17 March 2010

Simon Boccanegra

Once again to the opera last Saturday to see something that is apparently not often presented: Simon Boccanegra.

No politicians climbing over rows of seats this time, and we're not really sure whether we saw the Fraggle (woman in the fabulous feather coat that I imagined to be made of the tailfeathers of a thousand baby pheasants). We were not, however, without audience amusement.

There was a guy in the row ahead of us, a little more off to the side, who was wearing an outfit to stand out. At first my friend told us (we were a party of 3) that the guy was not wearing a shirt! We, of course, tried to position ourselves to see, even racing from the hall during the intermission to see if we could get ahead and glance back. Alas, he was too quick for us. We did make it back to our seats before he did and had an excellent perspective when he finally came back in with mere moments to spare.

He was wearing a motocross-style white leather jacket made by some trendy designer and under it, while not completely shirtless, he had only a very flimsy jersey knit top, open all the way to the navel. To make it all worse for us, his chest was nothing that we really wanted to look at too long.

Focus on the opera! A lovely experience, although great parts of the story take place off stage and are explained to us in some of the longest surtitles ever. The chef d'orchestre was a woman, which was a welcome first in my 3-year opera experience in Montréal and the music was beautifully played and sung.

If I had a particular critique about this production, I would say it was in the sets. They were rearranged in various ways for the different scenes, but didn't look all that different from each other. One would think that Genoa was a cookie cutter suburb, albeit one with soaring arches and lovely stonework. I'm not worldly enough to be able to compare the sets to the actual architecture of Genoa, but I am willing to guess that it is more varied.

The other thing that bothered me was that I was too often aware of the spotlight. It seems to me that the spotlight should not be visible on the scenery (even the house wall), but it was throughout the opera. This annoyed me a bit, as I don't recall having noticed the spotlight so explicitly in past productions. Maybe bad set placement, bad coordination with the movements of the singers/actors. (Yikes! Do we call them singers or actors in the opera?)

Once again I will say that the singing was very lovely, if only to take away the sting of my harsh assessment of the sets and spotlight. The other aspect that I loved was the costumes. Those of the senators gathered in deliberation with the doge are an inspiration to me for something that I have resolved to do if I should win tons of money and can affort to be a public eccentric.

That story, however, will have to wait for another time.


Bob said...

Little known factoid: I was in Simon Boccanegra (as a spear carrier - but of course I stole the show) in a COC production with Louis Quillico in the late 70's. Many other COC shows too, where I upstaged the best of them - Domingo, Sutherland et al. It's all in the elbows, you know.


Ken Monteith said...

You never cease to amaze me, Bob. Have you also tried javelin, or is carrying the limit?