Out of the dressing up box

On Tuesday to Opera Australia’s Simon Boccanegra.

This is a rarity for Sydney.  I last saw it as part of the Olympic Arts festival in 2000.

The conceit of the production is that a bunch of (presumably) Genoans have decided to rehearse this episode from their civic history.  In a space that looks vaguely like the underside of a circa 1900 (presumably meant actually to be circa 1881) equivalent to a container terminal (Genoa by the sea) they take some costumes (basically, surcoats of various colours and styles) out of a chest and get on with the show.

In a way that is legitimate because SB, especially as revised in 1881 with the Council scene, is Verdi’s own revisiting of Risorgimento dreams of Italy in the light of 20-odd years falling short of an earlier ideal.

At the same time it is a rather lame way of excusing a single set and a paucity of costumes.  Not that turn of the (C19-C20) century Italians would ever have commemorated their history without some gorgeous trecento costumes – as any record of early productions of Simon Boccanegra would immediately make clear.  Of course, since then the economic relativities of audience and seamstress incomes (other than in third world sweatshops) have changed.

Word in the foyer as I bought a set of the new-fangled chicken and walnut sandwiches was that last week Lyndon Terracini had sent home Barbara Frittoli, the originally advertised Amelia.  This enables him to make a star (possibly) of Natalie Aroyan, who now seems slated to perform the role for the whole run.  (Photos on OA’s facebook page, presumably from the final dress rehearsal, feature Natalie.)  Time will tell.

I should add that word elsewhere is that Frittoli had to withdraw for family reasons, though there was no note to that effect on the leaflet announcing her replacement.

I was a bit shocked at the state of the house, especially upstairs.  Maybe the days of the first-night crowd have come to an end. It is an obscure work.  My own feeling is that LT has given up on the cognoscenti and if they are still alive and out of the nursing home they are giving up on him, which is a self-fulfilling vicious circle.

I warmed to the work rather than the production.  For me, in the end, it’s the music that matters and there was much to appreciate once this gathered steam.

Because SB‘s a rarity I’m going again on Thursday and Saturday – saving the best seat for last (I hate an anti-climax). I’m looking forward to it.




2 Responses to “Out of the dressing up box”

  1. wanderer Says:

    Sent home! That’s a cruel titbit — amuse l’orielle (TM pending).

    I think you’re right about the rupture – many I know, self included, and other pensioners, all those aging once ‘friends of the opera’ have lost the habit, or rather broken the habit, and rather had it broken.

    I did receive an email which offered dinner (East Bank I think) for two as a package for selected operas (incl SB) and dates. Perhaps that followed on a survey they did, whenever it was, asking for what would attract you – overseas stars; dinner and show; meet and greet etc. That’s strong marketing and I wonder how it went down.

    But you are the real deal, the music lover there for the music, and all praise.

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