Today we’re listening to… “Come in quest’ora bruna”, Amelia’s opening aria from Act 1 of the opera Simon Boccanegra by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Like Il Trovatore, the plot is complicated, with several characters appearing at different times under different names (for example, Amelia is, in reality, Maria Boccanegra (bok-kah-NEG-rah), the doge’s daughter and Fiesco’s granddaughter, but neither man knows her true identity).
With so many dramatic events occurring on the national and international stage this past week, it was hard to focus on Giuseppe Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra". Even reading the Met synopsis was challenging (https://www.metopera.org/user-information/synopses-archive/simon-boccanegra).
I began to understand the various plot twists and turns, however, by watching the 1978 La Scala production, starring Mirella Freni, Piero Cappuccilli, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Veriano Luchetti.
(Part 1 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgfA8rw4JUU)
(Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zctoMumwRrg&t=63s).
The complicated political rivalries, alliances, love stories and dysfunctional family feuds at the heart of this opera are probably apt metaphors for the turbulent history of
Genoa and other city-states and republics in 14th-century Italy. I need to listen with greater intention, however, to discover the magic in "Simon Boccanegra". The music simply didn't have the appeal for me of past operas and I asked myself why. Perhaps the themes, combined with the predominance of heavy male voices, made it feel heavy and oppressive. I did like that part of the overture, however, which brought seafaring and ocean waves to mind.
Anna Moffo, Kiri Te Kanawa and Leyla Gencer“ performed "Come in quest’ora bruna” brilliantly; however, I preferred Montserrat Caballé with Piero Cappuccilli above all. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BVZQtLelns). I also loved the sweetness and her effortless performance of "Orfanella il tetto umile" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7qh__MLuj4). This takes nothing away from my esteem for the great Mirella Freni. It simply confirms my "life is a Caballé" bias😍.
Escaping to the opera stage has been such a welcome respite this week. Thank you for all you do. "Tosca" at The Met in December? I'm thinking about that.
P.S. For the historic Simon Boccanegra, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simone_Boccanegra