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I would question also the too frequent recourse to close-ups. The Boccanegra of Thomas Hampson can take this, whether as pseudo-pirate (historically this was his brother), Doge elected by popular acclaim for the magnificent Council scene, or as dying victim of a poisoned chalice. In the case of others in the cast distance would undoubtedly lend enchantment. That said, Stein has commendably opted for scenic simplicity. The architectural charms of Genoa are nowhere to be seen, and we must even imagine the sea on which 'La superba' floated its formidable fleet. Thus all is concentrated on Verdi's music and the clash of personalities.
Members of the Vienna State Opera Chorus in the prologue of Verdi's 'Simon Boccanegra'. DVD screenshot © 2002 ORF
At the outset Boaz Daniel's Paolo, Genoese goldsmith, and the fellow citizen Pietro of Dan Paul Dumitrescu are discussing a possible leader for their city and hit on Boccanegra
[watch and listen -- chapter 4, 7:32-9:10].
This is by no means acceptable to the local nobility, particularly as Jacopo Fiesco (Ferruccio Furlanetto) has a strong personal grudge against Boccanegra for seducing his daughter, by whom he had a child, who has of course since disappeared. Their fierce antagonism takes an ugly twist
[watch and listen -- chapter 6, 15:40-16:51].
Fiesco naturally wants his grandchild, and twenty-five years later (the gap between Prologue and Act 1) she duly appears.
Copyright © 13 August 2007
Robert Anderson, London UK