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