Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Simon Boccanegra - Melodramma in one prologue and three acts (1881 version)
Plácido Domingo - Simon Boccanegra; Ferruccio Furlanetto - Fiesco; Massimo Cavalletti - Paolo; Ernesto Panariello - Pietro; Anja Harteros - Amelia; Fabio Sartori - Adorno
Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala/Daniel Barenboim
rec. La Scala, Milan, 2010
Sound Format PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround; Picture Format 16:9, 1080i; Region Worldwide: Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian and Korean;
Reviewed in surround
ARTHAUS MUSIK 108 039 BLU-RAY [149:00]
Domingo's performance in this production was apparently greeted with 15 minutes of applause, not all shown on this disc. His fellow cast members, especially Harteros, Sartori and Furlanetto, were also praised loudly and at length as was music director Daniel Barenboim. From a purely musical point of view this is hardly surprising. Boccanegra is one of Verdi's greatest scores and contains one scene in particular, the Council Chamber, that is reckoned to be amongst his finest achievements. Neither the solo and choral singing nor the orchestral playing is ever less than such a work deserves. Some of the performers do look more involved than others. Domingo, Furlanetto and Cavaletti particularly are every inch in their roles. The quiet and attentive Milan audience only interrupt with applause on a handful of occasions, which allows for continuity of the drama.
So what’s wrong with this disc? The list is long and depressing. Most importantly the production, whilst safely conventional and free from greatcoats and machine guns (or Cadillacs, Homburgs and wine-bars as in ENO's recent travesty), is utterly static. There is a lot of standing and singing at each other which means that only the most seasoned performers, Domingo and Furlanetto in particular, dare act expressively. The chorus must have been threatened with dreadful punishment if they moved save to enter and exit. Moments of high drama like the recognition scene between Amelia and Boccanegra pass with barely a flutter of activity. There is a lot of impressive posing where stage business might have helped the drama. The sets and lighting were unmemorable save for the slow descent of four poplar trees complete with roots from the top of the proscenium to the floor during Act 1, which certainly caught one's attention, but only to ask 'why?'
Even this might have been tolerable were it not compounded by the video and disc production. I exempt the sound engineering from this. That was very good. The actual picture was clear and watchable, with even the many dark scenes detailed enough to see what was happening. I have seen several other RAI opera productions and have not noticed much amiss, but here the camerawork was fussy and distracting: clever in and out zooming; regular views of the entire front of the auditorium to take our minds off the drama and remind us we were in La Scala Milan with a posh audience; lots of camera fadeouts before the next shot fades in - Act 3 suffered particularly.
Then there is the disc itself. The English subtitles were sprinkled with unchecked typos. There was music over menus needless to say, the Prelude to the opera, but then music over opening credits as well and not just the same music but a sort of potpourri of scenes both visual and audio as if this were a pop video. A glance at the booklet reveals a separate huge production team involved in just this four minute mess. If ever there was reason for someone to wield the digital scissors, this was it! It was fortunate that the menus allowed one to start after this but during that selection the Prelude plays again. Then at the end after we had been moved by Verdi's final scene and after we had watched the prolonged applause, someone thought to roll the end credits accompanied by the Prelude to the opera!
Dave Billinge  

This is a finely sung and played performance, but beware static staging and poor disc production values.