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To Covent Garden this afternoon to see Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra. To those unfamiliar with the story, it is loosely based around the political intrigues surrounding the court of the first Doge of Genoa. Essentially, a commoner is elected Doge against the interests of the ruling patriachy who then scheme against him. This is the historical fact which takes secondary importance against the convoluted primary story of Boccanegra’s estranged daughter who is unknowingly adopted by her grandfather after her mother dies. To add to that, her father seduced her mother out of wedlock: that her mother was part of an aristocratic family adds another element to the feud between the Guelf patriarchy and the Ghibelline Doge. To cut a long story short, the Doge dies (of poisoning) but not before Adorno, the son of a man he killed, marries his daughter. The final reconciliation occurs when the old man asks for Adorno to be made Doge which Fiesco, his other enemy and grandfather to his daughter, assents to. Still following at the back?!

Anyway, the set was fantastic, the singing and music expertly conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, and the pace was just right. My only criticisms would be that Marcus Haddock as Gabriele Adorno was at times rigid and uncomfortable with the acting demanded by his role, and that the audience felt the need to clap during every pause whether it was after a solo or not which started to grate and interupt the flow. All in all though, the standard was good: Orlin Anastassov as Jacopo Fiesco had a voice like chocolate, Natalia Ushakova as the estranged orphan Amelia/Maria was both beautiful and elegant in her movements, Marco Vrotagna brought the necessary raw masculinity to his Paolo Albiani, and Lucio Gallo in the title role commanded the stage with ease.