People who still consider Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra a connoisseur’s opera (meaning it has no famous tunes), a man’s opera (meaning it has a lot of basses and baritones busily politicking and only a solitary soprano role), or a chocolate box opera (meaning it has a lot of sumptuous robes to take your mind off the politics) should grab a load of this December 2020 production out of Oper Zürich. Not only is it the best conducted version out there (and very well sung), its thoughtful staging by Andreas Homoki drags it out of the Renaissance and into the more relatable realm of 20th-century realpolitik. 

Simon Boccanegra

Verdi’s original Boccanegra was first performed in Venice in 1857 where it went down like a lead balloon. Too complicated, they said, though an opera featuring a Doge who wasn’t from Venice was always a risky one to premiere at La Fenice. Many years later, Verdi revised it in tandem with the librettist Arrigo Boito for La Scala where it did somewhat...