Yet, the performance still caught our attention, thanks to two amazing Slavic singers. Verdi's Simon Boccanegra is a story of curses, kidnappings and misplaced children. It mostly hinges on the love of Simon and Amelia, which some characters interpret as they're doing unspeakable things to each other in the cover of the night, while in truth it's as pure as spring: she's his secret daughter. Confused characters get angry, tragedy ensues.

Simon (Dmitri Hvorostovsky) comes onstage in the prologue, set 25 years before the first act, wearing a Rambo headband, and looking as comfortable acting as Sly Stallone. He's a buccaneer who gets elected Doge of Genoa. Fast forward to Act I, and with the gravitas of governing, he found his acting chops. He's definitely more comfortable doing stately rather than agitated. He is not vocally overpowering, but always seems in control of his voice. His exclamation of joy when realizing he found his long lost daughter brought tears, so perfectly was it intonated. And he perfectly paced his long (spoiler!) agony, sending everyone home sniffing in their handkerchiefs.

Picture of Barbara Frittolli and Dmitri Hvorostovsky above, Vitalij Kowaljow below, courtesy of SF Opera/Terrence McCarthy