Odyssey Opera :: ’Un giorno di regno’

by Ed Tapper

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 12, 2014

Gil Rose
Gil Rose  (Source:Liz Linder)

Odyssey Opera's production of Verdi's little-seen "Un giorno di regno" runs through the end of the week at Boston University Theatre on Huntington, alternating with the company's other production of two, rarely-performed one-act operas, Mascagni's "Zanetto," and Wolf-Ferrari's "Il segreto di Susanna." Judging from the Verdi, these are musical events not to be missed!

"Un giorno di regno," Verdi's second opera, could easily have been his last. Following the modest success of his first music drama, "Oberto," Verdi was asked by La Scala to compose a work in a lighter vein. However, writing a comedy proved a difficult chore when the young composer suffered the death of his two children, and then his wife. To worsen matters, the 1840 premiere of "Un giorno..." was a veritable fiasco---causing Verdi to retreat entirely from the music world. Yet his retirement was short-lived. The following year be became Inspired by the libretto to "Nabucco," and composed a smash opera; and the rest is music history.

From the overture onward, "Un giorno di regno" is decidedly Bel Canto in style, strongly influenced by Donizetti and Rossini. It contains a generous quantity of lyrical and virtuoso arias, tuneful choruses, and several, surprisingly, complex ensembles. The plot revolves around an adventurer who is hired to impersonate a king. The ruse is successful, until he is recognized by his lover, the Marchesa. By then, he has granted royal permission for two young lovers, Edoardo and Giulietta, to be wed, against the wishes of the girl's father. The opera ends happily with a double wedding. Although the basic humor is very much of its period, the libretto does contain a few interesting psychological insights.

Michael Chioldi
Michael Chioldi  

Due to the stigma of the work's initial failure, and the fact that the youthful Verdi was thought to be out of his element in comedy, "Un giorno di regno," has been largely neglected over the years. Odyssey Opera, the area's new company dedicated to presenting unusual repertoire, has set straight the record, mounting an altogether sensational production of what turns out to be a forgotten masterwork. In doing so, the company is treating Boston audiences to about the finest opera seen here in many years.

Every aspect of the production was successful. The staging was a particular delight. There were no self-conscious "concepts," or any element that detracted from the music, or was disrespectful to the composer's intentions. The stage direction was lively, and consistently engaging, and the added humorous touches, subtle, and clever. The lighting designs were unusually effective. Though fairly simple, the costumes evoked the period nicely. Likewise, the sets were bare-boned; but, as the singing was of an unusually high order, they were certainly sufficient.

As the title "King for a Day," Michael Chioldi proved himself a force with which to be reckoned. He has a baritone of great size and beauty. Furthermore, he sings with musicality and nuance, and is a wonderfully charismatic stage presence. This is a true "Verdi baritone." Amy Shoremount-Obra was a delightful Marchesa. Though her voice has a mezzo coloration, she soars effortlessly to stratospheric, high notes, and treated Boston audiences to several in this production. And she is a natural comedienne.

As the young lovers, Yeghishe Manucharyan and Jessica Medoff were both quite good. Hardly a stranger to Boston audiences, Manucharyan is well-schooled in Bel canto style, and his lyric tenor was in fine form. Medoff's sizeable soprano has a dark quality, not unlike that of Shoremount-Obra. For contrast and veracity, a more soubrette-ish sound would have been more appropriate. Yet she sang extremely well, and her physical beauty qualified her as a believable, young heroine.

Boston regulars, baritones James Maddalena and David Kravitz sang splendidly, playing their buffo roles to perfection; and the chorus was outstanding, fully into the comedic spirit of the work. It was gratifying to see Odyssey Opera's music director Gil Rose securely at the helm. He led a taut, spirited performance. The rhythms were cleanly incised, and the tempi were ideal. The orchestra responded remarkably well to his leadership, scarcely missing a note.

Historians feel that the initial failure of "Un giorno di regno" may have been the result of poor singing and staging. If the premiere production had been on a par with that of OdysseyOpera, Verdi's acclaim would have come all the sooner.

Tickets / Information: http://www.odysseyopera.org