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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Opera Review: The Doge Rises, The Statue Falls

Figlia! Thomas Hampson hugs Angela Gheorghiu
in Act I of Simon Boccanegra.
Photo by Marty Sohl © 2007 The Metropolitan Opera.
The Met revives Simon Boccanegra.
We were at the Met last night to catch the revival of the company's excellent revival of Giancarlo del Monaco's 1995 staging of Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. Ably conducted by Fabio Luisi and anchored by a stellar portrayal by Thomas Hampson, this was an emotional reading of this underperformed opera.

The star of the evening was Angela Gheorgiu, who grabbed the audience's attention as Amelia and proceeded to bring out the warmth and depth of Verdi's heroine. She blended well with Hampson, and the two generated real emotional pathos in the "Figlia" duet.

Hampson was a multifaceted Doge--a loving father, a thundering statesman and finally a dying martyr. This is a very complicated part and he was able to portray Simon with dignity and vocal versatility. His "O patrizi, plebei" made the arches of the Met's massive Council Chamber resonate, his agony while dying in the third act was almost painful to watch.

Mention must also be made of Marcello Giordani, who made the most of the underwritten tenor part of Gabriel Adorno. I have never seen this part this well portrayed--not as a tenor afterthought but as a character almost as complicated as Boccanegra himself.

Ferrucio Furlanetto was a vocally imposing Fiesco, nailing all of the killer bass notes in "Il lacerato spirito" but coming off more as a kindly uncle than a proud nobleman hell-bent on revenge. Vassily Gerello had some rough spots in the prologue--he plays the key role of Paolo, the opera's real villain, and gets the job of telling the audience what the hell is going on in the opera. However, Gerello evened out and sang very well in Acts 2 and 3.

That production has held up pretty well, although the image of the angry Genoese mob pulling down a statue in the opening prologue--once meant to portray the death of Communism, eerily recalled events in Iraq following the fall of Saddam Hussein. As it often is at the Met, the massive sets require that intermissions be at odd times (between the Prologue and Act One?) which makes the evening longer than necessary. But these are minor quibbles.
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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.