Verdi, who turns 200 years old next year, is beloved of opera audiences the world over for his devastating tragedies. We love to weep for Violetta, to perish along with the asphyxiating Aida and Radames, and to watch in fascination as characters such as Rigoletto, Azucena, Amneris, and Otello kill the one they love. But Verdi also had a sense of humor, and, early on in his career, wrote at least one opera (besides his swansong, Falstaff, last performed here in 2010) that is a straightforward romantic comedy.
King for a Day (Italian title: Un giorno di regno) tells the story of Cavaliere Belfiore, a wily rogue who has been roped into impersonating the King of Poland. In his role as the false king, Belfiore finds himself the guest of honor at a double wedding at the home of Barone Kelbar. He adopts the role of matchmaker in order to confound arranged marriages and assist in the triumph of true love, including his own. In the end, Belfiore resumes his true identity, all is forgiven, and young love triumphs over greed and pomposity. King for a Day is a delightful bel canto comedy in the tradition of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale and Rossini’s La Cenerentola, full of heart-warming cavatinas, funny patter ensembles, and beautiful vocalizing.
If you’re up for the full mini-opera festival at Nordstrom Recital Hall this weekend, you should also come down Friday or Sunday to hear Viktor Ullmann’s opera The Emperor of Atlantis, produced by Music of Remembrance. Composed in the Terezín concentration camp in 1943, this opera about an overworked angel of death is both a political satire and a parable of hope. MOR’s bold new production stars former Seattle Opera Young Artist Marcus Shelton and YAP Guest Artist Jonathan Silvia, is conducted by the Seattle Symphony’s Ludovic Morlot and directed by Erich Parce, and features a terrific local cast and a chamber ensemble of Seattle Symphony players.