• Beyond the Standard Repertoire: Un giorno di regno

    Un giorno di regno by Giuseppe Verdi
    Libretto: Felice Romani; based on the play Le faux Stanislas by Alexandre Vincent Pineu-Duval

    The following is partly copy & paste from the internet & partly my own words. It's the story surrounding this opera, as much as the sparkling music, which made such an impression on me.

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    Verdi completed his first opera Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio in 1839. This was so successful that impresario Bartolomeo Merelli gave Verdi a contract for three more operas for La Scala. The first of these was to be an opera buffa.

    Although the opera would feature a libretto by the popular Felice Romani, the work would be a disastrous failure. While Verdi was working on the opera, his wife Margherita died. This, coming soon after the deaths of both his children, caused Verdi such despair he vowed never to compose again and Merelli released him from his contract.

    The premiere was a fiasco. Verdi was in the orchestra pit during the first performance and had to sit listening to the audience hiss and boo. The failure was mainly due to the libretto, which is badly written and nonsensical in parts. One wonders why Verdi accepted it but possibly, because of his state of mind at the time, he simply didn't care. The music was also criticised by some as derivative, bearing too many similarities to Donizetti and Rossini.

    But for all the shortcomings of the libretto, in this opera there are hints of the triumphs to come and in the most dreadful circumstances Verdi created a comedy with a lively & joyful score.

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    Historical perspective
    The Polish monarch, King Stanisław Leszczyński, a historical figure during the War of Succession, lost his throne after the Saxon invasion at the Battle of Poltav in 1709. He regained it in 1733, but was again deposed in 1736 and went into exile in France. The opera is set in 1733 when Stanisław returned to Poland in secret to reclaim his throne, supposedly leaving a French officer, Beaufleur, to impersonate him in France.

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    Premiere
    Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy: 5th September 1840

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    Cast of Characters
    Il Cavaliere di Belfiore, a French officer impersonating Stanislaus, King of Poland (baritone)
    Il Barone di Kelbar, owner of the castle (bass)
    La Marchesa del Poggio, young widow, the Baron's niece, in love with Belfiore (soprano)
    Giulietta di Kelbar, the Baron's daughter, in love with Edoardo (mezzo-soprano)
    Il Signor La Rocca, Treasurer to the Estates of Brittany (bass)
    Edoardo di Sanval, a young officer, La Rocca's nephew, in love with Giulietta (tenor)
    Il Conte Ivrea, Military Commander of Brest, engaged to the Marchesa (tenor)
    Delmonte, squire to the false Stanislaus (bass)
    Cori e compares, Servants, chambermaids, vassals of the Baron

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    Setting
    Baron di Kelbar's castle near Brest in August of 1733

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    Synopsis

    Act1
    The opera opens with the chorus happily singing about the fact that a King is staying in the castle as a guest of the Baron and that a double wedding is to take place.

    Unbeknown to them the 'King' is actually the French Cavalier Belfiore, who is posing as King Stanislaus in order to allow the real sovereign to travel to Poland to seize back his throne.

    The two weddings are the one between Giulietta, the Baron's daughter and La Rocca the Treasurer, and that between the Marchioness of Poggio, the Baron's niece and Count Ivrea.

    The Baron and the Treasurer discuss the Treasurer's forthcoming nuptials.

    Belfiore enters and sings (to himself) the lovely aria Compagnoni di Parigi "my Parisian friends you think I'm totally mad but you should see me now pretending to be a philosopher & a king"

    Belfiore then discovers that one of the intended brides is no other than the Marchioness who he himself had planned to marry. He's terrified that she'll reveal his true identity before King Stanislaus has completed his mission, so he writes to the real king hoping to be relieved of his duties as soon as possible.

    In the meantime Belfiore is obliged to keep up the disguise and therefore hears of the plight of young Edoardo who asks to accompany the 'king' back to Poland and to serve him in order to forget his love for Giulietta, who does return his love but her father opposes the match owing to Edoardo's poverty. The 'king' agrees to this but meanwhile the Marchioness has entered unseen and has recognised Belfiore. Ah, non m'hanno ingannata! .. È desso! .. è desso! "They have not deceived me, it is he, it is he!" But she can't understand what he's up to and decides to test his love by pretending she really does want to marry the Count Ivrea.

    Belfiore decides to use his disguise to help Edoardo and Giulietta and to dissuade the old Treasurer (Edoardo's uncle) from marrying Giulietta. To impress him, he announces that his nephew is now the king's *esquire* and attempts to engage him in discussions about military strategy to distract his attention from Edoardo and Giulietta.

