Verdi Simon Boccanegra Hvorostovsky Frittoli OrbelianGiuseppe Verdi – Simon Boccanegra
CAST: Simon Boccanegra: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Maria/Amelia: Barbara Frittoli, Fiesco/Andrea: Ildar Abdrazakov, Gabriele: Stefano Secco, Pietro: Kostas Smoriginas, Paolo: Marco Caria, Amelia’s Maid: Eglė Šidlauskaitė, Captain: Kęstuitis Alčauskis

Kaunas State Choir
Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra
Constantine Orbelian, conductor

Delos, 2015

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If the present studio recording of Simon Boccanegra were to be summarised briefly, we should say that it has just one strong point (Dmitri Hvorostovsky in the title role), few good but not outstanding singers (Barbara Frittoli as Amelia, Ildar Abdrazakov as Fiesco) and at least one weak point (Stefano Secco as Gabriele). Overall, then, this recording appears unbalanced in favour of the Siberian baritone, while the rest of the cast is sometimes correct, sometimes mediocre.

Simon Boccangra: Constantine Orbelian’s Conduction

The first, not entirely convincing aspect is Constantine Orbelian’s conduction. Orbelian is one of the most frequent names you find in Hvorostovsky’s recordings (as War, Peace, Love & Sorrow and Rigoletto) and concerts, so that it is not a surprise to find him conducting also this Simon Boccanegra. An attentive and vigilant accompanist when he conducts short arias and songs, Orbelian is not a very original conductor when it comes to complete operas. Even though his conduction is never boring or dull, nonetheless it lacks those colours and nuances that really enthral the listener. You can appreciate Orbelian’s precision, his almost paternal guidance of the singers, but there is little more than this in the present Simon.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky ( Simon Boccanegra )

Before this recording was released Hvorostovsky already performed the role of Simone on stage many times, as in the production staged by the San Francisco Opera in 2008 and by the Met in 2011, but he also sang excepts during his concerts. He therefore arrives at the studio recording with significant experiences behind him.

His Simone does not lack authoritativeness when his public duty requires it (as in the famous appeal Plebe! Patrizi! Popolo!), but above all Hvorostovsky’s Simone is human and pitiful, as it is suitable to someone who says «e vo’ gridando: amor» («and I want to cry: love») immediately after his reproach. This is an inclination to goodness that is already present in the Prologue, where the contrast with the threatening Fiesco could not be more clear, not to speak of the duet with Amelia, which is a real display of paternal affection. Hvorostovsky’s choice of accents and expressions always give prominence to the natural kindness of this Simone, who overall is a good man, a wise and farsighted head of state and a good father at the same time – and a complex character for those who listen to him.

The Other Singers

Next to Hvorostovsky, the rest of the cast pales, even if two famous singers as Barbara Frittoli and Ildar Abdrazakov sing the roles of Amelia and Fiesco. Neither is really disappointing, and yet they are not completely satisfactory. Despite the fact that Frittoli’s technique allows her to find the way to conceal a premature decline, her voice shows unequivocally some signs of wear. Therefore, her character sometimes seems older than she is, especially in the duet with Simone in the first act, even though she is slightly better in the second act, where she sings more smoothly and sweetly.

For his part, Abdrazakov would have been a great Fiesco with his dark, elegant voice that is really a pleasure to hear. Unfortunately, to this wonderful voice does not correspond a precise definition of the character and his Fiesco, instead of being menacing and gloomy (in the Prologue) and repentant (in the final scene), usually sounds too generic to be captivating.

At last, tenor Stefano Secco (Gabriele) is completely out of place. His voice is dry, his timbre unpleasant and in addition he does not have the charisma to portray his character convincingly.

Conclusion

This Simon Boccanegra is therefore not the best ever released. It is mainly for Hvorostovsky’s performance that it is worth listening to it. His Simone is riveting, but no one of the other singers is as fine as he is. My personal opinion is that Hvorostovsky is a reason good enough to listen to this Simon, also considering that there is nothing so awful to avoid this recording completely – but this remains at everybody’s discretion.

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