Hampson Steals “Boccanegra”

United StatesUnited States  Verdi, Simon Boccanegra: Soloists, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Sir Andrew Davis, (conductor), Civic Opera House, Chicago. 20.10.2012 (JLZ)

Thomas Hampson as SIMON BOCCANEGRA;photo credit:Dan Rest

In this Lyric Opera of Chicago presentation of Simon Boccanegra the musical and dramatic content receive equally strong attention in a memorable production—which makes use of the 1881 revisions in the score, rather than the 1857 version. The narrative concerns the tragedy of a fourteenth-century Doge, whose early triumphs winning power in Genoa are eroded twenty-five years later when he is usurped and dies, with his long-lost daughter marrying the man who was once his enemy. The details of the libretto are too complex to relate here, but suffice to say that mistaken identities, political intrigues and shifts of allegiance offer many situations for Verdi to use his masterful musical skill to intensify the drama.

As the title character, Thomas Hampson was in complete command of the role. His rich, nuanced baritone emphasized the character’s contrasts—from the early years when he attempted to reconcile himself to Fiesco, to later when a quarter-century of experience as Doge gave him the wisdom to seek peace. While some of Hampson’s upper pitches in the prologue were questionable, the remainder of the performance was exemplary in its delivery, especially the first-act duet “Figlia! a tal io palpito,” a high point in its command and drama. The penultimate duet between Boccanegra and Fiesco was similarly powerful, with Hampson giving complete attention to dramatic pitch, musical details and phrasing.

As Boccanegra’s enemy Fiesco, bass Feruccio Furlanetto gave a compelling performance. The prayer at the death of Fiesco’s daughter “Il lacerato spirito” boasted exquisite phrasing and delivery. Furlanetto’s even, full sound was impressive, with the lowest pitches resonating superbly. Such mastery was evident throughout, especially in the duet with Hampson near the conclusion.

Frank Lopardo, Krassimira_Stoyanova; photo credit: Dan Rest

The woman at the core of the plot, Amelia, was played by Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova with a fine sense of style. Her first-act aria, “Come in quest’ora bruna,” showed the delicacy she can deliver, even with some imbalances in the orchestra. Yet as the opera progressed, Stoyanova used her vocal power well to deliver a persuasive performance. Her duet with Frank Lopardo (as Gabriele), “Si, si, dell’ ara il giubilo,” only continued the scene’s intensity. Parallel to the “Figlia” duet in the first act, “Parla, in tuo cor virgineo” was equally impressive. Stoyanova’s range of musical coloring and dramatic expression drew spontaneous audience acclaim.

Depicting Gabriele Adorno, Lopardo demonstrated his fine style and intensity, and responded splendidly to the role’s technical and interpretive demands. He sounded effortless throughout, particularly the second-act aria “Sento avvampar nell’anima,” in which he weighs his love for Amelia against his perceived jealousy of Boccanegra as a rival.

In the role of Pietro, Evan Boyer distinguished his character with clarity and stage presence, and Quinn Kelsey’s Paolo was notable for its energy. He made the scheming Paolo believable, and drew in the audience with his musicality. The chorus, an important part for many crucial scenes, was secure and nicely voiced—enunciation clear and distinct. At the core of the performance was conductor Sir Andrew Davis, whose stylish sense of pacing contributed much to the evening’s success—indeed, every element fit as if Davis composed the work himself.

James L. Zychowicz