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

Garsington Opera transfers Falstaff from Elizabeth pomp to Edwardian pompousness

Bruno Ravella’s new production of Verdi's Falstaff for Garsington Opera eschews Elizabethan pomp in favour of Edwardian pompousness, and in so doing places incipient, insurgent feminism and the eternal class consciousness of fin de siècle English polite society centre stage.

Mascagni's Isabeau at Opera Holland Park: in conversation with David Butt Philip

Opera directors are used to thinking their way out of theatrical, dramaturgical and musico-dramatic conundrums, but one of the more unusual challenges must be how to stage the spectacle of a young princess’s naked horseback-ride through the streets of a city.

Grange Park Opera travels to America

The Italian censors forced Giuseppe Verdi and his librettist Antonio Somma to relocate their operatic drama of the murder of the Swedish King Gustav III to Boston, demote the monarch to state governor and rename him Riccardo, and for their production of Un ballo in maschera at Grange Park Opera, director Stephen Medcalf and designer Jamie Vartan have left the ‘ruler’ in his censorial exile.

Puccini’s La bohème at The Royal Opera House

When I reviewed Covent Garden’s Tosca back in January, I came very close to suggesting that we might be entering a period of crisis in casting the great Puccini operas. Fast forward six months, and what a world of difference!

Na’ama Zisser's Mamzer Bastard (world premiere)

Let me begin, like an undergraduate unsure quite what to say at the beginning of an essay: there were many reasons to admire the first performance of Na’ama Zisser’s opera, Mamzer Bastard, a co-commission from the Royal Opera and the Guildhall.

Les Arts Florissants : An English Garden, Barbican London

At the Barbican, London, Les Arts Florissants conducted by Paul Agnew, with soloists of Le Jardin de Voix in "An English Garden" a semi-staged programme of English baroque.

Die Walküre in San Francisco

The hero Siegfried in utero, Siegmund dead, Wotan humiliated, Brünnhilde asleep, San Francisco’s Ring ripped relentlessly into the shredded emotional lives of its gods and mortals. Conductor Donald Runnicles laid bare Richard Wagner’s score in its most heroic and in its most personal revelations, in their intimacy and in their exploding release.

Das Rheingold in San Francisco

Alberich’s ring forged, the gods moved into Valhalla, Loge’s Bic flicked, Wagner’s cumbersome nineteenth century mythology began unfolding last night here in Bayreuth-by-the-Bay.

ENO's Acis and Galatea at Lilian Baylis House

The shepherds and nymphs are at play! It’s end-of-the-year office-party time in Elysium. The bean-bags, balloons and banners - ‘Work Hard, Play Harder’ - invite the weary workers of Mountain Media to let their hair down, and enter the ‘Groves of Delights and Crystal Fountains’.

Lohengrin at the Royal Opera House

Since returning to London in January, I have been heartened by much of what I have seen - and indeed heard - from the Royal Opera.

Stéphane Degout and Simon Lepper

Another wonderful Wigmore song recital: this time from Stéphane Degout – recently shining in George Benjamin's new operatic masterpiece,

An excellent La finta semplice from Classical Opera

‘How beautiful it is to love! But even more beautiful is freedom!’ The opening lines of the libretto of Mozart’s La finta semplice are as contradictory as the unfolding tale is ridiculous. Either that master of comedy, Carlo Goldoni, was having an off-day when he penned the text - which was performed during the Carnival of 1764 in the Teatro Giustiniani di S. Moisè in Venice with music by Salvatore Perillo - or Marco Coltellini, the poeta cesareo who was entertaining the Viennese aristocracy in 1768, took unfortunate liberties with poetry and plot.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Whatever Love Is: The Prince Consort at Wigmore Hall

‘We love singing songs, telling stories …’ profess The Prince Consort on their website, and this carefully curated programme at Wigmore Hall perfectly embodied this passion, as Artistic Director and pianist Alisdair Hogarth was joined by tenor Andrew Staples (the Consort’s Creative Director), Verity Wingate (soprano) and poet Laura Mucha to reflect on ‘whatever love is’.

Bryn Terfel's magnetic Mephisto in Amsterdam

It had been a while since Bryn Terfel sang a complete opera role in Amsterdam. Back in 2002 his larger-than-life Doctor Dulcamara hijacked the stage of what was then De Nederlandse Opera, now Dutch National Opera.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

A volcanic Elektra by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic

“There are no gods in heaven!” sings Elektra just before her brother Orest kills their mother. In the Greek plays about the cursed House of Atreus the Olympian gods command the banished Orestes to return home and avenge his father Agamemnon’s murder at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra. He dispatches both her and her lover Aegisthus.

Così fan tutte: Opera Holland Park

Absence makes the heart grow fonder; or does it? In Così fan tutte, who knows? Or rather, what could such a question even mean?

The poignancy of triviality: Garsington Opera's Capriccio

“Wort oder Ton?” asks Richard Strauss’s final opera, Capriccio. The Countess answers with a question of her own, at the close of this self-consciously self-reflective Konversationstück für Musik: “Gibt es einen, der nicht trivail ist?” (“Is there any ending that isn’t trivial?”)

Netia Jones' new Die Zauberflöte opens Garsington Opera's 2018 season

“These portals, these columns prove/that wisdom, industry and art reside here.” So says Tamino, as he gazes up at the three imposing doors in the centre of Netia Jones’ replica of the 18th-century Wormsley Park House - in the grounds of which Garsington Opera’s ‘floating’ Pavilion makes its home each summer.

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):