Why Simon Boccanegra By Opera Australia Is The One Opera You Can’t Go Past
There’s a bit of a stigma about Simon Boccanegra, the opera written by Giuseppe Verdi in 1857, which if you haven’t previously seen the performance, puts it in bad stead in your mind before you even sit down.
Why? It was described as ‘cold, monotonous and a fiasco’ Verdi himself and is often attributed as a storyline that sucks the life out of its accompanying music because of its gloomy, complex, impossible-to-follow libretto. Talk about harsh.
Based on those critiques alone it seems like the opera is one that should have been doomed over 156 years ago – and for a time it was! It only played in Venice for a little while before it was more than two decades later that Verdi’s publisher convinced him to revisit it and thank god he did.
Simon Boccanegra by Opera Australia, however is not like any other opera for good reason moreso than bad. It’s a substantial story and plot line with twists and turns that you can really sink your operatic teeth into. It’s not the flowery, flouncy romantic incarnations of Mozart, for example, that oh so many operas around the world entertain, rather the political landscape in which it’s set and the odd borderline incestuousness of the interrelationships of characters make it something you need to pay attention to, as much as you need to see.
It’s a refreshing change.
Focused around the political uprising in the city of Genoa and the life and drama within the existence of the city’s Doge (leader), Simon Boccanegra, the story explores at times admittedly hard-to-follow, but entirely fulfilling character shifts.
It is a libretto of a twisted relationship between father, Simon Boccanegra (George Petean), daughter Amelia Grimaldi (Natalie Aroyan), her lover Gabrielle Adorno (Diego Torre) and her grandfather Jacopo Fiesco (Giacomo Prestia) all of which culminates in a murder you truly feel for.
The foundation of the complexity of the storyline is properly laid by Frittoli’s rendition of one of the libretto’s most sweeping arias, Come in quest’ora bruna (how in the morning light, the sea and stars shine brightly). Have a listen below. In it she sings about the mystery and humble beginnings of her upbringing that she vows never to forget, which opens-up the intertwining of her fellow cast and the future downfall of a leader the city loved.
Couple the stunning vocals with Verdi’s mesmerising encapsulation of each character’s personality and thrusting of them together on stage makes for a moving story of entertainment and political entailment, Opera Australia has truly outdone itself in another classic, once more. Unfolding on an unchanging, curtainless stage, punctuated with nothing more than the cast and intermittent wooden chests that act like precursors of what is to come, Simon Boccanegra is a cleverly enthralling rendition of a drama worth more than a simple tug at your heartstrings.
Simon Boccanegra is on at the Sydney Opera House til 13 August 2016. Purchase tickets here.
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