Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera House, London
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Simon Boccanegra, Royal Opera House, LondonWhen does a revival of Simon Boccanegra effectively turn into a new production? When the staging, the sets and costumes were conceived for Verdi's first version of 1857, and revised, as was the opera, for the definitive later version of 1881. Verdi's revision was one of the most startling instances of creative transformation in the history of the genre. The addition of the great Council Chamber Scene became the palpitating heart of the drama.

So Ian Judge's painterly production feels, and even looks, more fluid. Behind a broken picture frame and blood-smeared portrait of Genoa, John Gunter's tilted set does more than hint at instability. Italy is divided, and it's against that backdrop, with a few emblematic additions, that this sterling account of one of Verdi's greatest scores unfolds.

Its imperative and urgency is compounded by Judge's continuous action – as, for instance, when Boccanegra is declared Doge at the close of the Prologue, raised high above his adoring populace, only to disappear into its midst as bodies drift away like the intervening 25 years, to reveal his long-lost daughter Amelia – a beautiful image that serves to make the critical connection between the Prologue and the rest of the opera, and to underline how this love child will ultimately bring unity out of strife.