Now I like Simon Boccanegra very much. The story is complicated(perhaps too much so in some cases) and daring, the titular character is one of Verdi's most complex and while the music I have heard criticised for having a lack of show-stopping arias has several impressive moments.
One is the riveting(musically and dramatically) counsel scene. Two is Fiesco's big aria Il Lacerato Spirito, three is the sublime father/daughter duet is Orfanella in Tetto Umile and four is the duet between Boccanegra and Fiesco.
Prior to this 1998 Glyndebourne performance I saw/heard the 1978(brilliant, the best I think), 1984(wonderful), 1995(very, very good), 1991(same with 1995) and two from 2010(both with Domingo(mostly very good) productions. And to be honest I preferred every single of those performances to this one, which I found disappointing.
I will give some credit where it's due. The sets are wonderfully grandiose and the costumes, picture quality and camera work are equally top notch. Likewise with the sound, which throughout is clear. The orchestra characterise the score beautifully, and Mark Elder holds everything together quite impressively, particularly in the counsel scene.
There are three good performances, David Rendall who is one of the better Gabriele Adornos on DVD(Domingo and Sylvester are the only ones better in my opinion), Elena Prokina who is a very affecting Amelia and Peter Sidhom who makes for a scheming and repellent Paolo. The chorus are beautifully balanced and pitched and react very well too in the counsel scene.
However, I was disappointed in Giancarlo Pasquetto as Boccanegra. Boccanegra is a very monumental role and an intriguing one. Granted, I was not expecting another Cappuccilli, Milnes or Chernov, but I was expecting a well sung and acted interpretation. Pasquetto does have moments I feel, Orfanella in Tetto Umile being one, where he is effective, but some of his acting such as in his duet with Miles is rather mechanical and vocally there is a lot of quivery vibrato and flat intonation which didn't really appeal to me.
Alistair Miles fares a little better, he has a good voice and his diction is intelligible. Against this, and I feel the same about his King Phillip in the controversial 2005 Don Carlos, I found him underwhelming as an actor. The duet between Boccanegra and Fiesco just doesn't have the impact it should, not only do the two sound vocally underpowered but the acting is very expressionless. Il Lacerato Spirito is solid, more vocally than dramatically, but nothing more than that.
As for staging, it is not bad but because some of the acting didn't come natural it was rather stiff and dull. Boccanegra and Fiesco's duet as I've said many times already is one of the highlights of the opera, but it just didn't engage me. The chemistry didn't seem to be there either, Boccanegra and Amelia worked but only just.
Overall, disappointing and my least favourite production of this underrated opera. 6/10 Bethany Cox
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