Verdi – Simon Boccanegra
Simon Boccanegra – Plácido Domingo
Amelia Grimaldi – Yu Guanqun
Jacopo Fiesco – Vitalij Kowaljow
Gabriele Adorno – Ivan Magrì
Paolo Albiani – Gevorg Hakobyan
Pietro – Sergei Artamonov
Capitano – Valentino Buzza
Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana, Orquestra de la Communitat Valenciana / Evelino Pidò
Stage Director – Lluís Pasqual.
Palau de les Arts, València. Sunday, March 30th, 2014.
I try to get to the Palau de les Arts at least once every season. It’s a stunning house and the orchestra and chorus are amongst the best around. I’ve mentioned in previous posts how, as they announce their season very late, it’s difficult to organize trips there. Despite this, I booked for this Boccanegra and for Forza and Turandot in June. One of the main issues why the season is published so late is due to the fact that the grant from the autonomous community government isn’t confirmed until quite late. Yet Helga Schmidt and her team always manage to pull together an interesting program that attracts some well known artists and also some very promising new ones. In the Palau, València has a world class opera house that can rank amongst the very best and I hope that it will continue to flourish.
Tonight was the first time for me to hear Plácido Domingo live. An announcement was made at the start of the evening but it was not necessary. Apart from some slight dryness in the tone he sang magnificently. When I heard Maestro Domingo’s Verdi baritone arias disc last year I was filled with a feeling of gratitude for a long career but regret that the voice was no longer what it was. Tonight was a very different experience. I feel so privileged to have finally had the chance to see him as it was like watching a master at work. There was a lifetime of experience in the way he phrased the music, his attention to text and his ability to make the music more than dots on a page. The voice sounded incredibly youthful, mainly due to the timbre which was brighter than the usual baritonal sound the part was written for, yet the lower part of the range was perfectly secure. It might not have been a classic Boccanegra but it was undoubtedly a great one.
Yu Guanqun’s Amelia was very similar to her Desdemona last June. The voice is attractive enough and the technique is solid. The legato is easy and the intonation true. Yet there was a lack of individuality in her interpretation, that ability to make more of the notes that Domingo has that can make her stand out amongst the best Verdi sopranos. She is certainly a very serviceable artist but perhaps not yet a memorable one. Ivan Magrì was an interesting Adorno. The Sicilian tenor has a lot of sunshine warmth in his voice and in many ways reminded me of a young Josep Carreras. The voice did seem a size too small for the role though and there were times when he was audibly pushing it beyond its natural limits. He is a highly promising artist with a very attractive voice and he could certainly grow into the role. Vitalij Kowaljow once again proved himself as one of the finest basses out there with a Fiesco of warmth and generosity. In the rest of the cast I also very much enjoyed Gevorg Hakovyan’s Paolo another promising bass who I hope will one day give us his Fiesco.
As expected at this address this choral singing was in a class of its own. Discipline, blend and amplitude were all there. If this isn’t the most choral of Verdi’s operas, I’m looking forward to seeing them later in the year in two works that have much bigger choral parts. The orchestra cemented its reputation as one of the best too with playing of real warmth, especially in the prelude. Unfortunately, I found Evelino Pidò’s conducting ironed out the drama inherent in the score. It was lyrical in the calmer passages and it was paced decently enough, it’s just that it lacked a sharpness of attack that the music desperately needs. It was very well played but it really needed to be crisper.
Unfortunately, I have nothing positive to say about Lluís Pasqual’s staging. Sometimes, I’ll see a production that, while not to my taste, just completely works. Here I spent the evening wishing that they had just done a concert performance instead. Amateurish is probably too kind an adjective to describe it. The sets were very basic with a view of the sea in the background and three grills that rose and descended every so often. Costumes (Franca Squarciapino) were reflective of the period the opera was set in and Personenregie seemed to consist of directing the principals to stand and deliver. I am sure a lot of people enjoyed this traditional staging, I didn’t. Anyone seeing this great work for the first time may well have wondered what the point was.
Despite the issues, this was a great evening in the theatre. I feel immensely privileged to have been able to see a great master at work and enjoyed the singing of some promising young artists. Naturally, also I enjoyed the outstanding orchestra and chorus that are a credit to this house.