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Simon Boccanegra is an opera with a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Simón Bocanegra (1843) by Antonio García Gutiérrez.

It was first performed at Teatro La Fenicemarker, Venicemarker on 12 March 1857. Given the difficulties with the original plot, a revised version, with text changes by Arrigo Boito, was first performed at La Scalamarker, Milanmarker on 24 March 1881. It is this version, with its Act 1 Council Chamber scene as its finale, that is usually given today.

Performance history

After the 1857 premiere, the original version was seen in Malta in 1860, Madrid and Lisbon in 1861, and Buenos Aires in 1862. Following the premiere of the revised version in 1881, the revised Simon Boccanegra was first seen outside of Italy in Vienna in 1882 and Paris in 1883. It is now part of the standard operatic repertoire and it is presented regularly.

A concert performance of the 1857 version took place in London in 1975 (probably its first hearing for 100 years), and was broadcast by the BBC on 1 January 1976. This version was performed by the Royal Opera, London on 28 June 1997. In 1999, as part of its "Viva Verdi!" festival, New York Grand Opera gave the first New York performance of the original version.

Roles

Role Voice type Premiere Cast

12 March 1857
(Conductor: — )
Revised version

Premiere Cast

24 March 1881

(Conductor: Franco Faccio)
Simon Boccanegra, a corsair,

later the first Doge of Genoa
baritone Leone Giraldoni Victor Maurel
Maria Boccanegra, his daughter,

known as Amelia Grimaldi
soprano Luigia Bendazzi Anna d'Angeri
Jacopo Fiesco, a Genoese nobleman,

known as Andrea Grimaldi
bass Giuseppe Echeverria Edouard de Reszke
Gabriele Adorno, a Genoese gentleman tenor Carlo Negrini Francesco Tamagno
Paolo Albiani, a goldsmith and the

Doge’s favourite courtier
bass Giacomo Vercellini Federico Salvati
Pietro, a Genoese popular leader

and courtier
baritone Andrea Bellini Giovanni Bianco
Captain of the Crossbowmen tenor Angelo Fiorentini
Amelia’s maid mezzo-soprano Fernanda Capelli
Soldiers, sailors, people, senators, the Doge’s court, prisoners – Chorus


Synopsis

Time: The middle of the 14th century.
Place: In and around Genoa.


Prologue

Paolo, the leader of the Plebian party, persuades Pietro to support the nomination of Simon Boccanegra for doge of Genoa. Boccanegra arrives and agrees to stand, thinking that Fiesco would then allow him to wed his daughter, who is being held prisoner in her father's gloomy palace just to prevent such a union and by whom Simon has already a daughter, Maria. Pietro rallies support for Boccanegra. Fiesco enters, stricken with grief over his daughter's death (Il lacerato spirito – "The tortured soul of a sad father"), but he does not reveal this to Boccanegra who accosts Fiesco and begs his forgiveness. Fiesco promises clemency only if Boccanegra lets Fiesco have his granddaughter. Boccanegra explains he cannot because the child has vanished. As the people hail Simon as the new Doge, he finds the body of his beloved.

Act 1

Scene 1: Twenty-five years later

The doge has exiled many of his political opponents and confiscated their property. In the Grimaldi castle, Fiesco, to avoid discovery, is using the name Andrea Grimaldi, plotting with Boccanegra's enemies to overthrow him. Unknowingly, years earlier, the Grimaldis had adopted Boccanegra's child (and Fiesco's granddaughter) after discovering the orphan in a convent. They called her Amelia, hoping that she would be the heir to their family's fortune, their sons having been exiled. Amelia awaits her lover, Gabriele Adorno (Aria:Come in quest'ora bruna – "How in the morning light / The sea and stars shine brightly"). He arrives, and she warns him of the dangers of political conspiracy. Word arrives that the doge is coming. Amelia, fearing that a forced marriage to Paolo is to be arranged, urges Adorno to ask her father for permission to marry. Fiesco agrees and reveals that Amelia is actually a penniless foundling. When Adorno says that he does not care, Fiesco blesses the marriage. Boccanegra enters. He pardons Amelia's exiled brothers, but she refuses to marry Paolo. When she tells Boccanegra that she was adopted, the two compare pictures in their lockets and realizes that she is his long-lost daughter. Finally reunited, they are overcome with joy. When Paolo enters, Boccanegra denies permission for the arranged marriage. Furious, Paolo decides to kidnap Amelia.

