Political drama of Simon Boccanegra: Salzburg festival, August 24th, 2019

Photo: Ruth Walz

What lies behind ambitious man with a thirst for power? What lies within? What are their drivers and hidden secrets? Have those helped them to reach the power spotlight? Would the same end their reign and life? Is there a life for a man in politics? So many questions adressed in one of the most beautiful Verdi operas. The main reason to see another “Simon Boccanegra” after impressive Paris production with Ludovic Tezier was an extraordinary good cast, especially I was looking forward to see Luca Salsi in the role. It was reasonable to expect very good performance from René Pape and Charles Castronovo, and a bit of curiosity about Marina Rebeka in this Verdian role.

The production itself was partially disappointing, mostly due to scenography of the bare grey walls with windows projecting a sea and a bunch of shrubs in the corner – on a vast stage of Grosses Festspielhaus this static set could not keep attention for long. Probably the main benefit was that it did not distract from more important messages coveyed by Verdi and Kriegenburger and let to focus mostly to performers.

Luca Salsi, Charles Castronovo and Marina Rebeka. Photo: Ruth Walz

I had very high expectations towards Luca Salsi as Simon Boccanegra and he fulfilled those extraordinary well, he really has become true exemplary verdian baritone. His voice has capability to use extensive color palette, from sweetly mellow and metallically threatening, with great legato and impressive stage presence. This is one of the best roles I have seen him until now, and even with this performance alone I might have been satisfied for my annual pilgrimage to Salzburg emotion-wise.

Charles Castronovo as Gabriele Adorno created a character of passionate, hot-headed and decisive young man with clear power ambitions. His jeleousy towards Boccanegra have put him on the brink of extinction since personal and political ambitions were mixed together. Castronovo has grown tremendously over last few years, and with a careful choice of roles he has become one of the most notable tenors. His clarion voice easily soars over orchestra without any need for overexertion for the top notes, he also has a great stage presence thus I believe he is approaching his best years in carreer, and will be happy to follow even more closely what will be next developments – hopefully more great verdian roles ahead.

René Pape as Jacopo Fiesco represented a man who had lost in power game – and sacrificies it required from him over years, facing both his personal and political adversary from opposing party. René Pape brought to the stage his aristocratic charisma and mesmerising timbre, portraying attempts to regain entitlement and willingness to win at any cost. He alone is a good reason to pack for next opera exploration journey whereever it is!

Fun moment happened at his solo appearance at the first act where his emotional attempt to get rid of a coat and vest turned into lose buttons scattered on the stage and also startled him – and made quite a lot audience members noticing it.

René Pape as Jacopo Fiesco. Photo: Ruth Walz

Marina Rebeka as Amelia Grimaldi was good addition to the excellent cast for the male roles. She delivered wholesome portrayal of her character, with good stage chemistry wih other protagonists. I was loving her voice in bel canto repertoire, and now not sure if this particular Verdi role was not premature. Regadless of good and professional delivery there is something missing, it seems that bright silver in her voice has darkened and turns into different metal, not sure which one. Also I believe the costume department failed to adjust her outfit – it seemed that her light blue dress was not really fitting well and made Rebeka look a bit too ordinary, not a hint of her usually aristocratic posture.

Luca Salsi and Marina Rebeka. Photo: Ruth Walz

André Heyboer as Paolo Albiani, Antonio Di Matteo as Pietro and Long Long as Captain complemented the strong cast through performance.

The orchestra was led by Valery Gergiev, the tempo and the sound of Vienna Philarmonic was excellent, the audience cheered to the whole ensemble enthusiastically at the curtain call.



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