Verdi: Simon Boccanegra

Album cover art for upc 807280130898
Label: ARTHAUS
Catalog: 101308
Format: BLU RAY

This is an often beautiful performance from the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, featuring an almost all Italian cast, certainly a plus when it comes to performing Verdi. With a largely minimalist set, the focus is squarely on the singing, and for the most part, the leads deliver. Frontali is a Verdi baritone in the best sense, lush and full, if sometimes a little lacking in nuance. Giannattasio is a quite commanding lyric soprano with a gorgeous higher register which never broadens into a screech. Giuseppe Gipali as Adorno delivers the tenor side of the equation with appealing liquidity and an assured tone...Giacomo Prestia’s Fiesco...has the natural gravitas of a bass...Dramatically, he’s quite apt. The young conductor Michele Mariotti marshals his forces quite admirably in this production, leading the orchestra through that positively Brahmsian Prologue in E major with passion and grace. He also elicits a good deal of fire from an orchestra and chorus that frankly could have sounded more provincial under a less able baton. Though Simon Boccanegra has perhaps oddly never received a lot of acclaim, possibly because it pales in comparison to some of Verdi’s more iconic pieces, the fact is the opera reveals the composer in top form, albeit one where he tends to work more organically, instead of segueing from aria to recitative. While that may have thrown his 19th century audiences for a bit of a loop, it reveals a prescient artist who was attempting to stretch the bounds of his art, however subtly at times. Simon Boccanegra arrives on Blu-ray from ArtHaus Musik with a very strong AVC encoded 1080i “live” transfer in 1.78:1. The first thing you will notice about this production is how it is literally bathed in blue almost all of time. Absolutely gorgeous, but strangely never cold or icy, blue tones fill the stage for virtually the entire opera. The Prologue especially revels in this end of the spectrum, with low blue lighting accenting the emotional turmoil which is being set up for the rest of the piece. The sets are quite striking, if minimal, and include a slightly raked, mosaic floor stage and often geometrically patterned backdrops. The Blu-ray supports all of this fine detail with ease, and also reproduces the gorgeous, and often quite colorful, costumes very well. Black levels are excellent and contrast remains strong throughout the opera. Just as good is Simon Boccanegra’s crystal clear DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix (a lossless LPCM 2.0 fold down is also available). This is one of Verdi’s more relatively restrained scores, though the burnished strings of the Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna sound warm and inviting even when not declaiming florid emotional underscore. Separation is quite inviting here, immersing the listener in what I assume is a very real reproduction of the soundfield within the Teatro Comunale di Bologna itself. Balance between the orchestra and singers is generally quite good...Fidelity is superb throughout here with excellent dynamic range. No supplements are offered on the disc. The insert booklet has a good essay and plot synopsis. Even ardent Verdi fans may never have experienced Simon Boccanegra. This Blu-ray offers a very well balanced production that features fine singing from almost all of the leads, and surprisingly supple work by a lesser known orchestra. This visual presentation puts the “blu(e)” in Blu-ray, and the audio presentation is similarly lustrous. Highly recommended.

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