Scene 2: The senate is in session

The doge is interrupted by the sounds of a mob demanding Boccanegra's head. He orders the doors opened, and the crowd bursts in, chasing Adorno. Adorno confesses to killing Lorenzino for the attempted kidnapping of Amelia, ordered by an unknown high ranking official. Adorno guesses it is must be Boccanegra and is about to attack him when Amelia rushes in and stops the fight (Aria: Nell'ora soave – "At that sweet hour which invites ecstacy / I was walking alone by the sea"). Boccanegra has Adorno arrested for the night (Aria: Plebe! Patrizi! Popolo! – "Plebians! Patricians! Inheritors / Of a fierce history"). Discerning that Paolo is the actual man responsible, he makes everyone, including Paolo, utter a curse on the real kidnapper.

Act 2

Paolo and Fiesco discuss plans to murder Boccanegra, but Fiesco refuses. Paolo next tells Adorno that Amelia is the doge's mistress, hoping Adorno will murder Boccanegra. Just before Amelia enters, Adorno's anger and jealousy prompts an angry outburst (Aria: Sento avvampar nell'anima – "I feel a furious jealousy / Setting my soul on fire"). Amelia enters, and Adorno accuses her of infidelity. She claims only to love Adorno, but does not explain that Boccanegra is her father for Adorno's family was killed by the doge. Adorno hides as Boccanegra enters. Amelia vows to Boccanegra that she would die for Adorno. Boccanegra agrees to pardon him. He drinks from a poisoned glass of wine, which Paolo has previously placed on the table, and falls asleep. Adorno tries to kill him, but Amelia stops him. Boccanegra wakes and reveals that Amelia is his daughter. Adorno begs for forgiveness (Aria: Perdon, Amelia... Indomito – "Forgive me, Amelia... A wild, / Jealous love was mine") and he promises to fight for the doge.

Act 3

Paolo is condemned to death for leading the uprising against the doge. Fiesco is released from prison. Paolo tells Fiesco that he has poisoned Boccanegra. Fiesco confronts Boccanegra, who is now dying. Boccanegra recognizes his old enemy, but is happy to tell him that Amelia is his granddaughter. Fiesco feels great remorse and tells Boccanegra about the poison. Adorno and Amelia, newly married, find her father and grandfather have reconciled. Boccanegra asks that Adorno be named his successor, and after the doge dies, Fiesco proclaims it so.

Recordings

Year Cast

(Boccanegra, Maria, Adorno, Fiesco)
Conductor,

Opera House and Orchestra
Label
1957 Tito Gobbi,
Victoria de los Ángeles,
Giuseppe Campora,
Boris Christoff


Gabriele Santini,

Teatro dell'Opera di Roma orchestra and chorus
Audio CD: EMI

Cat: CDMB 63513

(Digitally remastered, 1990)
1973 Piero Cappuccilli,
Katia Ricciarelli,
Plácido Domingo,
Ruggero Raimondi


Gianandrea Gavazzeni,
RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Audio CD: RCA Records
1977 Piero Cappuccilli,
Mirella Freni,
José Carreras,
Nicolai Ghiaurov


Claudio Abbado,

Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
Audio CD: Deutsche Grammophon
1995 Vladimir Chernov,
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa,
Plácido Domingo,
Robert Lloyd


James Levine,

Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
DVD: Deutsche Grammophon

Cat: 00440 073 0319


Notes

  1. Loewenberg A. Annals of Opera. London, John Calder, 1978.
  2. It has subsequently been issued on CD by Opera Rara.
  3. NYGO's list of performances
  4. List of singers taken from Budden, Julian: The Operas of Verdi (Cassell), vol 2, p. 244.
  5. Budden, Julian: The Operas of Verdi (Cassell), vol 2, p. 267


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