"The crowd breaks," marks the didascalia. A chorus, sick and threatening, surrounds a president during a meeting with his counselors. And he cries out: "Revenge! Revenge! Revenge! Let the murderer's blood flow! "It happened last night in Paris. But that crowd he was not wearing yellow vests, but street clothes. And the president was not Emmanuel Macron, but an updated version, but also in political difficulties, of a doge Genoese of the fourteenth century. Sometimes, opera and reality go hand in hand. It was the most impressive moment of a memorable performance of Simon Boccanegra, by Verdi, at the Opéra Bastille. A final of the first act with the same dramatic tension that was breathed yesterday by the streets of the French capital, afraid of the violent altercations, announced for Saturday, by the so-called "yellow vests".
Perhaps there is no more appropriate title, within the extensive catalog of Verdi, to reflect on the current situation of political disaffection
Perhaps there is no more appropriate title, within the extensive catalog of Verdi, to reflect on the current situation of political disaffection. Simon Boccanegra is based on the homonymous drama of the Spanish playwright Antonio García Gutiérrez, who emerged, in 1839, within a country shocked by the civil discord of the First Carlist War, and which Verdi transformed into an opera, in 1857, linked to the context of the Risorgimento. Its premiere in Venice was a failure and soon disappeared from the repertoire. But it was reborn, in 1881, after a thorough revision of Arrigo Boito's libretto, and almost a third of new music. However, it is still today a controversial title where, most surprisingly, most of Verdi's early and late musical approaches coexist with a complex plot that mixes the historical, the political and the sentimental. Giorgio Strehler, stage manager of the definitive consolidation of this title at the beginning of the seventies, and also of its premiere at the Paris Opera, which was not produced until 1978, laconically defined it as "a large, complicated and artistically ordered disorder, which is like life itself. "
Verdi banished, in his aforementioned revision, the dismal tone of the first version, in favor of instrumental color and vocal conciseness, which we will later find in Otello. But he added, in addition, a residue of political disenchantment, which followed the Italian unification. We heard it, precisely, in that end of the first act, with the imposing Scene of the Council, where the protagonist invokes peace by quoting Petrarch. The baritone Ludovic Tézier was the big winner of the night, with a fascinating portrait of Simon Boccanegra. Not only in the dramatic, with that evolution from the youthful corsair without political ambitions to the mature man who dies turned into a great statesman, but also in the musical. The Frenchman wore that ideal combination of authority and vocal expressiveness in the andante mosso "Plebs! Patrizi! … Popolo ", which became the apex of his performance. It was his first stage incarnation of the Verdian character, after having sung it last year in a concert version, but he is called to be one of the greatest current interpreters of the same.
In the scenic section Calixto Bieito outlines perhaps one of his most convincing dramatic creations for an opera house. The régisseur Burgos, that next season will also start in Paris its first production of the Ring wagneriano, choose here to convert Simon Boccanegra in an intense psychodrama. The scenography of Susanne Gschwender, which is limited to the gigantic structure of a ship, is a boast of phrenology, since Bieito recognizes, in the hand program, that it represents the head of the protagonist. We attend, therefore, to all his psychic degradation by means of innumerable rotating movements seasoned with videos that project his subconscious. It has extras, such as the ghost of María Boccanegra, the true love of the protagonist, which may be unnecessary, but also the gloomy illumination of Michael Bauer that underscores, perhaps excessively, the dark side of history. Bieito investigates, nevertheless, in the legacy of Boccanegra as a pacifying ruler in his leadership of actors. And from the isolation of each character, at the beginning, we come to glimpse a more conciliatory society, which looks and embraces.
Verdi banished, in his referred revision, the gloomy tone of the first version, in favor of the instrumental coloring
Another important aspect was the musical direction of Fabio Luisi. His status as an Italian with a broad Central European orchestral trajectory allows him to combine the orchestral and dramaturgical subtleties of this complex score by Verdi. It was a version of Viennese refinement, with that exquisite alloy of rope, wood and metal, but also devoid of bombastic excesses. The Genoese director defined each sound plan of the opera with dramatic precision, from the undulating maritime passage of the beginning to the strange final figurations that represent on the string the poison that slowly kills the protagonist. Sensational performance of the Orchestra of the National Opera of Paris, but also of the Choir, which sounded painstaking in the intimate moments and exalted in the dramatic ones.
The rest of the vocal cast was important. Starting with Amelia Grimaldi, melancholic and musical, by the Italian soprano Maria Agresta, but also a cold spot. Impressive the voice of the young man under Finnish Mika Kares, as Fiesco, although little credible as a character. The Italian tenor Francesco Demuro, like Gabriele Adorno, showed delivery and a beautiful tone, despite pressing the treble. Nicola Alaimo composed a convincing Paolo Albiani, as did the Pietro of Mikhail Timoshenko, to whom was added the unimaginative task of slaying him. One of the few details of unnecessary violence in an almost round production that can be seen next Monday, as long as the "yellow vests" allow it.