Un Giorno di Regno
Antonacci, Gasdia; Catani, Coni, Antoniozzi, Praticò; Chorus of the Teatro Regio di Parma della Cooperativa "Artisti del Coro," Arturo Toscanini Symphony Orchestra of Emilia Romagna, Benini. Production: Pizzi. Hardy Classic Video HCD 4049 (DVD), 124 mins., subtitled
It's clear from recordings that Verdi's second opera, Un Giorno di Regno (1840), is not a masterpiece. But the Tutto Verdi series, assembled by the Teatro Regio di Parma and the C Major label, offers an opportunity to enjoy the comedy's undeniable charms in a filmed live performance.
Felice Romani's libretto, first set by Bohemian composer Adalbert Gyrowetz for La Scala in 1818, must have seemed less than fresh to Verdi, with its use of disguise and its stock characters derived from commedia dell'arte. Verdi's score is no less derivative, with obvious debts to Rossini and especially Donizetti. Bright nuggets of individuality do turn up; ensembles, especially the duets, move the plot, rather than just commenting on it, and Verdi's treatment of the two buffo roles breathes life into convention. Except in the repetitive finale, his ensembles keep evolving, thanks to tempo shifts and thematic contrasts. Even this early in his career, Verdi's rhythmic vitality seizes attention. Donato Renzetti's commanding style on the podium capitalizes on these strengths, especially by maintaining unforced buoyancy and speed.
The Parma staging, by veteran Pier Luigi Pizzi — a somewhat streamlined 2010 revival of his 1997 production for the company — looks old-fashioned by current European standards, with its pretty eighteenth-century designs and occasional touches of realism, a reminder of the days when producers preferred seduction to shock.
Pizzi's principal weapon in this charm offensive — a truly nuclear option, by opera standards — is the seductive Anna Caterina Antonacci as the Marchesa del Poggio, one of the opera's two dominant heroines. In addition to her vocal supremacy in solos and ensembles, Antonacci has the physical charms, expert timing and secure presence to triumph in a striptease and bathing scene that is both risqué and risky.
In her more modest domain, the resourceful Alessandra Marianelli, as the young Giulietta, proves a handful for the smitten Edoardo (Ivan Magrì), whom she slaps into submission in their Act II duet. Marianelli, avoiding Antonacci's décolletage and without that singer's brilliance, has her own winning vivacity, especially when not trying to imitate such glamour.
An implicit war of the sexes is lost from the start by the hapless males. As the quiet center of so much commotion, Guido Loconsolo's handsome Cavaliere di Belfiore, temporarily disguised as King Stanislaus I of Poland (1677–1766), is benevolent and judicious, vocally warm and persuasive in an atypical, lyrical Verdi baritone role. Pizzi is apparently content to keep the tenor part of Edoardo generic and mostly vocal. His pleasant aria, "Pietoso al lungo pianto," is well served on recordings by Juan Diego Flórez and (in a complete version of the opera from 1973) José Carreras. Ivan Magrì — often impressive, with his explosive timbre that suggests a permanent bleat — has too little sense of line and shading for this bel canto assignment.
The director's attempts at freshness sometimes feel more superimposed than natural, as the choristers stir sauces in the kitchen like automatons or munch awkwardly on apples during the ingenue's cabaletta. While the infectious tempos invite dancing, both the chorus and the principals execute their modest steps with a mixture of caution and discomfort.
C Major's is not the only version of Parma's Giorno come to market: Hardy Classic Video is offering a DVD of the production premiere from 1997, capturing Pizzi's original staging and designs when still fresh. The chief visual difference is the costuming, here in a more elaborate style suggesting the opera's original 1733 setting but sufficiently overdone to lend both sexes a comic peacock manner. The musical performance under Maurizio Benini, conducting the Arturo Toscanini Symphony Orchestra of Emilia Romagna, is refined and vivid. There is a more assured bel canto manner than in 2010, with fine, pointed singing by baritone Paolo Coni as the king in disguise and Cecilia Gasdia as a suave, virtuoso Giulietta. Alfonso Antoniozzi and Bruno Praticò offer nicely detailed portrayals of the two basso buffo characters, while Cesare Catani's bright tenor is not quite in control of Edoardo's big aria. As in the later C Major version, a period keyboard instrument lends atmosphere in the dry recitatives.
A crucial element of continuity between 1997 and 2010 is the presence of the breathtaking Antonacci, who in both cases makes an ideal, indispensable Marchesa del Poggio. She is sufficient reason to obtain either version of Verdi's little diamond in the rough.
DAVID J. BAKER
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