Simon Boccanegra 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, Venice on 12 March 1857. Given the difficulties with the original plot, a revised version, with text changes by Arrigo Boito, was first performed at La Scala, Milan on 24 March 1881. It is this version, with its Council Chamber scene as the finale to Act 1, that is usually given today.
Performance history 
After its 1857 premiere, Simon Boccanegra was performed in Malta in 1860, Madrid and Lisbon in 1861, and Buenos Aires in 1862. But the opera was revised, and it is this later version — unveiled in 1881 in Milan, and given in Vienna and Paris in 1882 and 1883, respectively — that has become part of the standard operatic repertory. A concert performance of the original (1857) version — possibly its first hearing in 100 years — took place in London in 1975. This was broadcast the next year and issued on CD. The original was also performed by the Royal Opera, London in 1997 and by New York Grand Opera in 1999, the latter being its first New York performance.
|Role||Voice type||Premiere cast
12 March 1857
(Conductor: — )
24 March 1881
(Conductor: Franco Faccio)
|Simon Boccanegra, a corsair,
later the first Doge of Genoa
|baritone||Leone Giraldoni||Victor Maurel|
|Maria Boccanegra, his daughter,
known as Amelia Grimaldi
|soprano||Luigia Bendazzi||Anna d'Angeri|
|Jacopo Fiesco, a Genoese nobleman,
known as Andrea Grimaldi
|bass||Giuseppe Echeverria||Edouard de Reszke|
|Gabriele Adorno, a Genoese gentleman||tenor||Carlo Negrini||Francesco Tamagno|
|Paolo Albiani, a goldsmith and the
Doge’s favourite courtier
|baritone||Giacomo Vercellini||Federico Salvati|
|Pietro, a Genoese popular leader
|bass||Andrea Bellini||Giovanni Bianco|
|Captain of the Crossbowmen||tenor||Angelo Fiorentini|
|Amelia’s maid||mezzo-soprano||Fernanda Capelli|
|Soldiers, sailors, people, senators, the Doge’s court, prisoners – Chorus|
- Time: The middle of the 14th century.
- Place: In and around Genoa.
A piazza in front of the Fieschi palace
Paolo Albiani, a plebeian, tells his ally Pietro that in the forthcoming election of the Doge, his choice for the plebeian candidate is Simon Boccanegra. Boccanegra arrives and is persuaded to stand when Paolo hints that if Boccanegra becomes Doge, the aristocratic Jacopo Fiesco will surely allow him to wed his daughter Maria. When Boccanegra has gone, Paolo gossips about Boccanegra's love affair with Maria Fiesco – Boccanegra and Maria have had a child, and the furious Fiesco has locked his daughter away in his palace. Pietro rallies a crowd of citizens to support Boccanegra. After the crowd has dispersed, Fiesco comes out of his palace, stricken with grief; Maria has just died (Il lacerato spirito – "The tortured soul of a sad father"). He swears vengeance on Boccanegra for destroying his family. When he meets Boccanegra he does not inform him of Maria's death. Boccanegra offers reconciliation and Fiesco promises clemency only if Boccanegra lets him have his granddaughter. Boccanegra explains he cannot because the child, put in the care of a nurse, has vanished. He enters the palace and finds the body of his beloved just before crowds pour in, hailing him as the new Doge.
Act 1 
Scene 1: A garden in the Grimaldi palace, before sunrise
Twenty-five years have passed and the Doge has exiled many of his political opponents and confiscated their property. Among them is Fiesco, who has been living in the Grimaldi palace, using the name Andrea Grimaldi to avoid discovery and plotting with Boccanegra's enemies to overthrow the Doge. The Grimaldis have adopted an orphaned child of unknown parentage after discovering her in a convent (she is in fact Boccanegra's child and Fiesco's granddaughter). They called her Amelia, hoping that she would be the heir to their family's fortune, their sons having been exiled and their own baby daughter having died. Amelia is now a young woman.
