Simon Boccanegra | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Simon Boccanegra 

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Verdi's middle-period curiosity Simon Boccanegra, whose sprawling narrative almost defies synopsis, features one of the most vivid male protagonists in opera. A plebeian elected to rule 14th-century Genoa, Boccanegra is a farsighted, compassionate hero. It's a great baritone part, with enough psychological complexity and musical depth to rival some of Verdi's later creations. However, because Boccanegra delves into Byzantine political machinations at the expense of its love story (Boccanegra's reconciliation with his long-lost daughter packs a more powerful emotional wallop than her love for a plebeian partisan) the opera hasn't been among Verdi's most popular. Only through occasional worthy revivals has it gained recognition as a stern-minded political drama well ahead of its time. The Lyric Opera's revival, imported from Covent Garden, is staged by Elijah Moshinsky and designed by Michael Yeargan, two imaginative provocateurs who collaborated here four years ago in the visually arresting production of Barber's Antony and Cleopatra. Romanian baritone Alexandru Agache heads the cast. The ubiquitous diva Kiri Te Kanawa plays Amelia, Boccanegra's daughter, and bass Robert Lloyd plays Jacopo Fiesco, his patrician rival and unwitting kinsman. Richard Cowan and Michael Sylvester essay the roles of Paolo and Gabriele, Amelia's suitors, who come from opposite ends of Genoa's political spectrum. Daniele Gatti conducts. Friday, 7 PM, and Tuesday and next Saturday, September 23, 7:30 PM, Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker; 332-2244.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Zoe Dominic.

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