Simon Boccanegra - Royal Opera House, 27 June 2013
Boccanegra is back - again. Covent Garden's penchant for revivals must have more to do with Tony Pappano's love of the score than any fondness for Elijah Moshinsky's unremarkable '80s production. And it's the orchestra who emerge on top yet again. Pappano revels in the music's cinematic chiarascuro, lending grandeur and colour to its bold strokes.
Close your eyes and the singing is fine too; open them and the clumsiness of the direction is all too apparent. Handsome marble sets can't compensate for some equally marmoreal acting.
Ferruccio Furlanetto returns again, a grave and magnificent Fiesco, a worthy foil for Hampson.
But it was the newcomers who provided the most pleasant surprises. Hibla Gerzmava's dark, velvety and slightly uncontrollable soprano isn't the most appropriate casting for the innocent Amelia, but she sounded gorgeous. I blame her pudding-like acting on (lack of) direction - I've seen her perform far better.
Her Adorno, Russell Thomas, had the same problem. Wooden acting diminished the impact of his ardent, masculine tenor. But a voice as beautiful as his, wrapped in an unaffected, natural delivery is a rare thing. One to watch.
Dimitri Platanias, last seen here as Rigoletto, was a fabulously toad-like Paolo. For once this character had the presence and weight of a serious threat, bending the story to a different angle from its last showing.
The opera never quite pulls off the Shakespearean grandeur it seems to aim for, perhaps because only the title character is drawn with real depth. This run at least gives it a fair chance.
production photos (above) Clive Barda/Royal Opera House
curtain call photos (below) intermezzo.typepad.com