    The ruse has only limited success and the group separates to go and greet the Marchioness who has also planned to help Giulietta. As she enters, she starts chatting away to her relatives but the Baron is horrified by this apparent lack of respect and orders her to kneel before the 'king'. She sings sarcastically La mancanza involuntaria, perdonate, o Maestà .. Non credea d'aver presente così illustre personaggio "Oh Majesty, please forgive my unintentional affront, I did not expect to meet so illustrious a personage" Belfiore ignores her and she starts to doubt her own eyes. (Cielo! è inganno o vertità) "Oh heavens is it a deception or the truth?"

    Belfiore manages to dissuade the Treasurer from marrying Giulietta with offers of power and the hand of a rich Princess. However when the Treasurer refuses to marry Giulietta, the Baron (Giulietta's father) is so affronted, he challenges him to a duel. Il sangue al cerebro montar mi sento ... Le man mi prudono ... lo scanno qua "The blood's rushing to my head, I'd happily slit his throat"

    And he's not placated even when the Marchioness suggests the Baron gives his daughter to another man (Edoardo). The situation is saved by the arrival of Belfiore, who as king, claims the right to decide everything.

    Act2
    Realising that the main obstacle to the marriage between Giulietta and Edoardo is the latter's poverty, Belfiore decrees that the Treasurer confers a castle and a substantial allowance on his nephew, Edoardo. Belfiore leaves and when the Baron returns, still spoiling for a fight, the Treasurer decides the settlement on his nephew is going cost him too much and he proceeds with the duel. Barrels of gunpowder and swords are suggested as possible weapons and then dismissed. In the end the two protagonists settle for ordering their respective servants to chastise each other with canes. Baron: Va, codardo: più coll'armi .. Non vo' teco cimentarmi .. Ti farò con un bastone .. Da' miei servi castigar "Go coward; I will venture no further in weapons with you .. I will have you chastised with a cane by my servants". Tesoriere: Al servizio ho anch'io persone .. Che san bene bastonar "I, too, have servants who can handle a cane"

    The Marchioness and Belfiore, still in the disguise of the false king, confront each other. Belfiore has no choice but to continue with the deception and the Marchioness, totally perplexed, threatens to marry Count Ivrea as her former lover, Belfiore appears to have forgotten her. Cavaliere, non lo pretendere, Vo' ridurti a confessar "Chevalier, stop pretending, I want you to confess everything". Dismayed by Belfiore's behaviour, the Marchioness confirms she'll marry the Count but the wedding won't happen if Cavalier Belfiore appears within one hour.

    This makes things rather complicated but Belfiore has a cunning plan. He declares he must leave immediately for Poland and that, for reasons of state, must take the Count with him which will allow no time for the wedding. Giulietta and Edoardo hear of this and are distraught as Edoardo has promised to serve the 'king' and therefore has to go with him to Poland.

    But at the last minute, a letter arrives from the real King Stanislaus who has reached Warsaw and has no further need of Belfiore's services and discharges him of his duties. Before disclosing the contents of the letter, Belfiore orders that the marriage between Giulietta and Edoardo takes place. He then reveals his identity and embraces the Marchioness confirming he's been faithful to her all along and the day concludes with much rejoicing at the prospect of a double wedding, albeit with different participants.

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    Felice Romani (1788 —1865)

    Italian librettist and composer

    He travelled widely in Spain, Greece, Germany and France, and got university degrees in both law and letters. In 1814 he settled down in Milan, where he became friends with important figures in the literary world such as Ugo Foscolo and Vincenzo Monti.

    He turned down the post of court poet in Vienna, and, encouraged by Monti and Foscolo, began instead a career as opera librettist.

    He collaborated with various musical periodicals, but his main occupation was that of librettist for the Scala Theatre in Milan. Among the many composers with whom he worked were Bellini with librettos for the famous operas Il Pirata, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, La Sonnambula and Norma; Gioacchino Rossini (Il Turco in Italia), Gaetano Donizetti (Anna Bolena and L'elisir d'amore) and Giuseppe Verdi, for whom he wrote Un Giorno di regno, ossia il finto Stanislao.

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    Footnote
    Un giorno di regno isn't often performed but as part of its Tutto Verdi Project, Bilbao Opera is staging it in October 2012.

    There are no commercially produced DVDs but there are a few CDs. This is the one I've got & I would recommend it.



    There's a complete performance on YouTube

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Beyond the Standard Repertoire: Un giorno di regno started by sospiro View original post
    Comments 1 Comment
    1. Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
      Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) -
      Update: now there is a commercial DVD and blu-ray, in a production from Parma, featuring Anna Caterina Antonacci. Here is its Amazon page: [clicky]

      The opera was recently staged at the Glimmerglass Festival, and extensive coverage can be found [here].


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