Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

WORKS: Simon Boccanegra
PERFORMER: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Barbara Frittoli, Ildar Abdrazakov, Stefano Secco, Kostas Smoriginas, Marco Caria; Kaunas State Choir; Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra/Constantine Orbelian


Simon Boccanegra is one of the ‘most complex, deepest characters in the whole baritone repertoire’, writes Dmitri Hvorostovsky in a short, personal introduction to this new studio recording of Verdi’s most sombre opera. It is obvious from his performance of the title role that the Russian baritone has thought deeply about Boccanegra and is absolutely inside the character; he is also able to realise his portrayal with an impressive largesse of tone.

The rest of the cast is very good and in some cases excellent. Ildar Abdrazakov offers immense dignity and presence as Boccanegra’s implacable enemy, Fiesco, drawing on a wide emotional and expressive range. As Boccanegra’s daughter Amelia, Barbara Frittoli can rely on her ample, flexible lyricism, though she’s not always ideally secure at the top of her range. Initially, Stefano Secco’s tenor feels on the small side for the impetuous Gabriele Adorno – who starts the opera as Boccanegra’s opponent but ends it as his son-in-law and successor – though his bright tone and dynamism carry him through to success.


In secondary parts Marco Caria is convincingly gritty as Boccanegra’s treacherous acolyte Paolo, while Kostas Smoriginas’s Pietro is solemn and grand. Despite not being an operatic chorus, the Kaunas State Choir acquits itself well, while the Kaunas City Symphony Orchestra offers refined and committed playing. Constantine Orbelian conducts a performance notable for its security and sense of style. The recorded sound, though, is on the enclosed side, not really allowing the music to blossom fully. George Hall