|Simon Boccanegra, Canadian Opera Company|
How often does one experience an opera in which everything works — in which there is not one flaw either in the staging or in its musical dimensions?
Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company overwhelmed its audience with just such perfection in the production of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra that opened the company’s spring season in the still-new Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts.
The staging, new at London’s Covent Garden a year ago, was directed by Ian Judge, who in addition to his credentials as one of today’s top international directors of opera, looks back on a quarter century with England’s Royal Shakespeare Company. Although the libretto for Boccanegra is largely by Francesco Maria Piave, Judge brought the insights of a major Shakespearean to Verdi’s 1881 revision of the work, first staged in Venice in 1857.
Judge has a strong sense of dramatic flow of “Boccanegra” and thus eschewed the divisions into acts and the in-between-curtains that traditionally interrupt it. With a single intermission after the curse that ends the Council scene, this was a staging, seen on May 3, that kept the audience almost breathlessly engaged throughout its three hours.
Sets by John Gunter were traditional with touches of modernity in sloping walls and a titled pillar. Lavishly rich costumes were by Deirdre Clancy. Nigel Levings was responsible for unusually effective lighting.
Judge brought Shakespearean majesty to the death of Boccanegra, an aspect clearly in the mind as he indicated in a program note on the opera: “It has all the qualities of a Shakespeare play. Verdi loved Shakespeare. He wrote [here] a Shakespeare drama in his own way, and that’s what is terrific.” This was indeed and in every way a terrific Boccanegra!