Going to the Opera: Simon Boccanegra

And now for something completely different…I took last night off riding and attended the opening night of Simon Boccanegra, a Giuseppe Verdi opera that was showing at the BC Royal Theatre.

And how was it? Well!

It was my first opera, I’ll be the first to admit I have a hard time sitting for that long- and it was LONG. 155 minutes, including intermission. I didn’t get home until after 11am~ on a school (work) night!

The opera singing was very impressive, the sets were super cool and I really liked how they used the sets to advance the plot. The plot was incredibly ridiculous and basically impossible to follow, with much of the action happening either off stage or in the page-long prologue. So…I’d say that this opera is not for beginners, hahah. It was like a soap opera on crack!!

The opera is based on the play Simon Boccanegra by Antonio García Gutiérrez, and it is definitely hard to follow in Italian, though the opera house offers subtitles in English so we could read along–thank god.

Curiously, while I was reading about it, it seems like the plot was generally disdained by a lot of people for being too hard to follow. Found this info on Wikipedia, thought it was interesting, hahah.

Given the complications of the original plot and the generally poor popular response – although the critical one was more encouraging – the opera dropped out of favour after 1866. Finally, 23 years later, Verdi’s publisher persuaded the composer to revise the opera, with text changes to be prepared by Arrigo Boito, the librettist who aspired to work with the aging composer on a project which eventually became a new opera, Otello, but to which Verdi had not totally committed at that time.

The revised version of Simon Boccanegra, with the now-famous Council Chamber scene, was first performed at La Scala in Milan on 24 March 1881. It is this version which is the one most frequently performed today.

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