The dashing corsair Simon Boccanegra and Maria, daughter of the nobleman Jacopo Fiesco, have fallen in love and had an illegitimate daughter. The child has disappeared from her foster-home. Boccanegra returns to Genoa to break the news to Maria, and learns of her death as a crowd, led by the plebeian Paolo Albiani, proclaim him Doge of Genoa.
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Verdi began work on Simon Boccanegra in 1856. His literary source was a play by the Spanish writer Antonio García Gutiérrez, in which intense familial relationships play out against a background of political tension - always a favourite scenario for Verdi. The original version of the opera (1857) was unsuccessful. More than twenty years later, Verdi revised Boccanegra with the help of Arrigo Boito, his librettist for the later Otello and Falstaff. Among other changes, they introduced the great Council Chamber scene that closes Act I. The revised Boccanegra's 1881 premiere at La Scala, Milan, was a considerable success.
Simon Boccanegra is one of Verdi's most subtly powerful works, in which large-scale choral episodes, such as the Council Chamber scene, contrast with passages of tender intimacy, including Amelia and Boccanegra's ecstatic Act I duet. Elijah Moshinsky's handsome production is inspired by Renaissance art and architecture. Images of the sea - which Moshinsky sees as a metaphor for mortality - recur throughout.
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Simon Boccanegra (Italian: [siˈmom ˌbokkaˈneːɡra]) is an opera with a prologue and three acts by Giuseppe Verdi to an Italian libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the play Simón Bocanegra (1843) by Antonio García Gutiérrez, whose play El trovador had been the basis for Verdi's 1853 opera, Il trovatore. Simon Boccanegra was first performed at Teatro La Fenice in Venice on 12 March 1857. Given the complications of the original plot and the generally poor popular response - although the critical one was more encouraging - the opera dropped out of favour after 1866. Finally, 23 years later, Verdi's publisher persuaded the composer to revise the opera, with text changes to be prepared by Arrigo Boito, the librettist who aspired to work with the aging composer on a project which eventually became a new opera, Otello, but to which Verdi had not totally committed at that time. The revised version of Simon Boccanegra, with the now-famous Council Chamber scene, was first performed at La Scala in Milan on 24 March 1881. It is this version which is the one most frequently performed today.