Political intrigue and double-dealings, love across a divide and a child out of wedlock, revenge threatened on one Genoan family by another, a kidnapping, a poisoning, and, at its heart, Amelia – a young woman, infatuated with the man whose father was murdered by the pirate Simon Boccanegra... Verdi’s opera has it all.
Elijah Moshinsky’s traditional and complementary production is impressive if sometimes a little spare, but it never gets in the way or resorts to novelty for its own sake. Such strength is supported by shadowy lighting for underhand shenanigans and luminosity for palatial surroundings and the grand Council Chamber scene (added by Verdi for the opera’s 1881 revision).
In the title role, Thomas Hampson doesn’t always act-up the part enough. If his baritone is not the most resonant, his singing is still wonderfully open and unforced. As the troubled Amelia, soprano Hibla Gerzmava is a radiant songstress, finding deep emotion from within that is very affecting. Her lover, Gabriele Adorno, is given a swaggering portrayal by unstinting tenor Russell Thomas, while the bass Ferruccio Furlanetto brings gravitas to Boccanegra’s sworn enemy, Fiesco.
Not wildly popular when first performed, it is now recognised as one of Verdi’s masterpieces, containing some of the composer’s most powerful, heartfelt and descriptive music, not least of the sea (the opening barcarolle is particularly haunting). In the pit, conductor Antonio Pappano has the measure of the score’s grandeur and pathos, vividness and subtlety, and inspires some wonderful playing from the Royal Opera Orchestra, with the Chorus similarly enthused. Colin Anderson