|Page15||Music Reviews - CD||March 2009|
By Alidė Kohlhaas
Simon Boccanegra's prologue begins almost gently although it does not take long before the first ominous notes indicate that a great, dark drama will unfold. This opera by Giuseppe Verdi is his first without a prelude or an overture, but instead features the prologue set 25 years before the actual action of the opera begins.
In a Naxos Historical recording from 1957, the opera features the great baritone Tito Gobbi in the title role of the Doge, Simon Boccanegra, the bass Boris Christoff in the dual roles of Jacopo Fiesco (former doge of Genoa and Boccanegra's enemy) and Andrea (a disguise), the legendary soprano Victoria de los Angeles in the role of Amelia Grimaldi and Maria Fiesco, and the tenor Giuseppe Campora as Gabriele Adorno, as well as bass Walter Monachesi as Paola Albiani and baritone Dari as Pietro, the schemers who first bring Boccanegro to power and then rebel against him with murder.
This opera has three acts in addition to the prologue. It was written just after Aida and before Otello, two operas with which it can be favorably compared. Consequently, it strikes me as strange that it is far less frequently performed. This restored recording on two CDs, which features the orchestra under the inspired baton of Gabriele Santini and its outstanding cast, is one of those opera recordings that should be in every opera lover's collection. It was originally recorded at the Rome Opera House between Sept. 25 - 30, 1957 with the company's Chorus and Orchestra.
Gobbi employs his full power as a singing tragedian in this recording and de los Angeles proves to be an inspired choice for the role of the ardent heroine Amelia, showing off her vocal versatility to the best. Christoff, who incidentally was Gobbi's brother-in-law, manages to convey the complexity of his character, Fiesco, through his powerful and expressive voice.
The story is not only a political drama, but is essentially the story of the relationship between a father and daughter, a recurring theme in so many of Verdi's operas. This relationship is the emotional centerpiece of this highly regarded but so seldom performed opera. Fortunately, it is included in the 2008/9 repertoire of the Canadian Opera Company.
Magic Horn, by Canadian Brass has been moved to Archives