Giuseppe Verdi: Simon Boccanegra
Christian Gerhaher (Simon Boccanegra), Jennifer Rowley (Amelia Grimaldi), Christof Fischesser (Jacopo Fiesco), Otar Jorjikia (Gabriele Adorno), Nicholas Brownlee (Paolo Albiani), Brent Michael Smith (Pietro), Siena Licht Miller (Amelia’s Maid), Savelii Andreev (Captain of the Crossbowmen), Zürich Opera Chorus, Philharmonia Zürich, Fabio Luisi (Conductor), Andreas Homoki (Stage Director), Christian Schmidt (Set & Costume Designer), Franck Evin (Lighting Designer), Fabio Dietsche (Dramaturgy)
Recording: Zürich Opernhaus (December 2020) – 142’
Accentus Music ACC 20510 (or Blu-ray ACC 10510) – NTSC 16:9 Full HD – PCM Stereo – Dolby Digital 5.1 – DTS 5.1 – Region: 0 (Distributed by Naxos of America) – Subtitles in German, English, French, Italian and Korean – Booklet in German, English and French
When this new production of Simon Boccanegra opened on December 21, 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was in front of a fifty spectator audience, with the orchestra and chorus placed in the Zürich Opera rehearsal facility located a mile away from the stage. The performance was broadcast live that night.
Stage director Andreas Homoki places the story circa World War I. Costumes are contemporaneous of early XXth century, dark suits for men and white and reddish gowns for Amelia. There is strictly no evocation of fourteenth century Genoa, even remotely. The sets, placed on a revolving stage, consist of high grey panels and doors. It is visually stylish, albeit chilling, but the constant opening and closing of doors with characters moving through the different rooms and corridors of the Fiesco/Grimaldi palace can be distracting after a while, and certainly does not help following this convoluted story. However, the gloomy and somber atmosphere of the opera is efficiently captured.
Baritone Christian Gerhaher gives an intense and illuminating account of the title role. Jennifer Rowley (Amelia) offers a beautifully nuanced and touching performance, with no strain in the voice and quite an expressive range. Nicholas Brownlee is a commendable Paolo while Christof Fischesser is a characterful Fiesco.
The orchestra under Fabio Luisi keeps the momentum and suspense going. His conducting of the Philharmonia Zürich is fresh and glowing, with sharp focus.