Simon Boccanegra is set in Genoa, Italy's greatest seaport on the Ligurian Sea which has had a venerable history: still today it is a place from which goods are shipped to Northern Italy and then onwards to Central Europe. When Simon Boccanegra was its first Doge, Genoa was competing with other Italian city-states for dominion over the trade routes. The sea is crucial as background to the story and Verdi tells us as much in the score, particularly in its more worthy 1881 version than the 1857 original opera.
Giuseppe Verdi is considered the greatest among the creators of Italian opera. Beginning with his first triumph with Nabucco, Verdi conquered the world of the Italian opera and had no peer among living composers. The international development of Verdi's career took place at the time of the dramatic increase in Italian nationalism movement. Verdi played an important part in this movement. No other composer of Italian opera was able to reach Verdi's fame. When Verdi died, more than 30,000 people filled the streets of Milan for his funeral procession. Verdi left virtually all his substantial wealth to a nursing home in Milan that he founded.