|Verdi c. 1845|
If you love Verdi, you should know the masterful biography by the late Mary Jane Philips-Matz.
Here are the first three:
Oberto, Conte di San Bonifacio (1839)
Temistocle Solera, Antonio Piazza
La Scala, Milan 1839
Carlo Bergonzi, Ruza Baldani, Rolando Panerai, Ghena Dimitrova/Lamberto Gardelli
A mash up of a plot, but an auspicious debut. Bartolomeo Merelli signed the young Verdi to a contract for three operas for La Scala, Milan. Oberto has a respectable success for a first-timer. Already it has some of the drama and the bite that differentiates the early Verdi form Donizetti, tho he as yet lacks Bellini's gift for melody and Rossini's sophistication. Still, this opera deserves an occasional revival. Wonderful tenor role.
Un giorno di regno ("A One-Day Reign") 1840
Felice Romani La Scala, Milan 1840
Jose Carerras, Jessye Norman, Fiorenza Cossotto, Ingvar Wixell/Lamberto Gardelli
A comic opera and a flop. It sounds half-hearted, like a first draft that was never revised. This would be a good doctoral project, fixing it up and producing the opera at the College/Conservatory level. Verdi's wife and two children died of diphtheria while he worked on Un giorno. Verdi couldn't have been in the mood for this bubble of mistaken identity. The opera was finished to complete a contract. It failed at La Scala and has been seldom revived.
Temistocle Solera La Scala, Milan 1842
Jan Dirksen, Pauline Tinsley, Jan Blinkhof, Hent Smit/Hans Vonk The Netherlands, 1972
Now we're talking. Impresario Merelli used some tough love on the despairing Verdi. The result was the composer's first bona fide hit. The story of Nebuchadnezzar as told in the Old Testament. Verdi was tempted by the text of a chorus of displaced slaves. Va pensiero is to this day an unofficial national anthem. The vocal writing for Abigaille is deadly: up down, she enters on a low A, she goes up to a b flat. Nearly impossible to sing, the role derailed Giuseppina Strepponi in the first performances. Never mind. Verdi eventually married her. We begin to hear the energy that was the hallmark of Verdi's early operas. Try the Act I finale. Verdi has arrived.