Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Álvarez’

There is something about Simon Boccanegra that makes it special among all operas by Verdi. The fact that the composer himself never really got over its unsuccessful premiere in Venice shows that he himself was fond of it the same way die-hard Verdians are. Even after Arrigo Boito’s revision for the Milanese performances in 1880, the libretto remains contrived, but still I find Amelia/Maria, her fiancé, her father and her grandfather some of the most congenial characters in the operatic repertoire. Their inconsistencies, grudges, passions are often as illogical as real life is. Most important, the fact that, in spite of all the convoluted turn of events, their family ties never let them go really far from each other. Literally: although they are hiding from each other or pretending to be someone else or simply disappeared,  the Doge can see from his window the house where Fiesco and Amelia/Maria have lived all those years. Of course, all that would be of little importance if Verdi’s music were not as inspired and expressive as it is, especially in what regards the episodes involving father and daughter. What I mean is: the creators of Simon Boccanegra give performers a lot of material to work with. You don’t need a genius director or the most spectacular cast to make it work. I am not sure if I would say the same thing of the demands made on the conductor. The opening of act I is very hard to pull out. As far as I remember, only Claudio Abbado could make something of it.

This evening, for instance conductor Henrik Nánási took a while to gain his footing. Come in quest’ora bruna, for example, sounded its most mechanical and unaffecting, but the performance slowly got momentum. The last act, in particular, found the right balance between orchestra and soloists and also in terms of ensemble. The cast, as well, took some time to warm, but after the intermission after the first act, responded to the duets and trios in a very coherent and sensitive way.

The first time I saw Simon Boccanegra was the very same Elijah Moshinski production in a video release from the Royal Opera House. It is not the most memorable staging in the world and it seems to concentrate in just telling the story without calling special attention to any scenic element. Everything is discrete to a fault, but the point seems to leave singers all the necessary leeway to do their thing. Although the cast on video was very impressive, I have to say that the acting this evening was even more convincing. And again, this has to do with the way singers responded to each other. Boccanegra’s death scene was particularly well blocked, everyone’s gestures perfectly timed without making impossible demands in terms of acting abilities,  all directorial choices very sensible. It was indeed touching.

On video, Moshinski (and Georg Solti) had Kiri Te Kanawa in her best Verdi role. Although I would not call her the definitive Amelia in terms of singing (Freni and Ricciarelli, for example, were better equipped for the part), maybe her personal story made her relate in a very special way. I write that to explain that I could not help comparing any singer in that blue dress with my memories of the video. And Hracuchi Bassenz was not really at ease in her opening aria. She would gradually gain in confidence, but I have the impression she was not at her best voice. Hers is a velvety soprano that needs an extra push to pierce through in both ends of her range – and that had a cost. By the end, she sounded a bit tired. She had to work hard for high mezza voce, and one could hear her effort to keep her pianissimo on pitch when notes were a bit longer. And they usually were. If her performance was rather unspectacular in purely vocal terms, she never showed herself less than involved and the final impression was mostly congenial. Francesco Meli is an experienced Adorno and seemed to be more at ease with softer dynamics than his soprano. However, when he had to sing forte, he could sound a little emphatic and short on legato. In any case, he is very well cast in this role and offered an almost ideal balance of ardor and sense of style. It is amazing how healthy Ferruccio Furlanetto’s voice still is. At this point in his career, he cannot offer the round and extra-rich nobility of tone the role of Fiesco requires, and yet he sang reliably and expressively throughout. I leave the best for left. I had not seen Carlos Álvarez since he recovered from the health problems that kept him away from the operatic scene for a while, and I am glad to report he was in beautiful voice and that he sang with feeling, sense of line, awareness of style and commitment.

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