Angela Gheorghiu, Thomas Hampson, and Marcello Giordani
Photo: Marty Sohl/Met Opera 2007
This New York weekend wrapped up with the season’s first performance of Simon Boccanegra
at the Met with an all start cast including Thomas Hampson in the title role, Angela Gheorghiu, Ferruccio Furlanetto, and Marcello Giordano. Let me start by saying that the singing overall was top-drawer. The music was too. Fabio Luisi and the Met Orchestra were in fine form with a strong, not-too-overly-studied performance. You are unlikely to hear a more stellar cast in this opera anywhere in the world right now than the one the Met has currently put together. Gheorghiu is amazing, but of course this is Hampson’s show, which he handles heroically. I love Furlanetto and he did not disappoint here. The chorus was excellent and was actually given a little bit of business to do compared to some of their more stand-and-deliver outings recently.
So why was I so bored for much of the evening? I think my neighbor my have had it right – no umph, or at least not for the first half of the opera. I wasn’t really convinced from their acting that anyone meant anything they were singing. It was studied but never really connected, I felt. As well sung as it was, nobody was doing much acting outside of the hand-wringing head-grabbing variety. Maybe this is one of those “warm-up” effects that improve with multiple performances. However, I tend to think the awkwardness is more due to bad direction or lack of it as opposed to any decision made by the performers themselves.
Then there is the production itself. This is another one of those well-done but completely uninteresting stagings that is shockingly stodgy for only being a little more than 10 years old. It’s the operatic equivalent of a late Cecil B DeMille picture. All this grand "authenticity" but so little to show for it. Plus someone really should have reconsidered the sequence where the crowd pulls down the deposed leader’s statue in the Prologue. It’s 2007, people, and while this may not have seemed cliché a decade ago, news events since that time have left it as a somewhat strange theatrical gesture.
Perhaps I’m quibbling considering all of the show's strong attributes, but on a weekend that included two great productions, I couldn’t resist thinking about how many ways in which this could have been better. Still, given the star power and the musical performance, it is definitely worth seeing.