Notes and Editorial Reviews
Giuseppe Verdi - Simon Boccanegra
Simon Boccanegra - Thomas Hampson
Maria Boccanegra - Cristina Gallardo-Domâs
Jacopo Fiesco - Ferruccio Furlanetto
Gabriele Adorno - Miroslav Dvorský
and other singers
Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper
Daniele Gatti, conductor
Peter Stein, stage director
Recorded at the Wiener Staatsoper, October 2002
Picture format: NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic (widescreen)
Sound format: LPCM Stereo / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Region code: 0 (All Region)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Booklet language: English, French, German
No. of DVDs: 1
* TDK presents a "visually alert, musically sensitive and disturbingly coherent" (The Standard) production of Simon Boccanegra on DVD, one of Verdi’s lesser known works yet regarded by many opera lovers as one of his finest.
* The staging was directed by one of the giants of the European theatre, Peter Stein, who ran the Berliner Schaubühne between 1970 and 1985, and later became theatre director at the Salzburg Festival. His production of Simon Boccanegra was first seen at the 2000 Salzburg Easter Festival. Two years later he developed the production in Vienna, using the same sets and costumes as in Salzburg.
* American baritone Thomas Hampson is one of the most versatile opera and lieder singers of the present day. He first sang Simon Boccanegra in Vienna, receiving rave reviews for "using vocal means alone to indicate the decisive moments in the action with the mastery of the lieder interpreter. Rarely are striking theatrical emotions such as faith, love and hope on the part of a reluctant ruler, desperate lover and loving father so credibly realised in music as they are by Thomas Hampson." (The Standard).
* The supporting cast also includes Ferruccio Furlanetto as Boccanegra’s antagonist, Jacopo Fiesco, now regarded as the foremost representative of the basso cantante repertory, international star Chilean soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs, and Israeli baritone Boaz Daniel.
R E V I E W S:
Daniele Gatti, cond; Thomas Hampson (
); Ferruccio Furlanetto (
); Cristina Gallardo-Domâs (
); Miroslav Dvorský (
); Vienna St Op O & Ch
TDK OPSIBOW (DVD 136:45
Text and Translation) Live: Vienna 10/2004
has fared well on video, but pride of place must go to this entry on the TDK label. TDK has another very good performance, from Florence, with Abbado conducting—but Carlo Guelfi is no match for Thomas Hampson, either in vocal quality or imagination. There is also a fine DG video with James Levine conducting the Metropolitan Opera forces. Vladimir Chernov may have a natural Verdi baritone timbre, but he doesn’t shade or color it with 20 percent of the nuance found in the title role by Hampson—and Kiri Te Kanawa, while her silvery soprano brings much pleasure on its own terms, doesn’t get herself deeply involved in the drama the way Cristina Gallardo-Domâs does.
Everything about this video is close to perfect—and it stands as one of the finest opera DVDs that I have yet encountered. Peter Stein’s evocative, penetrating direction emphasizes the darkness of the opera, and never calls attention to itself. The production is a naturalistic one, but that doesn’t mean lacking in imaginative touches. Everything is aimed at the inner drama of the human beings who inhabit the opera, and the result is extremely moving.
Central to this is Thomas Hampson’s Boccanegra—a gigantic portrayal in every sense of the word (unless you interpret the word to mean that it is over-the-top, because it is not). Hampson finds the humanity and nobility in the Doge, and conveys it through subtle facial expressions as well as body language, and just as convincingly with vocal color. He shades Verdi’s music perfectly, without ever getting fussy or mannered. When he needs to expand out and just sing a grand line, that’s what he does. His voice is in perfect condition here, and this must go down as a classic performance.
Ferruccio Furlanetto is in the same league as Fiesco. Fiesco is a complex character, and it is too easy to just portray him simplistically as the villain. Furlanetto brings out the complete human being, and in this performance we wind up empathizing with both Boccanegra and Fiesco and the dilemma in which they find themselves.
The Chilean soprano Cristina Gallardo-Domâs is not quite in the same league in terms of subtlety—her facial expressions seem one time too large for the camera. But she sings beautifully, and shapes the music with a sure sense of style. Miroslav Dvorský is the younger brother of tenor Peter Dvorský, and was a last-minute substitute. He turned out to be a superb Gabriele Adorno, with focused singing and impassioned, convincing acting.
All of the secondary roles are well cast (Boaz Daniel is a superb Paolo), and Daniele Gatti’s conducting is just right. He manages the delicate colors of this score perfectly, while never ignoring the long line. Anton Reitzenstein’s direction for television is excellent—using occasional fades and double exposures to heighten the drama. The sound quality, heard in regular stereo and Dolby digital (but not in the surround-sound format) is fine, though a bit congested at the climaxes in both formats. This was obviously recorded at a few live performances and also some rehearsal or patch sessions, because some scenes end with applause and others do not. But the audience doesn’t get in the way at any time.
The bottom line here is that this is a superb production, brilliantly directed, conducted, and sung. There is nothing about the video that stands between you and Verdi’s genius—and the opera works its magic directly and fully. You have a chance to see one of the great opera portrayals of our time—Thomas Hampson’s Boccanegra—and to see it in superb surroundings. Don’t pass it up.
FANFARE: Henry Fogel
Works on This Recording
Simon Boccanegra by Giuseppe Verdi
Ferruccio Furlanetto (Bass),
Cristina Gallardo-Domâs (Soprano),
Thomas Hampson (Baritone),
Miroslav Dvorsky (Tenor)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Written: 1857; Italy
Date of Recording: 10/2002
Venue: Wiener Staatsoper
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