Simon Boccanegra, 1857

Friday June 15th

Our presentation: 1995 Met Opera. star-heavy cast, including Vladimir Chernov (Simon), Kiri Te Kanawa (Maria aka Amelia), Placido Domingo (Gabriele Adorno). Cheryl Studer was to have sung the soprano role, left at the last minute. Critical review here. More positive review here.

How it happened

Like Il Trovatore, this is another story of a battle over the libretto, (by Piave, based on a play by Gutierrez). The premiere in 1857 was a flop. The plot was complicated and Verdi himself described it as “cold and monotonous”. 25 years later, he revised it with Arrigo Boito (who later did libretti for both Otello and Falstaff). (see Wikipedia). Sounds like Trovatore!  “a dark opera with a complex, sprawling story in which the personal and the political intertwine. Equal parts political thriller, historical drama, melodrama and romance, it takes place in a treacherous world where men jostle for power and animosities fester. The cut and thrust of intrigue, revenge and retribution is leavened by love, moral redemption and reconciliation.” (Limelight

Music moving on

But unlike Il Trovatore, this is music drama without operatic conventions - ensembles are threaded by solo lines. “The famous Council Chamber scene at the end of Act 1 is a great example — the fragments of melody from each character advance the plot like flashes of lightning, as the drama proceeds at pace. It's simple and effective and shows off Verdi's maturity as a composer.” (
But there’s lots that is lyrical! Listen for the dark music of fury and revenge, for the sound of the sea in Amelia’s opening aria; and in the Council Chamber scene for the solo lines soaring over a large, powerful ensemble.

Father and daughter

Again, in this opera, (as in Rigoletto) Verdi beautifully puts to music the love between a parent and a child –Fiesco’s grief at Maria’s death, Boccanegra’s joy at finding his daughter. Verdi had lost his wife and two young children to illness within a year.

From tenor to


In our early recording, Placido Domingo sings Adorno, Amelia’s tenor lover. From 2010, he was singing the title role – controversially, see NY Times. Domingo has moved to Verdi’s baritone roles, as his voice darkened to baritone with age. The
response has been mixed. “Domingo may have baritone notes, but Verdian drama is geared to the musculature and timbre of a real baritone.” (SlippedDisc) “The problem is, he’s not a baritone, but rather a tenor without high notes.” (Observer