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Verdi, Simon Boccanegra: Soloists, Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid. Coro Intermezzo. Conductor: Jesús López Cobos. Teatro Real de Madrid. 17.7.2010 (JMI)

Production Teatro Real.

Director: Giancarlo del Monaco.

Sets and Costumes: Michael Scott.

Lighting: Wolfgang Von Zoubek.



Simon Boccanegra: George Gagnidze.

Amelia Grimaldi: Inva Mula.

Jacopo Fiesco: Giacomo Prestia.

Gabriele Adorno: Fabio Sartori.

Paolo Albiani: Simone Piazzola.

Pietro: Miguel Ángel Zapater.

A Captain: Konstiantyn Andreiev.

Production Picture © Javier del Real


This a revival of the Giancarlo del Monaco’s production, which was premiered here for the opening of 2002-2003 opera season. Although it was initially announced as a new production, it seems that originally it was based on a 1984 production from Berlin. Teatro Real reproduced the sets with some changes, although the costumes came from Germany. There have been some furthe changes made in this revival, although nothing fundamental. It offers a single stage with marble pillars, changing only one element for each act, but with almost continuous projections showing the sea at the back of the stage. For this revival the sets have been repainted in white to give a better contrast with the red and black costumes. It is a traditional and elegant production, which follows a very similar line to Del Monaco’s last Simon Boccanegra in Zurich, although I found his work for that more interesting in general. The other change in this revival is the fact that the projections of the sea are removed for the last act, probably where they are most important according to the libretto.

I must say that Jesús López Cobos had to overcome a serious obstacle in this performance of Simon Boccanegra; my very recent memories of Antonio Pappano at London’s Royal Opera at the beginning of July. Indeed, the contrast was quite remarkable and by comparison with Pappano, López Cobos offered a rather flat reading during the first half of the opera, although it gained much in intensity for the second half: as is usual with López Cobos, control prevailed in the end. The Teatro Real’s orchestra is not comparable to Covent Garden’s, but we should certainly recognise that López Cobos leaves the orchestra playing with much higher quality than he received from it originally, some 7 years back. Today, I don't think that any other opera orchestra in Spain is better than Madrid’s, except for the truly remarkable group at Valencia’s Palau of les Arts.

This Boccanegra was built around the presence of Plácido Domingo, who will be singing the three last performances after singing in London. This means that the first chronological cast is actually the second, in terms of importance. Furthermore, this cast originally had Carlos Alvarez in the title role, but he had to cancel due to health problems, which I hope will be quickly overcome.

Carlos Alvarez’ replacement was the Georgian baritone George Gagnidze, whose performance was not fully persuasive, at least to me. He has a wide an important baritone voice, which unfortunately has not yet developed the required nobility of tone for the Doge. There were too many verismo accents in the first half of the opera and Mr Gagnidze was at his best in the second half.

Amelia Grimaldi was performed by the Albanian soprano Inva Mula, making her debut in this character. This outstanding soprano has evolved vocally in recent years towards less light characters and she has done so with much care. She was is still rather light for the part, but was really a rather good Amelia, since her voice is always gorgeous and she is always a consummate actress onstage.

Fabio Sartori is a tenor who has made interesting developments in recent years and now offers one of the best voices available for the role of Gabriele Adorno. The voice has widened, but it has not lost quality or easiness at the top. He was excellent.

Giacomo Prestia was again Jacopo Fiesco as he was eight years ago in this same production. But the availability of true bass voices is so poor today that it is not surprising that Prestia continues to be a much sought after singer. Eight years ago I was not particularly excited by his singing and I had the same experience again. Paolo Albiani was played by the young baritone Simone Piazzola, who replaced Angel Odena at the last minute. He is a very promising baritone, who should have a bright future, if he does not run too fast. Today His voice today is not the real voice that it could become as I see it, but he left a most positive impression.

The Teatro Real had a surprisingly small audience, with the stalls showing about 1/3 of the seats empty. It is true that the outside temperature (38 degrees) invited no-one to stay in the city for the weekend, but I suspect that having this opera separate from the general subscription series was the real reason for the poor attendance, and the exclusion will probably only work with Domingo in the other cast. The final reception from the audience present though was very warm with cheers for the four protagonists and López Cobos, who took his bow together with the whole orchestra on stage. Giancarlo del Monaco was also applauded, but with not much enthusiasm.

José M Irurzun

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