[Met Performance] CID:278680
New Production
Simon Boccanegra {76} Metropolitan Opera House: 11/23/1984.


Metropolitan Opera House
November 23, 1984
New Production

Giuseppe Verdi--Francesco Maria Piave/Arrigo Boito

Simon Boccanegra........Sherrill Milnes
Amelia..................Anna Tomowa-Sintow
Gabriele Adorno.........Vasile Moldoveanu
Jacopo Fiesco...........Paul Plishka
Paolo Albiani...........Peter Glossop
Pietro..................James Courtney
Maid....................Dawn Upshaw
Captain.................Robert Nagy

Conductor...............James Levine

Production..............Tito Capobianco
Designer................Pier Luigi Pizzi
Lighting designer.......Gil Wechsler

Simon Boccanegra received nineteen performances this season.

[The production was originally designed and directed for Lyric Opera of Chicago by Pier Luigi Pizzi, who attended some rehearsals for the Metropolitan Opera staging, but objected to certain new costumes and props introduced into his creation by the Met's director, Tito Capobianco. At Pizzi's request, his name was withdrawn from the program.]

Production gift of the Gramma Fisher Foundation, Marshalltown, Iowa

Review of John Ardoin in the Dallas Morning News

NEW YORK - It seems incredible that a decade has gone by since the last Metropolitan Opera performance of "Simon Boccanegra," especially considering the attention that the company has given lesser Verdi scores in the intervening years. No doubt, one reason behind "Boccanegra's" absence has been the need for a new production of this epic work which centers on a power struggle between two political factions in 14th-century Genoa.

The Met's previous production had been new in 1960; it was mounted for Leonard Warren during the season of his death. Obviously, the company is still unable to afford new settings, but felt it could no longer ignore "Boccanegra," as its star baritone, Sherrill Milnes, was anxious to sing the title role in New York.

So, for the revival of "Boccanegra" a week ago, the Met borrowed Pier Luigi Pizzi's production created in 1974 for the 20th-anniversary season of the Chicago Lyric Opera, though no credit was given in the program. Instead there was simply a line stating the production was by Tito Capobianco.

Beyond restaging the production in a more melodramatic fashion, what Capobianco did (which no doubt had a bearing on why Pizzi's name was not in the program) was to add platforming throughout, cut the set for the final scene and rearrange scenic elements within the other four scenes. What resulted was visually far stronger and dramatically more workable than the original had been.

This was particularly true of the last two acts, in which a large, gold equestrian statue was moved far upstage and Boccanegra was allowed to fall asleep in a oversized chair rather than at the foot of a pillar. Another important change was the superb lighting designs of Gil Wechsler, which gave the sets mood and dimension that had been missing in the Chicago original.

To this welcome revival, Milnes brought a mighty and carefully detailed portrayal of the title role singing it with power and poetry. In particular, the riveting manner in which he sustained Boccanegra's death scene - sung standing up and finishing in a final spasm and a forward fall - was the work of a knowing and highly skilled singing actor.

And though Bulgarian soprano Anna Tomowa-Sintow, the evening's Amelia, was no match for Milnes as a theatrical force, vocally she was in his league. She is that wondrous rarity, a true Verdian soprano, one possessed of the colors, breath and sense of musical proportions to bring a lift and a shine to the composer's music.

The individual character of her singing is imparted by the urgent, Slavic tints of her voice. Its sound was beautifully balanced throughout its registers and carried unerringly to the far reaches of the house. It was not the best of nights, however, for her tenor, Vasile Moldoveanu, whose singing of Gabriele Adorno was too often constricted and lacking ardor.

This is was James Levine's first time to conduct the score. Given his vast experience with, and sympathy for, Verdi's theater and music, it was to be expected that he would bring many absorbing and vivid insights to "Boccanegra." But there were also tentative stretches as well, which will require time and exposure to the score in the heat of performance to smooth out.

But he has made a compelling beginning, and most important of all, this extraordinary work is back where it belongs - back where it can be admired and experienced for the wonder it is.

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