This Sunday night, May 13, we have highlights from Verdi's Simon Boccanegra. Simon Boccanegra is produced frequently enough, but considering its music, why isn't it more popular? The answer is the libretto, a gloomy convoluted story with various political revenge and love elements that are hard to follow even in live performance. Verdi and his first librettist on the opera Francesca Maria Piave, based the story on a play by Antonio García Gutiérrez, the same playright whose play El Trovador was the basis of the story for Il Trovatore. Gutiérrez's complex plots perhaps were more clear in his straight plays.
It took the publisher Giulio Riccordi to persuade Verdi to collaborate on a revision of Simon Boccanegra with Arrigo Boito, part of a long term campaign by Ricordi to convince Verdi to set Shakespeare's Othello to music with Boito, and this improved 1881 version is the one in general use today. And their work together on Simon Boccanegra did lead to Boito and Verdi later collaborating on Otello and Falstaff.
As for the plot, suffice it to say there is class warfare, a love story, evil manipulation, and at the end forgiveness and reconciliation.
Of the many fine recordings of this opera, we have highlights of a studio recording from 1957, with baritone Tito Gobbi as Simon Boccanegra and bass Boris Chistoff as his rival Jacopo Fiesca. Soprano Victoria de los Angeles sings Amelia, tenor Giuseppe Campora her lover and husband Gabrielle Adorno, and baritone Walter Monachesi is the evil Paolo. Gabrielle Santini conducts the chorus and orchestra of the Rome Opera House.