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Simon Boccanegra review at Royal Opera House London

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Elijah Moshinsky returns to direct his 1991 production of Verdi’s most sombre opera. The staging looks its age, and some previous revivals have achieved a higher level of dramatic cogency – here some of the individual performances need altogether more conviction, and at times there’s a sense of routine.

Matters improve over the course of the evening, fortunately, with an increased sense of momentum from the pit, where Antonio Pappano presides over a never less than solid musical performance.

It’s not quite enough for this taxing opera, however. Ferruccio Furlanetto is the weighty Fiesco, pouring out rich Italianate tone all night, but the implacable hatred the character bears for Boccanegra need more vivid expression. As the Doge himself, Thomas Hampson proves a relative lightweight in a heavyweight role, sometimes untidy in his charting of Verdi’s vocal line. The lack of a true core of baritonal iron to his tone is not compensated by acting that is demonstrative rather than gripping.

There’s some fine singing from Russian soprano Hibla Gerzmava, though her voice never quite blossoms at the top as it should. She’s a decent enough actress. Most striking of the principals is the American tenor Russell Thomas, in his Royal Opera debut, who rises to considerable heights in his second-act aria, while the most consistent is the Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias as the villainous Paolo, who never loses connection with the character he is playing and sings with granite-like determination. But overall it’s an uneven evening, rarely rising to the heights demanded by one of Verdi’s greatest creations.

Production Information

Royal Opera House, London, June 27-July 16

Composer
Giuseppe Verdi
Conductor
Antonio Pappano
Director
Elijah Moshinsky
Producer
Royal Opera
Cast
Thomas Hampson, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Hibla Gerzmava, Russell Thomas, Dimitri Platanias, Jihoon Kim
Running time
2hrs 55mins

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