Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Proms Saturday Matinée 1

It might seem churlish to complain about the BBC Proms coverage of Pierre Boulez’s 90th anniversary. After all, there are a few performances dotted around — although some seem rather oddly programmed, as if embarrassed at the presence of new or newish music. (That could certainly not be claimed in the present case.)

The Maid of Pskov (Pskovityanka) , St. Petersburg

I recently spent four days in St. Petersburg, timed to coincide with the annual Stars of the White Nights Festival. Yet the most memorable singing I heard was neither at the Mariinsky Theater nor any other performance hall. It was in the small, nearly empty church built for the last Tsar, Nicholas II, at Tsarskoye Selo.

Prom 11 — Grange Park Opera: Fiddler on the Roof

As I walked up Exhibition Road on my way to the Royal Albert Hall, I passed a busking tuba player whose fairground ditties were enlivened by bursts of flame which shot skyward from the bell of his instrument, to the amusement and bemusement of a rapidly gathering pavement audience.

Saul, Glyndebourne

A brilliant theatrical event, bringing Handel’s theatre of the mind to life on stage

Roberta Invernizzi, Wigmore Hall

‘Here, thanks be to God, my opera is praised to the skies and there is nothing in it which does not please greatly.’ So wrote Antonio Vivaldi to Marchese Guido Bentivoglio d’Aragona in Ferrara in 1737.

Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre Re

Asphyxiations, atrophy by poison, assassination: in Italo Montemezzi’s L’amore dei tre Re (The Love of the Three Kings, 1913) foul deed follows foul deed until the corpses are piled high. 

Prom 4: Andris Nelsons

The precision of attack in the opening to Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture signalled thoroughgoing excellence in the contribution of the CBSO to this concert.

BBC Proms: The Cardinall’s Musick

When he was skilfully negotiating the not inconsiderable complexities, upheavals and strife of musical and religious life at the English royal court during the Reformation, Thomas Tallis (c.1505-85) could hardly have imagined that more than 450 years later people would be queuing round the block for the opportunity spend their lunch-hour listening to the music that he composed in service of his God and his monarch.

Oberon, Persephone and Iolanta at the Aix Festival

Two of the important late twentieth century stage directors, Robert Carsen and Peter Sellars, returned to the Aix Festival this summer. Carsen’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a masterpiece, Sellars’ strange Tchaikovsky/Stravinsky double bill is simply bizarre.

Betrothal and Betrayal : JPYA at the ROH

The annual celebration of young talent at the Royal Opera House is a magnificent showcase, and it was good to see such a healthy audience turnout.

Jenůfa Packs a Wallop at DMMO

There are few operas that can rival the visceral impact of a well-staged Jenůfa and Des Moines Metro Opera has emphatically delivered the goods.

Des Moines Fanciulla a Minnie-Triumph

The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) often gets eclipsed when compared to the rest of the mature Puccini canon.

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015

First Night of the BBC Proms 2015 with Sakari Oramo in exuberant form, pulling off William Walton’s Belshazzar’s Feast with the theatrical flair it deserves.

Des Moines: A Whole Other Secret Garden

With its revelatory production of Rappaccini’s Daughter performed outdoors in the city’s refurbished Botanical Gardens, Des Moines Metro Opera has unlocked the gate to a mysterious, challenging landscape of musical delights.

Seductive Abduction in Iowa

Des Moines Metro Opera has quite a crowd-pleasing production of The Abduction from the Seraglio on its hands.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Garsington Opera

Even by Shakespeare’s standards A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of his earlier plays, boasts a particularly fantastical plot involving a bunch of aristocrats (the Athenian Court of Theseus), feuding gods and goddesses (Oberon and Titania), ‘Rude Mechanicals’ (Bottom, Quince et al) and assorted faeries and spirits (such as Puck).

Richard Wagner: Tristan und Isolde

What do we call Tristan und Isolde? That may seem a silly question. Tristan und Isolde, surely, and Tristan for short, although already we come to the exquisite difficulty, as Tristan and Isolde themselves partly seem (though do they only seem?) to recognise of that celebrated ‘und’.

Debussy: Pelléas et Mélisande

So this was it, the Pelléas which had apparently repelled critics and other members of the audience on the opening night. Perhaps that had been exaggeration; I avoided reading anything substantive — and still have yet to do so.

Richard Strauss: Arabella

I had last seen Arabella as part of the Munich Opera Festival’s Richard Strauss Week in 2008. It is not, I am afraid, my favourite Strauss opera; in fact, it is probably my least favourite. However, I am always willing to be convinced.

