Here's what I think of Domingo-as-baritone.
- Those clowns on opera-l who've claimed for years that he was never a tenor, despite 45 years of singing the most strenuous tenor roles in the repertory, were, as you already knew, wrong wrong wrong.
- I'd really prefer a baritone in the role.
- He was still more musically and dramatically persuasive than baritones Nikolai Putilin and Dmitri Hvorostovsky.
- After 45 years of singing the most strenuous tenor roles in the repertory, Domingo sounds damn good. And how many 69-year-olds can you say that about?
- Yeah, it's a stunt of sorts (see the above, though), but hey - having Domingo in the title role has sold out this opera, which has a famously convoluted and gloomy plot in which the romantic leads are a lot less interesting and important than the political machinations. I've long considered Boccanegra the great unknown Verdi opera, and I'm sure lots of people have gone to see it just for Domingo. Maybe they'll love the opera for its own self now.
Adrienne Pieczonka was Morris-like in having a terribly time in her entrance aria, off pitch in various directions and sounding just plain uncomfortable about the phrasing. Then she pulled together and was very good, sometimes better than that, from the recognition scene to the end, with beautiful trills in the Council Chamber scene. What is it about that aria?? Nobody seems able to bring it off well; Barbara Frittoli also had problems with it in SF in 2008, and we won't discuss Carol Vaness in the previous SFO revival.
I do not have in front of me the name of the singer who sang Paolo; he was a last-minute substitute and sang very well, with plenty of evil but no exaggeration, which can be tough to pull off.
I found the Giancarlo del Monaco production bland; generic city square followed by generic Mediterranean palace, the sort of thing you'd find on the Pacific coast but with a lot more brick and stone than would be prudent in this earthquake-prone area. The council chamber set does look like a 14th c. Italian room, and the director made good use of it in the Fiesco/Boccanegra scene in the last act. Morris entered and sat down on the Doge's throne. He has spent the last 25 years projecting authority, and despite the wear on his voice, this scene was absolutely hair-raising, two master singers making great drama together.
Oh, and while we're at it: a swift and sure recovery to Placido Domingo, who is currently hospitalized and having surgery for an unknown ailment. Long may he sing!