Rarely performed opera takes center stage

The Israeli Opera Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center July 3.

By URY EPPSTEIN
July 8, 2019 20:28
1 minute read.
Rarely performed opera takes center stage

‘Cosi Fan Tutte’ at the Israel Opera. (photo credit: ISRAELI OPERA)

 
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Unlike most other operas by Guissepe Verdi, there are no catchy melodies one could hum on the way home from the Israeli Opera’s performance of Simon Boccanegra.

Likewise, there are no emotional tragedies for the audience to sympathize with, but mainly personal or political intrigues that leave one more or less indifferent as to who is going to die and why. Perhaps this is why this opera is relatively rarely performed except, for some strange reason, by the Israeli Opera. Boccanegra’s death by poisoning does not necessarily evoke the audience’s compassion or self-identification, but is accepted rather as what he deserves due to his capricious life. Audience reactions, of course, differ in this respect.

David Pountney’s direction and Ralph Koltai’s sets were tastefully minimalist, neutral in terms of historical periods, and skillfully placed the choir onstage. However, steeping the stage in chiaroscuro most of the time did not contribute to the understanding of the plot.

In the title role, Ionut Pascu’s dark-timbred baritone was a strong-willed politician, but also a loving father. As Amelia, Aurelia Florian made it easy to understand why men fell in love with her lovely soprano, even though it was at times too shrill on the higher notes during this performance. In the role of Gabriele, tenor Hector Sandoval was an impassioned lover. Insung Sim’s warm bass movingly expressed Fiesco’s grief on the death of Maria.

The choir was a major participant in the performance, enthusiastically supporting Boccanegra’s plea for peace. So, too, was the orchestra, conducted by Giuliano Carella, sensitively adjusting its volume and tempo to fit the dramatic and emotional passages of the opera’s action.

Though perhaps not one of Verdi’s masterpieces, one has to be grateful for a splendid performance of a rarely performed work – at least for the sake of curiosity.

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