Carmen in Orange

Some time ago in San Francisco there was an Aida starring Luciano Pavarotti, now in Orange it was Carmen starring Jonas Kaufmann. No, not tenors in drag just great tenors whose names simply outshine the title roles.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of The Royal Opera House]
12 Jul 2009

Tosca at Royal Opera House

This revival of Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production of Tosca brings to an end the ROH’s ‘Italian Season’ in fine style.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Tosca: Angela Gheorghiu; Cavaradossi: Marcello Giordani; Scarpia: Bryn Terfel; Spoletta: Martyn Hill; Angelotti: Kostas Smoriginas; Sacristan: Jeremy White; Sciarrone: Matthew Hargreaves; Gaoler: John Morrissey. The Royal Opera. Conductor: Jacques Lacombe. Director: Jonathan Kent. Designs: Paul Brown. Lighting: Mark Henderson.

Above: Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca

All photos by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of The Royal Opera House

 

The season has hardly had a dud moment, the highlight perhaps being the momentous Barbiere but this Tosca has to run that a close second, with its central trio of singers as well balanced as anyone could possibly desire, excellent orchestral sound under Jacques Lacombe and a staging which respects the opera’s traditions yet does not become mired in them.

Giordani_Tosca_ROH.gifMarcello Giordani as Cavaradossi

I have not previously warmed to Angela Gheorghiu’s singing, but this is a part which she seems to have been born to play — she’s a diva, after all, and the pseudo-coquettish shenanigans in Act I were bearable in her hands and voice where they grate from others, and the histrionics of later on were convincingly done — on this showing if poor Cavaradossi had lived, he would probably not have survived ‘il Bacio di Tosca’ for very long. She sang ‘Vissi d’arte’ with limpid tone and a kind of heartfelt beseeching of which I had not thought her capable, and her scenes with Cavaradossi, especially those describing their idyllic future, were very moving.

Marcello Giordani, a sadly infrequent guest here in London, is the Met’s tenor of choice, and it’s easy to hear why — this is a powerful, juicy, ringing voice but it is much more bel canto in style than the usual bulldog can belto in this role, and for once you could actually imagine this aristo turned Voltairean as a painter. He and Gheorgiou seemed to have a natural chemistry, the often stagy love scenes actually convincing, and he passed what to my mind is the true test of a great Cavaradossi, with a tender, finely phrased account of ‘O dolci mani.’

Bryn Terfel seems to have taken to heart the libretto’s instruction in Act III, that he should sing ‘insinuante e con intenzione’ — this was a creepy, malevolent Scarpia, one before it was easy to imagine that all Rome had trembled. I was less convinced by his desire for Tosca — the cries of ‘Ah! Tosca’ and ‘finalmente mia!’ sounding more complacent than impassioned — but his wrath was horrible to contemplate, made even more so by the characteristic retention of a beautiful, smooth legato line.

Gheorghi_Terfel_Tosca_ROH_3.gifAngela Gheorghiu as Tosca and Bryn Terfel as Scarpia

The smaller parts were admirably taken, Martyn Hill a finely oily Spoletta, Kostas Smoriginas a sympathetic Angelotti, and Jeremy White an avuncular, expressive Sacristan. Orchestrally we were in surprisingly commanding hands, given that the conductor was making his house debut conducting opera (he has been a stalwart of the Ballet for some time) — the lower strings especially had been coaxed into chamber music-like intimacy and the brass sparkled rather than blared.

The production is traditional in the best sense, in that Paul Brown’s designs present mostly realistic depictions of Sant’ Andrea and the Castel Sant’Angelo, the latter set against a deep blue, starry sky emblazoned with a central angel’s wing, finely suggesting both Bernini’s Angel on the bridge by the castle, and the ‘Avenging Angel’ which stands atop the building. The central influence in Scarpia’s study seems to be Cellini, the massive quality of his bronzes suiting the man’s power and ego. Mark Henderson’s lighting evocatively suggests both claustrophobic interiors and encroaching night, and Stephen Barlow’s direction of the principals follows Jonathan Kent’s naturalistic, unforced approach.

Tosca_ROH_Scene.gifA scene from Tosca

Like the previous Visconti staging, this Tosca will be with us for many years, but it is hard to imagine it being graced with such strong principal singers as this time around. Just four more performances, on July 11th, 14th, 16th and 18th.

Melanie Eskenazi

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):