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Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Un Giorno di Regno - Melodramma giocoso in two acts (1840) [101:16]
Cavaliere di Belfiore - Renato Capecchi (baritone); Barone di Kelbar - Sesto Bruscantini (baritone); Marchesa del Poggio - Lina Pagliughi (soprano); Giuletta di Kelbar - Laura Cozzi (soprano); Tesoriere La Rocca - Christiano Dalamangas (bass); Edoardo - Juan Oncina (tenor); Conte Ivrea - Mario Carlin (tenor); Delmonte - Ottavia Plenizio (baritone)
Orchestra and Chorus of Radio Italiana/Alfredo Simonetto
rec. 1951
DYNAMIC HISTORICAL SERIES CDS 736/1-2 [58:19 + 42:57]

Despite its reputation as one of Verdi’s least convincing scores, Un Giorno di Regno can work surprisingly well on disc and in the theatre. Perhaps this is not surprising as although it is usually described as Verdi’s only comic opera apart from Falstaff there are plenty of passages in his other operas that, if not wholly comic, have a lighter character than the main thrust of those operas.They stand out in greater relief as a consequence.
 
Un Giorno di Regno is very obviously a descendant of the comic operas of Rossini and Donizetti but has a character of its own, less relaxed and more steely, frenzied even, than those comparators. The driving rhythms and melodic lines could come from any of Verdi’s earlier operas but all the usual requirements of comic opera of this period are present including extended buffo duets for the Barone and the Tesoriere.
 
This recording is rightly marketed as being “historical” as it was the first commercial recording of the opera. It was however by no means complete as almost every number is brutally cut, excising not merely second verses but large and small chunks within numbers, often for no obvious purpose. The result is briefer and even less relaxed in character, but the harm done to the form of each number is drastic. The first genuinely complete version was recorded by Philips with Jessye Norman and Jose Carreras, conducted by Lamberto Gardelli. That appears not currently to be available but I would be surprised if it were restored during next year’s Verdi anniversary. If that is the case, for anyone with a serious interest in Verdi or this opera in particular, it will be an essential purchase if they do not have it already.
 
The present account is nonetheless somewhat more than a stopgap, although the vicious cuts and dim recording will always count against it, and the lack of text, translation or even synopsis do little to commend the present reissue; it is also available from other sources. It is for the singing, or more particularly for certain singers, that this is worth hearing. The way in which the three baritones or basses relish and put across their (many) words, in ensembles in particular, and the sweetness of the singing of Lina Pagliughi and Juan Oncina are sources of great delight. This sort of idiomatic performance helps prevent the opera seeming merely coarse or routine as it can in unsympathetic hands or throats. It is hard when listening to it to remember that Verdi wrote it during a period of great personal unhappiness, unless it is in the almost fierce gaiety that results at times. If this recording helps to convince more people of its merits it can be welcomed albeit without enormous enthusiasm.

John Sheppard