Amelia is awaiting her lover, Gabriele Adorno (Aria:Come in quest'ora bruna – "How in the morning light / The sea and stars shine brightly"). She suspects him of plotting against the Doge and when he arrives she warns him of the dangers of political conspiracy. Word arrives that the Doge is coming. Amelia, fearing that the Doge will force her to marry Paolo, now his councillor, urges Adorno to ask her guardian Andrea (in reality, Fiesco) for permission to marry. Fiesco reveals to Adorno that Amelia is not a Grimaldi, but a foundling adopted by the family. When Adorno says that he does not care, Fiesco blesses the marriage. Boccanegra enters and tells Amelia that he has pardoned her exiled brothers. She tells him that she is in love, but not with Paolo who she refuses to marry. Boccanegra has no desire to force Amelia into a marriage against her will. She tells him that she was adopted and that she has one souvenir of her mother, a picture in a locket. The two compare Amelia's picture with Boccanegra's, and Boccanegra realizes that she is his long-lost daughter. Finally reunited, they are overcome with joy. Amelia goes into the palace. Soon after, Paolo arrives to find out if Amelia has accepted him. Boccanegra tells him that the marriage will not take place. Furious, Paolo arranges for Amelia to be kidnapped.
Scene 2: The council chamber
The Doge encourages his councillors to make peace with Venice. He is interrupted by the sounds of a mob calling for blood. Paolo suspects that his kidnapping plot has failed. The Doge prevents anyone leaving the council chamber and orders the doors to be thrown open. A crowd bursts in, chasing Adorno. Adorno confesses to killing Lorenzino, a plebeian, who had kidnapped Amelia, claiming to have done so at the order of a high-ranking official. Adorno incorrectly guesses the official was Boccanegra and is about to attack him when Amelia rushes in and stops him (Aria: Nell'ora soave – "At that sweet hour which invites ecstasy / I was walking alone by the sea"). She describes her abduction and escape. Before she is able to identify her kidnapper, fighting breaks out once more. Boccanegra establishes order and has Adorno arrested for the night (Aria: Plebe! Patrizi! Popolo! – "Plebians! Patricians! Inheritors / Of a fierce history"). He orders the crowd to make peace and they praise his mercy. Realizing that Paolo is responsible for the kidnapping, Boccanegra places him in charge of finding the culprit. He then makes everyone, including Paolo, utter a curse on the kidnapper.
Act 2 
The Doge's apartments
Paolo has imprisoned Fiesco. Determined to kill Boccanegra, Paolo pours a slow-acting poison into the Doge's water, and then tries to convince Fiesco to murder Boccanegra in return for his freedom. Fiesco refuses. Paolo next suggests to Adorno that Amelia is the Doge's mistress, hoping Adorno will murder Boccanegra in a jealous rage. Adorno is furious (Aria: Sento avvampar nell'anima – "I feel a furious jealousy / Setting my soul on fire"). Amelia enters the Doge's apartments, seeming to confirm Adorno's suspicions, and he angrily accuses her of infidelity. She claims only to love him, but cannot reveal her secret – that Boccanegra is her father – as Adorno's family were killed by the Doge. Adorno hides as Boccanegra is heard approaching. Amelia confesses to Boccanegra that she is in love with his enemy Adorno. Boccanegra is angry, but tells his daughter that if the young nobleman changes his ways, he may pardon him. He asks Amelia to leave, then drinks the poisoned water, which Paolo has placed on the table, and falls asleep. Adorno emerges and is about to kill Boccanegra, when Amelia returns in time to stop him. Boccanegra wakes and reveals to Adorno that Amelia is his daughter. Adorno begs for Amelia's forgiveness (Trio: Perdon, Amelia... Indomito – "Forgive me, Amelia... A wild, / Jealous love was mine"). Noises of fighting are heard – Paolo has stirred up a revolution against the Doge. Adorno promises to fight for Boccanegra, who vows that Adorno shall marry Amelia if he can crush the rebels.
