Power struggles and slow poisons: Simon Boccanegra

Thomas Hampson as Simon Boccanegra and Hibla Gerzmava as Amelia Grimaldi in Simon Boccanegra © ROH / Clive Barda 2013 Verdi's Simon Boccanegra is a great opera to get stuck into. It's full of rousing music and has a terrific story about internal power struggles, young love and family against the backdrop of the establishment of the first Doge of Genoa.

Everything has its consequences.  While Simon becomes the man of the people and crowned Doge of Genoa he discovers that his lover has died and their baby disappears. And that is just in the opening minutes of the prologue. The piece moves forward in time where young love, revenge and political intrigue take over amidst a plea for an end to internal fighting that is pulling a nation apart.
Although this production seems to miss capturing the horror and joy of the initial scenes. It is given a bit of class with Thomas Hampson in the title role. With his wonderful rounded sound and regal-like stature he may not be everyone's idea of a man of the people, but it is a terrific performance anyway. The rest of the cast are equally good, including Russell Thomas as Gabrielle and Hibla Gerzmava as Amelia who deliver strong and engaging performances. Under Antonio Pappano, the orchestra captures both the passion and the intricate detail of the piece, producing some incredible and varied sounds.

The production dates from 1991 and is fairly simple, taking its cues from the shapes, shadows and beauty of Genoa. It feels like you are there at times. It isn't as flashy as the more recent ENO production, but it still is simple and brings out the best aspects of the work. Although at times everyone looks like they are romping around wearing the curtains from a stately home, it is a great way to mark the Verdi Bicentennial...

Simon Boccanegra runs at the Royal Opera House until 16 July and good seats are still available to see it. Further background on the production is included in the clips below...

Photo credit: Thomas Hampson as Simon Boccanegra and Hibla Gerzmava as Amelia Grimaldi in Simon Boccanegra by Clive Barda 2013

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