In Review > North America

Un Giorno di Regno

BOSTON
Odyssey Opera
6/11/14

Well, well, well. A night at the opera doesn’t get much better than this. Odyssey Opera, Boston’s newest opera company, made its debut less than a year ago with a spectacular concert presentation of Richard Wagner’s Rienzi, the first performance of the work the city had seen. In keeping with its mission to shine light into some of the neglected corners of the repertoire, Odyssey has now returned with a four-night festival of fully staged and rarely performed works. Based on the opening night performance — a 100% delightful production (seen June 11) of Giuseppe Verdi’s second opera, Un Giorno di Regno (King for a Day), it would appear that this fledgling company has another major success on its hands. 

The twenty-seven-year-old Verdi created Un Giorno under severe hardship — in the two years leading up to the work’s premiere at La Scala, death claimed both of his infant children and his wife. The opening night was a disaster, the remainder of the run was cancelled, and Verdi would not write another comedy until Falstaff more than fifty years later. Un Giorno’s reputation would lead one to believe it was somehow personally responsible for this state of affairs and therefore unworthy of attention. In fact, it has much to offer. Although Verdi was still finding his voice — one could be forgiven for wondering if Donizetti had a hand in the final product — the work displays a youthful exuberance and contains clear indications of the Verdi to come. The young composer had a way with a tune from the start, and the powerful choral writing and distinctive blending of male voices was already in evidence.

The plot is filled with the sort of characters long familiar even in Verdi’s day. Giulietta, the beautiful young daughter of Baron Kelbar, is in love with the dashing young soldier Edoardo but betrothed instead to La Rocca, the too-old-but-never-too-wealthy friend of her father. Added to the mix is Belfiore, an army officer disguised as the king of Poland, and the Marchesa del Poggio, unaware that said king of Poland is actually her own fiancé in borrowed robes. Everything about the production was clever, clean and crisp; and director Joshua Major and his design team maintained exactly the right tone, gently poking fun at the opera’s conventions without ever actually making fun of them.

Michael Chioldi, making his Boston debut, stood firmly at the center of the evening as Belfiore, the counterfeit king, possessing a powerful and gorgeously rich baritone voice ideally suited to Verdi. As Belfiore’s vexed fiancée, soprano Amy Shoremount-Obra gave a supremely satisfying performance, nailing her high notes with flawless technique. The rest of the cast provided solid support: James Maddalena as Baron Kelbar, Jessica Medoff as his daughter Giulietta, and Yeghishe Manucharyan as her poor-but-ardent suitor. Baritone David Krantz gave one of his finest performances as Giulietta’s suitor La Rocca, the posterior half of the ill-fated May-December romance. And once again, Gil Rose made a fantastic case for yet another work unfamiliar to most members of his audience, leading the orchestra in a perfectly calibrated performance that was sparkling, nimble and fresh. spacer 

KALEN RATZLAFF

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