Simone Boccanegra Part …. 5?

And yes, we made it!! Not quite obvious after discovering mid-way to the opera that I forgot the tickets at home… after a U-turn (if such exits on the tube), a mad taxi ride home and back to the station and 45 minutes later I was at the same spot with the tickets. Some very intelligent person pulled the emergency break right after the train left Leicester Square (which is the last station before Covent Garden, where you want to get off if you go to the opera) and we were stuck in the tunnel….   I really thought I wasn’t meant to go and see it! But here is the picture of proof:

Unfortunately, Ferruccio Furlanetto was still not well (sigh). Paata Burchuladze sang Fiesco instead, and did his best to find his way around the unfamiliar production. Our little row of standing ticket holders missed Furlanetto a lot, but at least it was one man and one voice – unlike Tuesday’s performance.

After I finished writing this blog post I stumbled upon an article severely criticising the practice of a cover singing in from the side of the stage, while another acts out the scenes on stage, commenting on both singers from Tuesday night’s performance (Furlanetto acting on stage, whilst Thomlinson sang from the side) calling it Fiesco’s fiasco – a game of words which is, I have to admit, hard to resist. Until I saw it on the big screen in Trafalgar Square, I haven’t thought twice about this practice. I have seen singers as well as stage directors and stage managers performing the acting part, while a singer stood in the wings lending their voice. I was told that during one Siegfried performance in Bayreuth the stage director did a terrific acting job, leaping like a chamois over the complicated stage build up – to the surprise of everyone – including the production’s tenor (himself a former athlete) – who had broken his leg thus sang from the wings. All is done so that the audience can enjoy a performance – rather than no performance –  which would, most likely, have been the alternative.

Usually one tries to find a cover who can both act and sing the role, but there are evenings when this is not possible. The covering singer might, whilst able to sing the role, not be comfortable acting at the same time, because it has been a while since he/she sang this role, and therefore prefer to have a score in front of them. It requires terrific team work from both performers (the one acting and the one singing). They have no time to rehearse. The singer has to sing the role how he/she understands it and the “actor”has to put it all together: acting plus miming the words to his colleague’s singing, figuring out how long the colleague is going to sing a phrase or hold a note, in order not to open or close the mouth too soon or too late – which might be radically different to what he/she believes the character should do. Not an easy job. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s big screen amplified all the little things that are usually covered by the distance between cast and audience in an opera house. And yes, sometimes it wasn’t perfect, but we very rarely see perfect performances. That’s why they are magical when they do occur.  It’s always worth seeing or hearing both singers from Tuesday evening. I rarely allow myself rants on the blog, but that needed to be said. Now I feel better!

Also, we were very sad at the news of the death of Sir Charles Mackerras,m which Maestro Pappano announced at the start of the opera. As Pappano put it, Sir Charles, revolutionary, decided to pack up on the 14th of July. The performance was dedicated to his memory. We will miss him!

Everyone gave a show worthy of the international reputation of the Royal Opera House! I have never been to a performance of Pappano conducting where I haven’t learned something new from a familiar work, a new colour, a different tempo or something that suddenly makes you think “wow! Why did I never think of that before?” So inspiring. And what can I say about Domingo? Domingo – ’nuff said!! What strikes me with him every time, is that he is always the character he sings when he goes out. The energy is always different.  I never get tired of seeing him, even three times in the same production, there is always something different, something to learn.

Things that slightly bugged me while seeing the opera in the house: 1.) all male main characters “age” 25 years or more after the prologue, as they should according to the score – except Pietro (popular leader and co-villain to Paolo if you want): he is about 25 minutes older than in the Prologue… and 2.) – despite this being ultra-useful (because sound-absorbing): rubber ends to the Doge’s crutches which he uses in the last scene. Honestly, rubber in 1363? 1363 being the year the historic Boccanegra died… oh well. I’m really nit-picking here! It was a very good performance and I was glad I was there. If you live in the UK you can still watch one of the performances on the BBC iPlayer; if not, you’ll have to wait for the DVD to come out…

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One thought on “Simone Boccanegra Part …. 5?

  1. kingshearte says:

    Not to mention that the cover singer may not be familiar with the blocking of that particular production.

    Obviously, cover singing isn’t ideal, but when someone is indisposed, either physically or vocally, what else are they supposed to do? As you said, ideally you get someone who can do both, but that can be really hard, especially on short notice. Whoever wrote that article should stuff it.

    Glad you enjoyed your opera, though.

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