Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Il barbiere di Siviglia in Pesaro

Both by default and by merit Il barbiere di Siviglia is the hit of the thirty-fifth Rossini Opera Festival. But did anyone really want, and did the world really need yet another production of this old warhorse?

Armida in Pesaro

Armida (1817) is the third of Rossini’s nine operas for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, all serious. The first was Elisabetta, regina di Inghilterra (1815), the second was Otello (1816), the last was Zelmira (1822).

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Scene from Tosca [Photo courtesy of Teatro dell'Opera di Roma]
21 Jul 2009

Tosca at the Baths of Caracalla, Rome

Tosca is the quintessential Roman opera, with a plot located in three infamous landmarks of Rome, its 1900 premiere in Rome was bound to be enormously successful.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Floria Tosca: Micaela Carosi (14, 16, 21, 4, 6) / Virginia Todisco (15, 17, 22, 30); Cavaradosi: Fabio Armiliato (14, 16, 21, 4, 6) / Valter Borin (15, 17, 22, 30); Scarpia Giorgio Surian (14, 16, 21, 4, 6) / Giovanni Meoni (15, 17, 22, 30); Sagrestano: Roberto Abbondanza (14, 16, 17, 21, 30) / Carlo Di Cristoforo (15, 22, 4, 6); Angelotti: Alessandro Svab; Spoletta: Mario Bolognesi; Sciarrone: Alessandro Battiato (14, 15, 16, 17, 21) / Antonio Taschini (22, 4) / Riccardo Cortellacci (30, 6); Carceriere: Angelo Nardinocchi (14, 15, 16, 17, 21, 22, 30) / Riccardo Coltellacci (4) / Antonio Taschini (6); Pastorello: Marta Pacifici. Coro di Voci Bianche di Roma dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia e del Teatro dell'Opera. Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Dell’opera. Nuovo allestimento. Maestro concertatore e Direttore: Paolo Olmi. Maestro del Coro: Andrea Giorgi. Regia: Franco Ripa di Meana. Scene: Edoardo Sanchi. Costumi: Silvia Aymonino. Luci: Agostino Angelini.

Above: Scene from Tosca

All photos courtesy of Teatro dell'Opera di Roma

 

In 2008 the Teatro dell’Opera staged thirteen performances of Franco Zeffirelli’s new elaborate staging. In the past twenty years, the Teatro dell’Opera touted productions nearly every other season of Tosca designed by distinguished directors such as Mauro Bolognini and Guiliano Montaldo. The last five seasons of the small “Piccolo Lirico” alone has launched 300 performances of Tosca.

This new adaptation of Tosca is performed in the open theater of the Baths of Caracalla, a magnificent monument. Heritage restrictions do not allow performances within the colossal ruins. Productions, therefore, are staged on a platform in front. Consequently, this limits set changes between the three acts and necessitates minimal changes in props and costumes.

Eduardo Sanchi surrounds the stage with a black-and-white aerial view of modern Rome’s city center. Red circles mark the main locations of the opera: Sant’Andrea della Valle Church, Castel Sant’Angelo and a very red Tiber crossing the stage. This dramatic set serves as the perfect vehicle for the new concept of Tosca. This is not the “blood and guts” drama, as the late Paul Hume wrote when he was the music editor for the Washington Post.

There are plenty of blood and guts, of course, as well as passion and erotic impulses. Yet the focal point of the opera is a new and different one. The staging has the city center crowded with inquisitive priests and clerics throughout the performance, where the oppressively ubiquitous clergy, to paraphrase Anais Nin, are like a vast lead roof which covers the world. Cavaradossi is tortured by the cassock-wearing Scarpia, here a bishop who desperately craves sadistic sex, although it seems that he might be enjoying some young Swiss guard as well as Tosca. There is also one final surprise—Tosca does not jump off the Castel Sant’Angelo’s tower into the river. Instead she drowns in the red Tiber embracing Cavaradossi’s body.

Director Franco Ripa di Meana has a literary basis for these changes. An exchange of letters among Puccini, Illica, Giacosa, and Sardou have been unearthed, revealing an intent of changing the end with a mad scene, Tosca killing Scarpia in a state of madness and then killing herself. Yet Sardou was adamant about the ending, though he had only an approximate idea of Rome, and no knowledge that the Tiber did not flow under Castel Sant’Angelo. In short, the production is strongly anti-clerical, a bit weird, but brilliant!

A funny accident took place on the opening night (July 14th) at the beginning of the third act—a live sheep bleated onstage, serving as counterpoint to the shepherd’s day break song, and a moment of unwanted comic relief in an otherwise tense blood-and-guts, passion-and-sex musical drama.

The usual disclaimer of the difficulties of performing outdoors must be made. And it is to be added that across the street a major political demonstration had been organized. Luckily, they were quite good mannered and did not make excessive noise. The audience could sense that the conductor, Paolo Olmi, was very professional and the orchestra was well familiar with the score.

tosa-roma-2009-4.gif

The star of the evening was Fabio Armiliato singing Cavaradossi for the 134th time. His clear timbre, sensual legato, perfect phrasing, physique and skillful acting made him perfect for the role. Michaela Carosi performed Tosca well with a big voice. But diction was poor and, moreover, her second and third act costuming (early 20th century aristocratic gowns) did not suit her well. Giorgio Surian was an effective Scarpia. Roberto Abbondanza deserves special recognition for his interpretation of the Sacrestan, whose comic persona masks his role as a willing abettor of Scarpia’s machinations.

Giuseppe Pennisi

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):