A very worthwhile production, Cappuccilli, Caballe and Plishka are excellent
Simon Boccanegra I have never considered one of Verdi's finest. Of course it has some amazing music such as the Counsel scene, Simon! Tu and Orfanella in Tetto Umile, but I have always found the story somewhat convoluted. Luckily though the opera is well served both as poductions(1978 La Scala, 1984 Met, 1995 Met 2002 Teatro Communule and 1991 Royal Opera House) and on record(Cappuccilli/Freni/Ghiaurov/ Carreras and Gobbi/Christoff/DeLos Angeles/Campora).
This 1985 Orange production is not one of the better ones, but is better than the Met production with Domingo as Boccanegra and the 1998 Glyndebourne performance. Visually it is not as opulent as either of the Met productions or even the 1991 production, with some scenes that are too darkly lit and a couple of garish-looking sets but the costumes are quite nice. The sound is acceptable but the picture quality could have been sharper.
Musically the production is excellent, very powerful and stirring playing from the orchestra and spacious but never dull conducting. The chorus blend wonderfully. The staging is fine, with a tense Simon! Tu and an moving Orfanella In Tutto Umile. The performances are excellent on the whole. Lando Bartolini is a strong-toned if staid Gabriele Adorno, and the Paolo of Alain Fondary is suitably repellent.
Piero Cappuccilli's performance is late in his career and may lack the lustre of his earlier outing with La Scala, but despite that there is still a lot of beautiful tone and authority in the interpretation. Montserrat Caballe is a very affecting Amelia singing with her usual unique musicality such as the long phrases and the pianissimo singing. She does get behind during Come In Quest'Ora Bruna, but her singing everywhere else is wonderful. Paul Plishka's Fiesco is just as powerful as it was opposite Sherrill Milnes for the Met in 1984, and his voice is just as sonorous in its quality.
Overall, a very good production with the three leads excellent. 8/10 Bethany Cox
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