Act 3 
Inside the Doge's palace
The uprising against the Doge has been put down. Paolo has been condemned to death for fighting with the rebels against the Doge. Fiesco is released from prison by the Doge's men. On his way to the scaffold, Paolo boasts to Fiesco that he has poisoned Boccanegra. Fiesco is deeply shocked. He confronts Boccanegra, who is now dying from Paolo's poison. Boccanegra recognizes his old enemy and tells Fiesco that Amelia is his granddaughter. Fiesco feels great remorse and tells Boccanegra about the poison. Adorno and Amelia, newly married, arrive to find the two men reconciled. Boccanegra tells Amelia that Fiesco is her grandfather and, before he dies, names Adorno his successor. The crowd mourn the death of the Doge.
1881 Revised version 
(Boccanegra, Maria, Adorno, Fiesco)
Opera House and Orchestra
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra & Chorus
|Audio CD: Myto Historical
Coro e Orchestra di Roma della RAI
|Audio CD: Warner Fonit
Cat: 5050467 7906-2
Victoria de los Ángeles,
Teatro dell'Opera di Roma orchestra and chorus
|Audio CD: EMI
Cat: CDMB 63513
(Digitally remastered, 1990)
Teatro San Carlo Orchestra and Chorus, Naples
(Video recording of a performance at Naples and audio recording of its soundtrack, 26 December)
|VHS Video, PAL only: Hardy Classics
Cat: HCA 60002-2
Audio CD: Hardy Classics
RCA Italiana Opera Chorus and Orchestra
|Audio CD: RCA Records
Cat: RD 70729
|Oliviero de Fabritiis,
NHK Symphony Orchestra and Union of Japan Professional Choruses, Tokyo
(Recording of a performance in Tokyo, October)
|DVD: Premiere Opera Ltd
Video Artists International
Cat: VAI 4484
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
|Audio CD: DG
Cat: 449 752-2
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
(Video recording of a performance at the Met, 29 December)
|DVD: Pioneer Classics
Cat: PIBC 2010;
Cat: 073 4403
Kiri te Kanawa,
|Sir Georg Solti,
Coro e Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala
|Audio CD: Decca
Cat: 475 7011
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa,
Metropolitan Opera orchestra and chorus
|DVD: Deutsche Grammophon
Cat: 00440 073 0319
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, New York
(Recording of live performance at the Metropolitan Opera, January/February)
1857 Original version 
(Boccanegra, Maria, Adorno, Fiesco)
Opera House and Orchestra
BBC Concert Orchestra and the BBC Singers
(Recording of a concert performance in the Golders Green Hippodrome on 2 August; broadcast on 1 January 1976)
|Audio CD: Opera Rara
Cat: ORCV 302
Francesco Ellero d'Artegna
Orchestra Internationale d'Italia
(Recording made at performances at the Festival della Valle d'Itria, Martina Franca, 4, 6, 8 August)
|Audio CD: Dynamic,
- Loewenberg, (1978) p. ?
- It has subsequently been issued on CD by Opera Rara.
- NYGO's list of performances
- List of singers taken from Budden, p. 244
- Budden, p. 267
- Recordings of Simon Boccanegra from operadis-opera-discography.org.uk
- Budden, Julian, The Operas of Verdi, Volume 2: From ‘’Il Trovatore’’ to ‘’La Forza del destino’’. London: Cassell, 1984. ISBN 978-0-19-520068-3 (hardcover) ISBN 978-0-19-520450-6 (paperback).
- De Van, Gilles (trans. Gilda Roberts), Verdi’s Theater: Creating Drama Through Music. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1998 ISBN 0-226-14369-4 (hardback), ISBN 0-226-14370-8
- Loewenberg, Alfred, Annals of Opera, 1597 to 1940. London, John Calder, 1978 ISBN 0-7145-3657-1 ISBN 0-7145-3657-1
- Phillips-Matz, Mary Jane, Verdi: A Biography, London & New York: Oxford University Press, 1993 ISBN 0-19-313204-4
- Werfel, Franz and Stefan, Paul, Verdi: The Man and His Letters, New York, Vienna House 1973 ISBN 0-8443-0088-8
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Simone Boccanegra (Verdi)|
- Simon Boccanegra: Free scores at the International Music Score Library Project
- Libretto (in Italian) on giuseppeverdi.it
- Simon Boccanegra synopsis from the Metropolitan Opera online.
- Arias and roles of Simon Boccanegra from aria-database.com