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VERDI: Simon Boccanegra

Anna Tomowa-Sintow / Vasile Moldoveanu / Sherrill Milnes / Paul Plishka
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus / James Levine
Production: Tito Capobianco / Video Director: Brian Large
Deutsche Grammophon DVD 073 440-3 [Filmed 1984]

The flood of DVD releases of older productions of operas, often seen on TV, gives a good opportunity to compare more traditional productions with the work of today's directors.

This Simon Boccanegra from the Met starts very well, with atmospheric orchestral playing in the Prologue under Levine, well recorded, and strong singing by the duo of enemies, Paul Plishka's sonorous bass especially notable. It is an opera which has a special place for us, with enduring memories of a production seen in Zurich, 2001.

The following Act One (twenty five years on) needs some consideration for home viewing. The rivals haven't aged much, but on the other hand Tomova-Sinto really is too mature for her purported time of life, her soprano not always ingratiating, and she and her lover rely too heavily on stock gestures. Moldoveanu is rather wooden and one is constantly reminded that the singers have to project to distant members of the audience in a large opera house. Simon Boccanegra is an opera which does of course present great difficulties with the contortions of the narrative, even with satisfactory sub-titles as here and the synopsis nicely harmonised with track numbers and key phrases in Italian.

So much of the music is wonderful and unique in Verdi that it is regrettable to cavil, but emotional involvement fell by the way, and it is odd indeed to have protracted death by poisoning spread across two Acts, 2 & 3, with all the misunderstandings and reconciliations in the nick of time.

But overall, there is a lot going for this Boccenegra, and it does not have too many competitors, unlike Otello, below. Presentation is good, c.p below, Opus Arte for their ROH Collection.

Verdi: Otello (Royal Opera House Collection)

Plácido Domingo / Kiri Te Kanawa/ Sergei Leiferkus
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House / Georg Solti
Director Elias Moshinsky

Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London on 23rd & 27th October 1992

Opus Arte: OAR3102D [4:3: 145 Mins]

Although far more recent than the newly released Simon Boccenegra, this is less satisfactory for home viewing. It is good to have Solti at the helm, though the orchestral sound is sometimes a little rough; not so the playing. As is so often the case (ditto for Amelia above) Kiri Te K in close up no longer quite looks the Desdemona of one's imaginings. Most reviewers have agreed that Leiferkus is rather weak and miscast as Iago.

The crux is, would you agree, that Otello has to involve and touch you emotionally? This one didn't for us until the last act which was quite well done.

Filmed on two nights, one of which gave us a chance to spot Charles & Diana in the Royal Box... But no insert leaflet information to "place" this production.

Peter Grahame Woolf

See my earlier reviews for TheOperaCritic of two DVDs of Otello; the palm awarded to the Hardy Classic Video from Milan (Mario del Monaco/Tullio Serafin, 1958).