Verdi-Simon Boccanegra (Frontali/Giannattasio/Bologna/Mariotti) (2007) (NTSC)

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Released 6-Jun-2008

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Opera Main Menu Audio & Animation
Rating Rated E
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 139:29
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (67:20) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Francesca Nesler

Select Audio-Visual Distrib
Starring Roberto Frontali
Carmen Giannattasio
Giacomo Prestia
Giuseppe Gipali
Marco Vratogna
Alberto Rota
Enea Scala
Lucia Michelazzo
Case PUSH-1 (Opaque)
RPI $74.95 Music Giuseppe Verdi

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Italian Linear PCM 48/16 2.0 (1536Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

††† Following his three breakthrough operas Rigoletto, Il Trovatore and La Traviata Verdi wrote three works that had a much lesser impact. Les VÍpres Siciliennes and Aroldo, both falling into the category of less often performed Verdi, bookended Simon Boccanegra. This opera was first performed in 1857 and was a considerable flop. Over twenty years later Verdi was prevailed upon by his publisher to revise the work. Arrigo Boito was brought in to work on Piave's libretto and with Verdi reworked the entire first act. The revised work was produced in 1881 and this version enjoyed much more success, to the extent that it is still regularly performed.

††† The story is based on real historical characters. Simone Boccanegra was the first Doge of Genoa in the middle of the fourteenth century, he was probably poisoned and was succeeded by Gabriele Adorno. There most of the similarities end, and the plot of this opera contains misunderstandings, lost daughters, vengeful enemies and an Iago in the character of Paolo.

††† The basic story has Boccanegra elected Doge immediately after discovering that his beloved Maria has died in childbirth and their daughter has vanished. Maria's father Fiesco had offered to forgive Boccanegra if he delivered up the baby to him, but now he swears vengeance on him. The action moves forward twenty-five years. The Doge has crushed most of his political enemies, but faces the vengeance of Gabriele Adorno, whose father he had killed. Fiesco meanwhile has adopted a girl he and his wife found in a convent and changed the family name to Grimaldi in order to avoid the soldiers of the Doge. The girl Amelia is really Boccanegra's missing daughter. She and Adorno have fallen in love, but Boccanegra's lieutenant Paolo wants her for himself.

††† What holds this opera back from being as popular as Verdi's other great successes is the lack of a big memorable aria. While the music is often beautiful with arching melody, there isn't any music that stays with you after listening to it. I've heard the opera quite a few times but could not recall any of the music until I began listening to it again. The day after watching this DVD I can't really remember any of the music clearly. In spite of this it is still a finely wrought piece and full of many subtle but effective touches. It is worth noting that the lack of big tunes was intentional on the composer's part, as he was experimenting with new forms.

††† This performance comes from Bologna and features what seems to be an all-Italian cast, though Giuseppe Gipali turns out to be Albanian and therefore a good choice for any upcoming production of Cosi Fan Tutte. He is the tenor that sings the part of Adorno. He has that burnished sound characteristic of all good Italian tenors, though he lacks power - he is quite swamped by Carmen Giannattasio (Amelia) in their duet. She starts off a bit flakily but proves to have a very good voice and adequate acting skills, certainly better than Gipali. Roberto Frontali is a convincing Boccanegra, though his voice is a little rough at times. Giacomo Prestia (Fiesco) has a fine voice which unfortunately sounds a bit tired by the end of the opera. The conducting by Michele Mariotti is first rate.

††† The sets fit the action though they are not realistic, for example the sea and the sky being represented by bands of different shades of blue across the back of the stage, or the mosaic floor inside the prison. Costumes are in the style of the period. The stage direction attempts to realise the opera as written.

††† In summary, this is an enjoyable production of this opera. While it has no famous stars in it it is a very even performance and true to the spirit of the work. It is available on the Arthaus Musik label, catalogue number 101 307.

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Transfer Quality


††† The NTSC video is in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced.

††† This is one of the best video opera recordings I have seen on standard definition DVD. While it is not perfect, it easily stands up to being projected to large dimensions. The video is quite sharp and detailed. Shadow detail is excellent. The lighting is often bright but never so much so that detail is washed out. Colour is quite good though a little under saturated in some scenes, probably due to the stage lighting.

††† There are a few video artefacts, though none of them are significant. Aliasing can be seen in small quantities at various points, some low level noise can be seen in dark backgrounds and some pixellation in others. There are of course no film artefacts.

††† Optional subtitles are given in several languages, all in white text with black borders. The subtitles are easy to read and well-timed. However there are a couple of spelling mistakes: daughther and com, both appearing later in the work. There are also several words that, while genuine words, had me reaching for my dictionary: lenity, purpure and delusive. More common words could have been used.

††† The layer break occurs at 67:20 during Act One and while I did notice it it did not disrupt either the music or the action.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


††† Just two audio options on this disc: Linear PCM stereo and Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the latter in full and made some comparisons with the former.

††† The audio is very good, particularly where the orchestra is concerned. The music has a good dynamic range as well as a richness to the bass that was quite pleasing. There was enough detail to allow individual instruments to be picked out. The voices on the other hand are a little recessed in the overall mix, with the orchestra sometimes swamping them, particular the choruses.

††† The soundstage is geared towards the front speakers, with very little activity from the rear channels. The subwoofer emphasises both the lower frequency sounds and the thumping of feet on the stage, though never to excess. The Linear PCM track has a narrower soundstage but a slightly fuller sound.

††† Sonically, the audio is a little rough at the edges. There is a definite edge to the deeper-voiced male singers, a slight distortion which is present on both audio tracks. It does not impinge that greatly on the sound, but if you notice it it is a little distracting.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Main Menu Audio and Animation

††† Music from the Prologue's prelude over scenes from the production.


††† The booklet contains an essay on the history of the opera as well as some photographs, a track listing and cast and crew credits.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

††† This DVD is the same in all regions.


††† A good performance of this opera, one of Verdi's most interesting if not his most memorable.

††† The video quality is excellent.

††† The audio quality is good, with some minor issues.

††† Not much extra material.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-NS9100ES, using HDMI output
DisplaySony VPL-VW60 SXRD projector with 95" screen. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt into HD DVD Player, Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationReceiver: Pioneer VSX-AX4ASIS; Power Amplifiers: Elektra Reference (mains), Elektra Theatron (centre/rears)
SpeakersMain: B&W Nautilus 800; Centre: Tannoy Sensys DCC; Rear: Tannoy Revolution R3; Subwoofer: Richter Thor Mk IV

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