After his thrilling Eugene Onegin at the Metropolitan Opera last month, I rather looked forward to seeing Dmitri Hvorostovsky´s take on Simon Boccanegra at the Bastille Opera.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky has said, that as Eugene Onegin he more or less acts like himself. I am not informed of his sayings on Simone Boccanegra, however, based on his performance in Paris, he more or less acts as in his Met Eugene Onegin minus the sparkle – that would be: Distanced and cool. And while suitable for Eugene Onegin, it doesn´t really suit the multifacetted Simone Boccanegra.
Furthermore, Dmitri Hvorostovsky´s distanced and cool Simone Boccanegra combined with Olga Guryakova´s equally distanced and cool Amelia adds up to something very frosty indeed, needless to say without interpersonal drama.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky´s voice is extremely beautiful with a very individual timbre, and the ability to produce exquisitely beautiful and sustained legato-lines. His voice is not the largest, and very wisely, he doesn´t force it. That said, I don´t think these Verdi barytone roles (Posa apart) are ideal for him. According to an interview he will be repeating his Boccanegra at the Metropolitan Opera, which doesn´t really sound like a good idea to me. And Giorgio Germont and Rigoletto as well. With his dashing looks, why chose roles where he has to be made up to look like an old man?
When the other characters grow older in this Boccanegra, they get grey hair. Obviously this doesn´t work with Dmitri Hvorostovsky, so they give him glasses…which he conveniently looses a couple of times in the third act. Good for us as the glasses didn´t really suit him.
Franz-Josef Selig is in strong voice as Fiesco – though he seems a bit distant, perhaps at the request of the director. Same applies for Evan Bowers as Gabriele Adorno.
Johan Simons´ production is very spartan with huge posters of Boccanegra and Fiesco placed in front of a background consisting of a golden carpet. According to present fashion (Konwitschny´s Lohengrin, Mielitz´ Parsifal), Simons choses to let the final scene play out on the naked stage with full view of the backstage. A symbol of emotional nakedness, I suppose.