Simon Boccanegra does not often get the same kind of publicity as many of Verdi's other popular operas, perhaps because of the complexity of its libretto. Premiered in 1857 at Venice's Teatro La Fenice, it underwent many revisions thereafter—and its revised version, first performed in 1881 at Milan's La Scala, met with greater success! This modern production from La Scala amply demonstrates the many qualities of Verdi's score, especially owing to its stellar cast headed by Plácido Domingo in the title role as the first Doge of Genoa, who masterfully navigates his duets with Paolo (Massimo Cavalletti), Fiesco (Ferruccio Furlanetto), and Amelia (Anja Harteros).
The Orchestra and Choir of La Scala are first-rate as always, as is Maestro Daniel Barenboim, whose precision and generosity are audible from the first measures of the Prologue. The mise en scène by actor and dramaturge Federico Tiezzi, who is as comfortable staging Wagner as he is Verdi, gives each actor the space to stand out and features a particularly memorable Act I finale, tragic and sublime. Giovanna Buzzi's costumes and Pier Paolo Bisleri's sets immerse us directly in 1339 Genoa, completing the superb all-around production value that only an opera house of La Scala's calibre can achieve.