Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Simon Boccanegra at Chicago's Lyric

This October, the Lyric opened Verdi's Simon Boccanegra, an early opera of Verdi's, which satisfies its listeners with Verdi's typical sweeping melodies and word painting.

A story of disaster, ambition, politics and love, the mostly-male cast, with some fabulous bass and baritone voices, tremble with the anger and exasperation in their attempts to get what they want and satisfy their ambitions and vengeance.

The prologue is very tame and opens with pastoral sounds, much like Beethoven's 6th symphony.  The aria by Ferruccio Furlanetto, who plays Maria's father is full, deep and compelling as he emotionally sings such words of vengeance as "my hate will haunt you."  And so the drama begins.

There is a very nice technique used by the Lyric in the production that allows the scene to expand visually by showing action off stage in shadows.  In fact, with several pillars on the sides of the stage, a new backdrop can be placed conveniently behind a pillar to change the scene while not requiring much set changing.

It isn't until Act 1 that we hear a female voice - in a very silly and poetic (yet beautiful) love song.  Despite the fact that there is only heightened emotional frivolity every time Amelia (the sole female character, who is tugged this way and that, with very little control over her fate) opens her mouth in the first half of the opera, Verdi uses his familiar gorgeous melodic shaping so that regular opera-goers don't even need to hear her words to know what Amelia (played by Krassimira Stoyanova) is saying.

While Act 2 brought in the expected "pena" aria and some beautiful singing by tenor Frank Lopardo ("a jealous rage destroyed my reason") the a cappella trio and the end of Act 2 was sudden and uncomfortable.

There is an unusual duet in Act 3 with two very low voices, which reinforces the feel of the opera - that it is tragedy precipitated by men.  The fates and disasters of these men are wound together.  The bipartisanship that Simon Boccanegra (Thomas Hampson) implores his people to adopt must be a lasting topic, and though this opera still took place in 14th century Genoa, it still has appeal to any audience.

Opera-goers at the Lyric are lucky this year to get to experience such a great production with such experienced singers in these rolls.  Thomas Hampson and Ferruccio Furlanetto have made the roles their own and really make the listener feel with their baritone and bass voices the power, anguish and drama of this lasting and noble story.

1 comment:

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Let us reseat ourselves and hear the last part of the music.