I had never heard of "Simon Bocanegro" before, much less heard it before.
I was just going on the knowledge that Verdi is pretty good. Yep, Verdi
is pretty good.
Simon (or Simone) Bocanegro was the first Doge of Genoa, in the fourteenth
century. According to the opera, he had personal and political problems.
For most operas, the plot can be summarized in a few lines (although when
you do so, it often appears transcendently silly). But not "Simon Bocanegro".
It seems impossible to come up with a synopsis much shorter than the libretto.
So just leave it at "he had personal and political problems." He was
reviled as "the tyrant", or hailed as "the peacemaker", often by the same
people. He ends up being poisoned by one of his first supporters, Paolo.
(The death scene lasts half an hour, of course, but that's opera.)
Paolo, a basso of course, did a terrific job, and would have run away
with the play except for the natural tendency to hiss the villain. He was
a black man, which brought to mind an interview with the black man who
sang Judas in the first production of "Superstar". Somebody asked him
if casting a black Judas was possibly being racist. He replied something
to the effect of "the heck with racism; did you hear what I get to sing?"
Earlier this season we had a lack-luster "Don Giovanni" production and now
this rather terrific "Simon Bocanegro". I'm beginning to think Mozart
may not really be God, or at least not the only god.
The other opera I saw this season was Bizet's "Beatrice and Benedict".
Again, just chosen on what I thought I knew of the composer. It was
a piece of fluff. Afterward, I got to thinking about "Carmen". If
you took out the "March of the Toreadors", there wouldn't really be
much there. Maybe Bizet is a one-piece composer. Someday I'll have
to try his "Faust" to see.