Opera Philadelphia presents a magnificent Simon Boccanegra

Although retired since 2014, I still relish opportunities to teach, write, and share opinions.
Giuseppe Verdi’s late, great opera Simon Boccanegra is now at Philadelphia’s Academy of Music until October 1st.
To miss this rarely-performed masterpiece would be a crime. 
Once again, Opera Philadelphia is presenting an annual event and once again, it is spectacular. Festival O23 runs from September 21 through October 1, with several bold presentations. 
Simon Boccanegra is truly exceptional and should not be missed. Last seen by this reviewer in 1995 at New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Vladimir Chernov starred as Boccanegra, and Amelia was Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. To these same ears, Quinn Kelsey as today’s Boccanegra, along with Anna Maria Martinez as Amelia join their predecessors in operatic legend. 
The cast of Simon Boccanegra includes besides the aforementioned splendid baritone Quinn Kelsey, and remarkable soprano Anna Maria Martinez, we have a dazzling Jacopo Fiesco in Christian Van Horn, giving sexy Big Daddy energy to the bass-baritone role. He will soon appear at the Vienna State Opera as Don Giovanni. Richard Trey Smagur is Gabriele Adorno, an imposing tenor in love with Amelia. Baritone Benjamin Taylor is an outstanding Paolo Albiani, already appearing on the world’s most prominent stages, while suave, debonaire bass-baritone Cory McGee is a memorable Pietro. With such an assemblage of talent, and boasting several key male (and female) voices of such quality, we dare to hope for a La Forza del Destino in the near future with members of this cast.
During the pre-concert lecture, ably delivered by a visiting scholar, much was made of how some audience members found the plot confusing. Yes, there is a prologue, followed by events in the 14th century occurring 25 years later. You may trust that there is nothing confusing about the plot once the opera begins, and the supra titles are there to guide you along. The mention of how some young people confused Amelia’s and Boccanegra’s father/daughter relationship remains a puzzlement since it was clearly explained in the plot narrative. You may rest assured when you see the opera that it will all be clearly understandable.
Maestro Corrado Rovaris again inspired his orchestra to heights of musical excellence, subtly accompanying his singers when required, guiding the chorus through at least two civil wars onstage, and challenging his musicians. 
And what a magnificent production! Simon Boccanegra’s Creative Team was outstanding. Along with the robust team, Director Lawrence Dale thrilled us with crowd scenes, battles, uprisings by the fickle populace, and tender scenes between father and daughter. Thrilling also was the Set Design by the brilliant Gary McCann. Renaissance Genoa never looked finer in Belgian Art Deco. This splendid production is courtesy of Opera Royal de Wallonie – Liege (Belgium). 
Hurry to secure your tickets since there are only two remaining performances on September 29th and October 1st. To miss this fine Simon Boccanegra would be a tragedy on an operatic scale.
Festival O23 includes several operas, recitals, and other excitements at venues as various as The Wilma Theater, The Suzanne Roberts Theatre, Curtis Institute of Music, and the Academy of Vocal Arts. For details and tickets visit www.operaphila.org .

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