Simon Boccanegra
Review by Willard Manus

Verdi's 1857 opera, SIMON BOCCANEGRA, may have a dense, difficult plot but its exploration of patriarchy and patriotism can touch the heart and soul, thanks to the opera's sublime music.

The title role is coveted by baritones. Placido Domingo, after decades of singing as a tenor, discovered much to his surprise and delight that his voice was deepening with age, a development that has allowed him to take on the daunting vocal challenges of SIMON BOCCANEGRA.

As heard in L.A. Opera's recent production of the Verdi opera, Domingo sang with dark, compelling power throughout, creating his portrait of the pirate-turned-politician Boccanegra with bold, masterful strokes. His acting was equally strong and expressive, making for a tour-de-force performance that will long be remembered. Domingo was especially effective in the last moments of the opera when, on the verge of death by poisoning, he makes a plea for forgiveness and compassion in life.

The other outstanding singers included Anna Maria Martinez as the Doge's daughter; Paolo Gavanelli as the villainous Paolo Albiani; Robert Pomakov as Pietro; and Vitalij Kowaljow as Jacopo Fiesco, Boccanegra's adversary in the Genoese senate--and the man whose aria "Il lacerato spirio" celebrates the climactic reunion of father and daughter.

James Conlon directed with his customary skill and flair, making Veri's music sound especially vibrant and evocative. Grant Gershon's work with the L.A. Opera's chorus was equallly impressive.

But the night definitely belonged to Placido Domingo.