VERDI: Simon Boccanegra
Erich Wolfgang Korngold was only 18 when his one-act opera Violanta premiered in Munich, with Bruno Walter on the podium The amazing young composer was a sensation in the Viennese musical world, and he had yet to write the operas Die tote stadt (1920) and Das Wunder der Heliane(1927). Violantawas to be presented coupled with an even earlier Korngold one-act opera, Das Ring des Polycratis. The Violanta libretto was by Hans Müller. The plot is about revenge, love and death. Before the opera begins, Violanta's sister was seduced by Alfonso, the irresponsible illegitimate son of the King of Naples. The young woman then committed suicide. Violanta wants revenge for this and entices Alfonso to her room where she plans to have him killed by her husband, Simione. But during their meeting they fall passionately in love. When Simon arrives to kill him, Violanta steps in front of the sword intended to kill Alfonso, and is killed. The score is Korngold in his youth, and the final scene between Alfonso and Violanta contains some of the composer's most memorable music.
For many years collectors had to rely on a decades old recording that featured Eva Marton and Siegfried Jerusalem as the unfortunate lovers; now we have this brilliant new production which is sung to perfection. This was the first Italian production of Violanta, recorded January 21/23, 2020 in Torino's Teatro Regio. There is a single simple set that works well, costumes are equally appropriate. The performance is magnificent. Dutch soprano Annemarie Kremer was superb in the recent video of Das Wunder der Heliane (REVIEW). Her voice is rich and controlled. And tenor Norman Reinhardt is a real find, a tenor voice of power and quality—and handsome as well. He is a tenor to watch. The remainder of the cast is exceptional, and conductor Steinberg luxuriates in the rich Korngold scoring. Audio and video are first-class.Don't miss this one. You can see it on You Tube, but for highest quality and multi-channel sound, get the DVD. A terrific release in the opera world.
Verdi's Simon Boccanegra had its premiere in Venice in March 1846. Although it was generally approved by critics, audiences were coo, and for about a quarter-century the opera was ignored . On a suggestion from his publisher, Verdi revised the opera with the assistance of librettist Arigo Boito adding the now famous Council Chambrt scene. The opera has a convoluted plot focusing on Boccanegra who becomes Doge of Genoa. and is poisoned shortly after finding his long-lost daughter Amelia. The opera is a showcase for a baritone and there are many recordings including a 1950 Met performance featuring Leonard Wartren, one of the truly great interpreters of the role (available in the big Met Opera Verdi box (REVIEW). There are manyother recordings and videos as well. This new version was taped at the 2019 Salzburg Festival, a new production directed by Andreas Kriegenburg, a modern but inoffensive production. The cast is uniformly strong; Lucas Salsi is perhaps today's leading interpreter of the title role. The splendid chorus is in top form, and the Vienna Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev's direction could not be bettered. If this opera is one of your favorites you should investigate this sterling modern production. However, I imagine that most of the Salzburg audience would have preferred a different Verdi opera. Video and audio are outstanding.
R.E.B. (June 2020)