Puget Sound Concert Opera in cooperation with Bellevue Opera, First United Methodist Church, Bellevue: June 6, 2009
Conductor: Samuel McCoy
Chorus Master/Piano: John Burkhardt
Simon Boccanegra: David Borning
Maria Boccanegra (Amelia Grimaldi): Rebecca Paul
Jacopo Fiesco: Jonathan Silvia
Gabriele Adorno: Stuart Lutzenhiser
Paolo Albiani: Ryan Bede
Pietro: James W. Harrington
Captain of the Guards: Austin Amaya
Amelia's servant: Sarah Evans
As much as I love Verdi, I am ashamed to admit that much of his work is terra incognita to me. For years, I only knew Simon Boccanegra for the bass aria Il lacerato spirito, and that mostly because a friend of mine at college used that as his audition aria (along with Banquo's aria from Macbeth).
More recently, I have fallen in love with the long soprano-baritone duet. And finally, watching this concert performance, I realized what an utter masterpiece it really is. It's a dark and moody opera about regret and lost opportunity, and death runs right through the middle of the work. Still, it has a stark and terrible beauty to it.
These performances by Puget Sound Concert Opera may well have been the local premiere of this work. And though they lacked staging, they did a fine job with the musical aspects of the work. The singers were accompanied by John Burkhardt at the piano along with a tiny orchestra of five string players and four woodwinds. The playing by the (in all likelihood all-volunteer) instrumentalists was by no means immaculate in intonation but they got the job done.
The singers were more polished. The villanous Paolo and Pietro were sung by Ryan Bede and James W. Harrington with dark menace. Mr. Bede, who seems very young, lent his character quite a bit of depth.
Of the principal quartet, my favorite was probably Jonathan Silvia as Fiesco, heard earlier this season as Quince in A Midsummer Night's Dream with the Seattle Opera Young Artist Program. His voice was commanding as was his characterization.
Gabriele Adorno was sung by Stuart Lutzenhiser, a tenor with a lyrical-spinto sound. Mr. Lutzenhiser fearlessly conquered the score's high notes with little sign of effort. I'd like to hear him in more late-middle Verdi roles: Don Carlo or Gustavo in Ballo in maschera, to name two. Rebecca Paul's Amelia had a rich spinto sound and an expressive way with the music.
In the title role, David Borning did not sound as effortless as some of his colleagues, but was wonderfully communicative through the music. My main quibble is that his climactic "figlia" in his duet with Amelia was loud and unsubtle instead of the delicate, floating thing it should be.
I had expected a slapdash chorus, but found their singing suprisingly strong and precise, just as a Verdi chorus should be. Samuel McCoy at the podium, kept everything on the rails.