Simon Boccanegra


Simon Boccanegra

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House

Boccanegra is a powerful man with a great tragedy in his past: 25 years earlier, his young lover died and their baby mysteriously disappeared. Just as he thinks he might have found his daughter, his enemies start to move against him.

Personal sacrifice meets political thriller in this vast opera by a master of the genre. No composer rivals Verdi in his ability to draw the audience into complex political landscapes by telling intimate, personal stories. Grave duets, complex ensembles and majestic choruses reveal a world of intrigue and influence, where the past is never behind you and every friendly face could disguise an enemy.

The opera's extraordinary musical demands and sprawling story make it a rarity on the opera stage.

Under the baton of conductor Renato Palumbo, a major cast including Natalie Aroyan, Diego Torre, George Petean and Giacomo Prestia comes together to bring this masterpiece to the Sydney Opera House stage.


A powerful man. A past tragedy. A very present enemy.

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Conductor Renato Palumbo
Director Matthew Barclay
Based on an original production by Moffatt Oxenbould
Set Designer Peter England
Costume Designer Russell Cohen
Lighting Designer Nigel Levings
Amelia Grimaldi Natalie Aroyan
Gabriele Adorno Diego Torre
Simon Boccanegra George Petean
Jacopo Fiesco Giacomo Prestia
Paolo Warwick Fyfe
Pietro Adrian Tamburini
Maidservant Rebecca Currier
Captain Stuart Haycock

Running time: approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, including one 20-minute interval.

We are performing the 1881 version of the opera, made in association with Arrigo Boito 24 years after the original work premiered. 

The StoryHide

In the murky political waters of Genoa, every man has an enemy. Simon Boccanegra has many. Even as Doge of Genoa, the secrets of his past haunt him: twenty-five years ago, his lover Maria died, and their daughter vanished.

Maria's father swore vengeance, and now lives in hiding, plotting with his adopted daughter's lover to overthrow the Doge.

Boccanegra is about to discover his lost daughter in the most unexpected place, but is it too late to change the course of his life?

In the Council of Genoa, friendly faces hide dark intentions, and Boccanegra's enemies are already rising.


In Genoa, the election of the Doge is about to take place. Paolo is determined to overthrow the patricians by having a plebeian elected. His proposes Simon Boccanegra, a popular seafaring hero.

Simon is persuaded to stand when Paolo suggests that as Doge, he will certainly be able to marry his lover Maria, despite the opposition of her father, Jacopo Fiesco. He is in love with Maria, who has already borne him a daughter. Furious, Fiesco has locked his daughter away in the palace.

As a crowd of citizens rally to support Boccanegra, Fiesco comes out of his palace, distraught. His beloved daughter has died, and he calls down a curse upon Simon, the seducer of his daughter and bringer of misfortune to the family.

Fiesco confronts Simon, saying he will grant clemency only if Simon will give up Maria’s child. But Simon cannot — left in the care of a nurse, the child has vanished.

He enters the palace and discovers Maria’s body, moments before a crowd appears hailing him as the newly elected Doge.

Act I

Scene i
Twenty-five years later

Simon has exiled many of his enemies, Fiesco among them. Fiesco is living in the Grimaldi palace, close to Genoa, under the name Andrea Grimaldi, with an adopted child — Amelia.

Amelia Grimaldi meets with her lover, Gabriele Adorno, and begs him to cease plotting against the Doge.

Word arrives that the Doge is coming, and Amelia fears he will ask her to marry his supporter, Paolo. She urges Gabriele to speed plans for their own wedding.

Gabriele meets with Andrea (Fiesco) and asks him to consent to their marriage. Fiesco tells him that Amelia is not a true Grimaldi, but a foundling. Gabriele cares not, reaffirming his love for Amelia. Fiesco gives his blessing.

The Doge enters and tells Amelia that he has pardoned her exiled brothers. She tells Simon she is in love, but not with Paolo. Revealing that she was adopted, Amelia tells the Doge of her childhood memories. Recognising some details, Simon produces a portrait locket of his beloved Maria. Amelia has her own locket — and the pair match. The pair are reunited and overjoyed.

Simon leaves and tells Paolo to renounce all hopes of marrying Amelia Grimaldi. Paolo is furious, and orders Pietro to arrange Amelia's kidnapping.

Scene ii

In Genoa, the Doge is presiding over a council meeting. The noise of a riot is heard outside. Boccanegra orders the doors thrown open and declares anyone who leaves is a traitor.

The mob drags Gabriele and a disguised Fiesco into the Council chamber, clamouring for their deaths. Gabriele explains that he has killed a man who kidnapped Amelia. Before the man died, he revealed the abduction was the order of a high-ranking official.

Gabriele believes this powerful man must be the Doge himself and threatens Simon. Amelia rushes in, throwing herself between the two men. She begs the Doge to spare Gabriele and tells everybody that she was abducted and taken to Lorenzino’s house, from which she was able to escape. She declares that the man behind the plot in in the room and in her sight. Patricians and plebeians each assume that the villain is from the opposite faction and a fight breaks out again before Amelia can identify her kidnapper.

Simon places Gabriele and Fiesco under arrest to restore order. Simon realizes Paolo is responsible for the kidnapping, and calls upon him to curse the perpetrator. Terrified, Paolo obeys.

Act II

Determined to avenge himself, Paolo poisons the Doge’s drinking goblet. Calling the prisoners to himself, he attempts to bribe Fiesco to kill Simon. Fiesco refuses, so Paolo turns to Gabriele, insinuating that Amelia has become the Doge’s mistress.

Gabriele swears vengeance. He confronts Amelia, and she protests her innocence — but does not reveal that the Doge is her father, knowing he had killed Gabriele’s father.

As the Doge approaches, Gabriele hides, and Amelia confesses to her father that she loves Gabriele.

Simon tells his daughter that he has discovered Gabriele’s name on the list of patrician conspirators who have been plotting against him. At her pleading, he promises to consider Gabriele’s pardon. He sends her away and alone, pours water into the poisoned goblet and drinks. Overcome with fatigue, he falls asleep.

Gabriele returns and is about to stab Simon when Amelia rushes back and, for the second time, flings herself between the two men. When Gabriele declares that the blood of his father cries out for vengeance, Simon replies that his is already avenged, for Gabriele has stolen from him his dearest treasure — his daughter. Gabriele is startled by this revelation and begs forgiveness. 

Shouts are heard outside — Paolo has stirred up revolution. The Doge bids Gabriele to go and join his friends, but Gabriele swears that he will never again lift his sword again him. Simon sees an opportunity to bring about peace and reconciliation in Genoa and promises Gabriele Amelia’s hand if he will go with a message of peace to the patricians.


The patrician uprising has been defeated. Paolo is captured and condemned to death, while Fiesco is released from prison. Paolo tells Fiesco that the Doge is also condemned, by his poison.

Simon returns from Amelia and Gabriele’s wedding ceremony weak from poison. Hidden in shadows, Fiesco tells the Doge that he will soon die, amongst all the ghosts of the deaths he has ordered.

Simon recognises his old enemy’s voice, and the men are reconciled. He tells Fiesco that Amelia is the long lost child — Simon’s daughter and Fiesco’s granddaughter.

Fiesco is overcome with emotion, revealing to Simon that a traitor has poisoned him.

With his last hour at hand, Simon tells Amelia that the man she knew as Andrea, is actually her grandfather. He blesses the newly married couple, praising God that he will die in his daughter’s arms. Proclaiming Gabriele as his chosen successor, he dies with the name of his beloved Maria on his lips.

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