Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra exists in two versions: that of the 1857 original and that of the 1881 revision. The texts of the libretto of both versions are included in this guide, with a number of essays which focus on the differences between the two. Rodolfo Celleti provides the story’s historical context, setting the events of the real life of Simon Boccanegra against the unification of Italy, which formed the political backdrop to the composition of both versions of Verdi’s opera. James A. Hepokoski gives a detailed synopsis of the 1881 score, and indicates the ways in which Verdi radically revised the original and reworked it to fit his late style. Lastly, Desmond Shawe-Taylor discusses Verdi’s attitude to his singers, and the critical reception that performances of both versions of the opera received.
This edition contains over twenty illustrations, a thematic guide and the texts of the libretti in the original with literal translations. There is also a bibilography, discography and DVD guide, together with a list of websites that will allow the reader to explore the opera further.
A Historical Perspective, Rodolfo Celletti
An Introduction to the 1881 Score, James Hepokoski
Verdi and His Singers: The vocal character of the two versions of Simon Boccanegra in relation to the original casts, Desmond Shawe-Taylor
A Performance and Reception History, George Hall
Simon Boccanegra: Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, with additions by Giuseppe Montanelli. Further additions and alterations for the revised version by Arrigo Boito
Simon Boccanegra: English translation of the 1881 libretto by Lionel Salter
Simon Boccanegra: English translation of the 1857 libretto by Emanuela Guastella
These guides, so beautiful to have and to behold, mark a huge advance on their predecessors. I find them essential supplements, not only to ENO and Royal Opera programmes, but to recordings issued on CD which often come without scholarly documentation and a libretto. The performance histories … are especially valuable, and not easily accessible elsewhere.
For anyone with a keen interest in opera, whatever their level of knowledge, this series remains a benchmark of quality and clarity. The content is serious, reliable and trustworthy, handsomely put together, full of variety and scholarship but always making the practical experience of going to the opera a priority. I return to these volumes again and again and find the updated and new issues absolutely invaluable.
Neat little volumes they are, handy for carrying around, clearly printed and well set-out, complete with libretto and translation, discography and a generous selection of illustrations.
Simon Boccanegra is … an initially baffling work, unless you have first read something as useful as the Overture Opera Guide, the latest in this extremely helpful series … this is an indispensable volume.
BBC Music Magazine
This uniformly excellent series is indispensable for the serious opera lover, all the more so now that almost all the CD companies have abandoned issuing a libretto with their opera releases, and have such scant background information. The English translations are on facing pages with the original texts, and in all respects the books are helpful and compact, and interestingly illustrated.
For everything you need to know, concisely packaged.
I am delighted to see the return of the ENO Opera Guides, bigger and even more authoritative than before. There are authoritative new articles as well as several of the irreplaceable originals, the presentation is very handsome and a decided gain is the brilliantly chosen selection of production images, in colour as well as black and white. The Guides are an invaluable reference for opera lovers at any level.
BBC Music Magazine
Giuseppe Verdi (1813–1901) is one of Italy’s most celebrated opera composers. His best-known operas include Rigoletto, Il trovatore, La traviata and Aida.