There`s no composer of operas who displays such varied and protean genius as Verdi, and Simon Boccanegra is, to my mind, one of his greatest works.
Just about everything comes together on this magnificent 1977 recording conducted by Abbado with the chorus and orchestra of La Scala.
Jose Carreras was then still in gleamingly glorious voice as Gabriele, lover of Maria, sung ever more glowingly by Mirella Freni, in a performance of subtlety and intelligence.
Fiesco benefits from the deep timbre of Nicolai Ghiaurov`s Bulgarian bass voice, while the powerful Belgian bass Jose van Dam imbues Paolo with authority and the requisite alarmed villainy.
Piero Cappucilli was a perfect choice to sing the none too easy title role, with his long-breathed phrasing - the baritone`s breath control was and is legendary - and the sheer force of his vocal stamina.
Anyone who saw the last London staging of this opera, with Domingo as Simon (available on DVD) will surely have been astounded by its painterly splendour, as well as by Verdi`s equally splendid music, and I imagine many newcomers to this rarely performed opera, seeing it live on TV on in the theatre, will have realised its greatness, as well as its power to move and enthral.
It is certainly one of my half-dozen favourite of Verdi`s operas, and I wouldn`t want to be without this tremendous recording.
The two booklets, which include notes, synopsis, full libretto in four languages, along with photos of Abbado and his main cast, are exemplary. The recording is excellent, and Abbado and his singers treat this brooding opera as the masterpiece it most certainly is.