Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Sunday, March 12

Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra"

Synopsis

The stage directions read: "The garden of the Grimaldi Palace outside Genoa. On the left side, the palace, directly in front, the sea. Dawn is breaking."

The evocative music is by the Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi, the prelude to his opera "Simon Boccanegra," which premiered on today's date in 1857 in Venice.

Despite its shimmering prelude, Verdi's new opera was not well received. The critics felt it was one of those works which "does not make its effect immediately... It is written with the utmost exquisite craftsmanship but needs to be studied in all its details." Verdi, a practical man of the theater, knew what that sort of review really meant. He wrote: "I thought I'd done something passable, but it seems I was mistaken. The score is not possible as it stands. It is too sad, too depressing. I shall need to redo it to give it more contrast and variety, more life."

The revised version of "Simon Boccanegra" premiered 24 years later, in 1881, with additions and alterations to the story by Arrigo Boito, the brilliant librettist for Verdi's final operas, "Otello" and "Falstaff."

Despite the revisions, "Boccanegra" remained one of the least popular of Verdi's works for many decades. In the 1930s, it was revised successfully at the Metropolitan Opera in New York with an all-star cast, and since then, audiences have had more opportunities to "study" Verdi's score sufficiently to appreciate its "exquisite craftsmanship, contrast, variety, and life."

Music Played in Today's Program

Giuseppe Verdi (1813 - 1901) Simon Boccanegra La Scala Chorus and Orchestra; Claudio Abbado, cond. DG 449 752

Additional Information

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