Simon Boccanegra, Opera by G. Verdi
Such was Giuseppe Verdi’s fame by the middle of the nineteenth century that the muted response to Simon Boccanegra, following its premiere at the Teatro La Fenice on 12 March 1857, must have come as a shock to him.
Simon Boccanegra was originally written by Verdi to a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave with whom Verdi had collaborated on some of his most successful works, including Rigoletto and La Traviata. Twenty three years later, Verdi was coaxed by his publisher to revise the opera with the help of a new librettist, Arrigo Boito; together they created Verdi's two late operas, Otello and Falstaff.
Verdi’s efforts were worth the trouble: the new version, seen for the first time at La Scala on 24 March 1881, went on to be staged all over the world. Simon Boccanegra continues to be one of the most regularly performed works in the repertoire and now comes again to one of Europe’s most splendid houses, the Vienna State Opera.
Verdi’s opera is an exciting tale of loss, political intrigue and reconciliation. Set in the 14th century, two men, Boccanegra, the Doge of Genoa, and Fiesco, a Genoese nobleman, become bitter enemies after Fiesco’s daughter Maria dies, having borne Boccanegra’s child, Amelia, out of wedlock. A quarter of a century later, only one woman - the daughter and granddaughter they both believe they have lost - can resolve the dispute between them.
Simon Boccanegra is certainly not a light work, but the opera rewards audiences because it reveals a composer, renowned for how he honed his craft throughout his long life, at the height of his powers.