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

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

La finta giardiniera at the Royal College of Music

For an opera that has never quite made it over the threshold into the ‘canonical’, the adolescent Mozart’s La finta giardiniera has not done badly of late for productions in the UK. In 2014, Glyndebourne presented Frederic Wake-Walker’s take on the eighteen-year-old’s dramma giocoso. Wake-Walker turned the romantic shenanigans and skirmishes into a debate on the nature of reality, in which the director tore off layers of theatrical artifice in order to answer Auden’s rhetorical question, ‘O tell me the truth about love’.

Lust for Revenge: Barenboim and Herlitzius fire up Strauss’s Elektra in Berlin

As the German language describes so beautifully, a “Schrei aus tiefstem Herzen” was felt as Evelyn Herlitzius channelled an Elektra from the depths of her soul.

Semyon Bychkov heading to NYC and DC with Glanert and Mahler

Heading to N.Y.C and D.C. for its annual performances, the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra invited Semyon Bychkov to return for his Mahler debut with the Fifth Symphony. Having recently returned from Vienna with praise for their rendition, the orchestra now presented it at their homebase.

Lost Stravinsky re-united with Rimsky-Korsakov, Gergiev, Mariinsky

Igor Stravinsky's lost Funeral Song, (Chante funèbre) op 5 conducted by Valery Gergiev at the Mariinsky in St Petersburg This extraordinary performance was infinitely more than an ordinary concert, even for a world premiere of an unknown work.

Philippe Jaroussky at the Wigmore Hall: Baroque cantatas by Telemann and J.S.Bach

On Tuesday evening this week, I found myself at The Actors Centre in London’s Covent Garden watching a performance of Unknowing, a dramatization of Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben and Dichterliebe (in a translation by David Parry, in which Matthew Monaghan directed a baritone and a soprano as they enacted a narrative of love, life and loss. Two days later at the Wigmore Hall I enjoyed a wonderful performance, reviewed here, by countertenor Philippe Jaroussky with Julien Chauvin’s Le Concert de la Loge, of cantatas by Telemann and J.S. Bach.

The new Queen of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra

Here is one of the next new great conductors. That’s a bold statement, but even the L.A. Times agrees: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla’s appointment “is the biggest news in the conducting world.” But Ms. Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla will be getting a lot of weight on her shoulders.

Falstaff at Manitoba Opera

Manitoba Opera chose to open its 44th season by going for the belly laughs — literally — as it notably presented its inaugural production of Verdi’s Falstaff.

Gothic Schubert : Wigmore Hall, London

Macabre and moonstruck, Schubert as Goth, with Stuart Jackson, Marcus Farnsworth and James Baillieu at the Wigmore Hall. An exceptionally well-planned programme devised with erudition and wit, executed to equally high standards.

Rusalka, AZ Opera

On November 20, 2016, Arizona Opera completed its run of Antonín Dvořák’s fairy Tale opera, Rusalka. Loosely based on Hand Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, Joshua Borths staged it with common objects such as dining room chairs that could be found in the home of a child watching the story unfold.

First new Ring Cycle in 40 Years, Leipzig

Consistently overshadowed by the neighboring Bayreuth, the far less stuffy Oper Leipzig (Wagner’s birthplace) programmed after forty years their first complete Ring Cycle.

San Jose’s Beta-Carotene Rich Barber

You didn’t have to know the Bugs Bunny oeuvre to appreciate Opera San Jose’s enchanting Il barbiere di Sivigila, but it sure enhanced your experience if you did.

Manon Lescaut at Covent Garden

If there was ever any doubt that Puccini’s Manon is on a road to nowhere, then the closing image of Jonathan Kent’s 2014 production of Manon Lescaut (revived here for the first time, by Paul Higgins) leaves no uncertainty.

Fierce in War, dazzling in Peace: Joyce DiDonato at the Concertgebouw

Many opera singers are careful to maintain an air of political neutrality. Not so mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, who is outspoken about causes she holds dear. Her latest project, a very personal response to the 2015 terror attacks in Paris, puts her audience through the emotional wringer, but also showers them with musical rewards.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

Simplicius Simplicissimus

I wonder if Karl Amadeus Hartmann saw something of himself in the young Simplicius Simplicissimus, the eponymous protagonist of his three-scene chamber opera of 1936. Simplicius is in a sort of ‘Holy Fool’ who manages to survive the violence and civil strife of the Thirty Years War (1618-48), largely through dumb chance, and whose truthful pronouncements fall upon the ears of the deluded and oppressive.

Lucia di Lammermoor at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For its second opera of the 2016-17 season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in a production seen at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and the Grand Théâtre de Genève.

Akhnaten Offers L A Operagoers Both Ear and Eye Candy

Akhnaten is the third in composer Philip Glass’s trilogy of operas about people who have made important contributions to society: Albert Einstein in science, Mahatma Gandhi in politics, and Akhnaten in religion. Glass’s three operas are: Einstein on the Beach, Satyagraha, and Akhnaten.

Shakespeare in the Late Baroque - Bampton Classical Opera

Shakespeare re-imagined for the very Late Baroque, with Bampton Classical Opera at St John's Smith Square. "Shakespeare, Shakespeare, Shakespeare....the God of Our Idolatory". So wrote David Garrick in his Ode to Shakespeare (1759) through which the actor and showman marketed Shakespeare to new audiences, fanning the flames of "Bardolatory". All Europe was soon caught up in the frenzy.

Soldier Songs in San Diego

David Little composed his one-man opera, Soldier Songs, ten years ago and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas of New Haven, Connecticut, premiered it in 2011. At San Diego Opera, the fifty-five minute musical presentation and the “Talk Back” that followed it were part of the Shiley dētour Series which is held in the company’s smaller venue, the historic Balboa Theatre.

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):