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This 2007 production from Bologna is a gem in both artistic measure and staging. The cast is well balanced. Baritones Frontali and Prestia are in mid-career and have strong male tessitura, while the tenor Gipali seems to be straining sometimes. The only female, Carmen Giannattasio, has an attractive lyric soprano with youthful flexibility and range. Her duet with Frontali is beautifully etched (`Figlia'), setting the stage for the ensembles that follow one another to the end. All the principals act quite well--a necessity when most of the action is declamation in a largely male milieu. The staging and costumes are superb and fit with the time and place of the opera.
The recording is in HD with excellent SD+ mastering for this disc. The sets make no attempt to replicate the 1400s, but neither do they default to minimalism. The production uses dark colors and bold imaginary structures (mosaic floor, unadorned marble walls, layered suggestion of the ocean in blue and black) to complement the basic costume colors. These are all believable without overwhelming you with opulence in the Met's (until recent) style. The audio sounds the best using the LPCM track; the German engineers who did the mastering created a virtual center channel that resulted in a believable audio image for both soloists and orchestra. This combined with video images sweep me up in the music and stage action. The young (28) conductor, recently appointed to fill Gatti's place, does not hesitate to interpret the score a bit while offering plenty of guidance to singers and actors. This Simon Boccanegra is what I think good production values should strive for with today's technology and vocal art. -- American Record Guide, Feldman, Nov/Dec 2008