Leo Nucci Shines in the Liceu’s Simon Boccanegra

SpainSpain Verdi, Simon Boccanegra: Liceu Orchestra and Chorus, Massimo Zanetti (Conductor), Gran Theatre del Liceu, Barcelona, 12.4.2016. (JMI)

Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra © Antonio Bofill

Verdi, Simon Boccanegra

Co-Production: Liceu and Gran Théâtre de Genève
Direction: José Luis Gómez (original), Susana Gómez (revival)
Sets: Carl Fillion
Costumes: Alejandro Andújar
Lighting: Albert Faura

Simon Boccanegra: Leo Nucci
Amelia Grimaldi: Barbara Frittoli
Fiesco: Vitalij Kowaljow
Gabriele: Josip Bros
Paolo Albiani: Àngel Òdena
Pietro: Damián del Castillo
Amelia’s maid: Raquel Lucena
Captain: Francisco Vas

Simon Boccanegra has returned to the Liceu stage after an absence of seven years, with a series of performances and casts that feature two phenomena of vocal longevity, Leo Nucci and Placido Domingo. The latter is commemorating the 50th anniversary of his debut in this theatre.

The Liceu has chosen to revive the stage production by José Luis Gómez which premiered in January 2009. Nothing has changed since my original review: http://www.musicweb.uk.net/sandh/2009/jan-jun09/boccanegra0301.htm.

The musical direction was in the hands of Massimo Zanetti, a conductor who is always effective if not particularly inspired. His reading was more convincing in the last two acts of the opera; the first half did not go beyond pure routine. In my opinion, his performance was less impressive than that of Paolo Carignani seven years ago. The Liceu orchestra continues to confirming its improvement in recent years, and the chorus gave a solid performance.

Leo Nucci again proved to be a vocal miracle. It’s not easy to comprehend how at 74 he can keep displaying that freshness. His voice remains strong at the high notes, but he falls short on the lower ones, although he easily hides it. As with his other roles, Rigoletto in particular, Mr. Nucci makes the character his own. Presumably, he came to Barcelona rather late as there are no photos of him at rehearsals.

Barbara Frittoli was a rather poor Amelia. I can’t say she was disappointing, because it is well known that her voice has weakened in recent years. She was almost a reference in this repertoire in the 1990s, but now her vocal deterioration is evident. Her middle range continues to appeal, but her top leaves much to be desired. She was unable to sing piano at the top, and was often out of tune or shouting. Added to this, perhaps due to nerves, she lost her way in her aria of the first act.

Fabio Sartori cancelled as Gabriele Adorno, apparently at the last minute: this was announced on stage by the artistic director of the Liceu. His replacement was Josip Bros, who made his debut in the character. I was surprised by his mastery of the role, considering that he had never sung it before. Leaving aside Leo Nucci, he was without a doubt the best in the cast and is very well suited to this sort of lyric character. He makes a great display of elegant phrasing and exhibits perfect diction, so scarce nowadays in the world of opera.

Bass Vitalij Kowaljow was a correct Fiesco. His voice is more bass-baritone than the pure bass that the role requires, and I missed some amplitude and authority from him.

Àngel Òdena was Paolo Albiani and once again produced his usual excess of volume. Damian del Castillo was lighter than usual as Pietro.

José M. Irurzun

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