Sunday, September 07, 2008
San Francisco Opera Opening 1
The San Francisco Opera Company opened its 86th season on Friday night with Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" and a line of valet parkers on Van Ness...
...who were actually running to their proffered vehicles.
"Simon Boccanegra" is probably my favorite Verdi opera, along with "Don Carlo."
Both operas are heavily involved in questions of politics, ethics, and the intersection of the personal and the public.
"Simon Boccanegra" has the added advantage of featuring extremely sympathetic characters who are all at each other's throats because of family feuds and the war between the nobles and the plebians in 14th century Genoa. Its charistmatic title character Simon starts off as a hot-blooded pirate in the prologue who has impregnated his true love, loses the baby somehow (it's a long, offstage story), and then is elected the plebian Doge of Genoa at the same moment his true love dies. Her noble father then proceeds to curse Simon with every fiber of his being.
The next scene is the lost daughter 25 years later, alive and in love and adopted by a noble family, along the waterfront of Genoa at dawn. Her aria is one of the most beautiful things Verdi ever wrote, which is saying something, and the scene culminates in just about my favorite duet in all of Verdi, when Simon and Amelia realize that they are the long-separated padre e figlia (father and daughter).
From that moment on, Simon does his best to promote peace and love between the two warring factions, most notably in the great choral Council Chamber scene, but the wounds run too deep and he's finally poisoned by his own version of Karl Rove after Simon won't let his political deputy marry his (secret) daughter. The sad, reconciliation finale among all parties as Simon dies is one of the most powerful in all of opera.
It almost makes one envy a place and time when there were actual statesmen rather than people like the Pelosi family (above) pretending to be our noble rulers.