Simon Boccanegra - Verdi - Royal Opera House
Giuseppe Verdi’s premiere of the opera Simon Boccanegra in Venice in 1857 was not a popular success. Indeed it was not until a major revision unveiled in 1881 in Milan, that Boccanegra finally became part of the standard operatic repertoire – a quarter of a century after its opening.
Boccanegra is now in its seventh production revival at the Royal Opera House and it is indeed more than a quarter of a century since the premiere of Elijah Moshinsky’s production, which was first seen in 1991. Age has not been kind to the production and the huge sets all containing enormous pillars and backdrops leave a very dated feel to the evening. It is undoubtedly time to change this well-worn friend for something new.
Musically it was a very mixed evening. The orchestra, under the Hungarian Conductor, Henrik Nanasi, were not on sparkling form. Pace was not Nanasi’s masterpiece, nor indeed the intricacies of the work. The evening felt more like a chore – somewhat like the washing up at home!
The singing fared better. The Boccanegra of the baritone, Carlos Alvarez, was a towering performance. His interpretation of the role, leading from reluctant hero to a dogmatic and somewhat admired leader (does Theresa May come to mind?!), was a joy to behold and his substantial vocal line was always full of authority.
The Fiesco of the bass, Ferruccio Furlanetto, has sung an outstanding portrayal of this role in the past. However, at 70, age seems to have taken somewhat of a toll on his voice and it was not until the latter part of the opera that his instrument had settled and he came into his own with full force and very authoritative projection.
The Amelia of the Armenian soprano, Hrachuhi Bassenz, seemed somewhat constricted. She has a nice voice and top, but cannot project any weight into her performance, unlike the tenor, Francesco Meli, whose vocal tone and substance was outstanding, albeit occasionally losing some of the subtleties of the role.
Mark Rucker was a solid Paolo and the Chorus came into their own in the crowd scene at the end of Act 1 and thereafter.
As Boccanegra’s death lingered towards the end, so has this production. Time for a change.