that many, but I ended up using Lamberto Gardelli's version with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and an extraordinary cast that includes Jessye Norman, Fiorenza Cossotto and Jose Carreras.

The piece itself is less obviously Verdian than Oberto, and it's Rossini's influence that dominates here. In short, I expected to hate it. And at the first listen, I did. Still, I thought be it deserved a second chance, and I liked it rather more. By the third attempt I was forced to concede that it might be a right load of old nonsense, but it's also tremendous fun.

Verdi, on the other hand, seems to have been keen to forget it. Still, his next work would be Nabucco, and then everything starts to change...


2 comments:

  1. Thank you for introducing the human touch to the life story of this man. We just never know what paths composers (and ordinary folks) have trod, do we?

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    1. Ah well, the whole Verdi side-project is kind of inspired by RAI 3's "Tutto Verdi, Tutto Wagner" season. I still can't decide if I really like Verdi all that much but, for someone with an interest in opera, it's a little embarrassing that so many of his works are unknown to me!

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