Simon Boccanegra, Metropolitan Opera live relay, February 2010Posted on 7 February 2010
In the Council chamber scene, during the second part of Act I, the Doge pleads for peace with Genoa, while the Senate calls for war. Suddenly fighting is heard outside, but Boccanegra, as Doge, commands the doors be opened and the people allowed in. This confident act shows Boccanegra to be a leader, a man we can trust. What a change this is from some of the weak leaders we have in Europe today. Boccanegra is a strong and noble character, torn down by enemies who resent his use of power, yet willing to support his long lost daughter in her desire to marry one of them.
Placido Domingo played him superbly, singing this baritone role with excellent lyrical expression. It is a remarkable transformation for this great tenor, particularly in such an exhausting role. His nemesis, Jacopo Fiesco was strongly sung by James Morris, and their interactions, in the Prologue at the beginning and again in Act III at the end, were masterpieces of musical staging.
I shall not go through the whole opera, except to say it is a good idea to have some clue about the plot before it starts. Fiesco originally refuses to forgive Boccanegra, demanding that he yield to him the baby daughter, but this is impossible as the girl was taken away at birth to be brought up near the sea, where Boccanegra, at that time a pirate, could visit her. He lost contact with her when her nurse died, and in the Prologue is acclaimed Doge of Venice. Only at the end of the opera can he return the young woman, his daughter, now called Amelia, to her grandfather. In the meantime, his chief of staff, Paolo, menacingly portrayed by Stephen Gaertner (incorrectly stated on the cast list as Nicola Alaimo), has put a slow poison in his drink. Lest the poison not serve its purpose, Paolo also tries persuading Fiesco to stab him to death, and when Fiesco refuses he convinces Adorno to do the deed. In the end Paolo is tortured and executed, and though Boccanegra makes peace with both Adorno and Fiesco, nothing can prevent the poison doing its work. One rather macabre aspect of this production was the late scene between father and daughter when she helps him to drink from the poisoned cup. I could have done without this, but otherwise the production by Giancarlo del Monaco, with glorious sets and costume designs by Michael Scott was simply terrific. Filming by Barbara Willis Sweete showed everything very clearly with excellent close-ups and fine perspectives on the whole scene.