Giuseppe Verdi: Simon Boccanegra [Teatro Comunale di Bologna] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit), dts-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Arthaus Musik
- Blu-ray Release Date: August 31, 2010
- List Price: $39.95
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Verdi’s middle period operas are often shortchanged because of the popularity of his later works like Aida. Simon Boccanegra is a Verdi masterpiece despite its complex plot. Its father-daughter relationship presages that of Rigoletto, La Traviata and Aida. The story centers on Simon Boccanegra, a corsair who becomes Doge of Genoa, his daughter Amelia, her grandfather Fiesco, and her lover, Gabriele. As the plot evolves, Simon and Ameila, who have been separated for years, are reunited and embrace the future son-in-law, Gabriele. Simon becomes a capable ruler but eventually falls victim to a pair of disgruntled courtiers who conspire to posion him. On his death, he reconciles with his old enemy Fiesco, the warring factions of Genoa are united and peace is restored.
This production succeeds on a number of grounds. The protagonists appear age-appropriate to their parts, given a 20 year hiatus between the prologue and the remaining three acts. Roberto Frontali is the most convincing Boccanegra that I have seen since the late Tito Gobbi (whom he strongly resembles). Frontali sings rather than barks his role to powerful effect. While the parts of Amelia and Gabriele, undertaken by Carmen Giannattasio and Giuseppe Gispaldi, respectively, will not erase memories of Kiri Te Kanawa and Placido Domingo, they are believable as young lovers. Giacomo Prestia conveys the complex character Fiesco convincingly albeit with a lighter weight bass than is usually cast in this role. Marco Vratogna’ s Paolo the villainous courtier who poisons Simon, exudes sufficient evil to make you cheer when he is led off to execution in the final act. The real hero of this performance is Michele Mariotti who conducts the well seasoned forces of the Teatro Communale di Bologna. There is a sense of Verdian tension and pace as well as respect for the challenging vocal roles.
Except for the beginning of Act I, nearly all productions of this opera are dark and this one is no exception. The minimalist sets take some getting used to but the overall staging of Guido Fiorato actually works quite well and does not clash with the handsome period costumes. Given the closeness of the camera work, the modern sets do not get in the way of the drama and intensity of the singers. This is a 1080i video which becomes noticeable only on the close-ups where the crispness of facial features is less than first-rate. Some of these close-ups actually behead the singers, something that should have been fixed in editing. The blue lighting underscores the somber nature of this opera.
The sound track is dts-Master HD with the music spread across the front speakers. To this degree it is true to what one would hear in a real opera house. The balance between singers and orchestra is superb. I did note that the singers appear to be head-miked but this was not a distraction and certainly did not impair the vocal recording which is high quality. My only reservation is that bass seemed a little tubby but this might be a character of this moderate sized venue. The Italian audience is surprisingly restrained but cuts loose with pent-up and well-deserved rhythmic applause at the final curtain.
There are no supplemental materials relevant to this opera, simply trailers for other Arthaus Musik videos.
The Definitive Word
There are no BD contenders for this opera. For those desiring Olympian casts, the two Metropolitan Opera DVDs offer inconclusive alternatives. Sherril Milnes is an outstanding Boccanegra with a less than stellar supporting cast, while Vladimir Chernov is an underpowered Boccanegra with a powerhouse cast of Placido Domingo and Kiri Te Kanawa. Overall, this performance is very competitive and engaging. Hopefully, we will see more of these principals and Maestro Mariotti who is a true rising star on the operatic scene.
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