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

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

Bampton Classical Opera 2017

In 2015, Bampton Classical Opera’s production of Salieri’s La grotta di Trofonio - a UK premiere - received well-deserved accolades: ‘a revelation ... the music is magnificent’ (Seen and Heard International), ‘giddily exciting, propelled by wit, charm and bags of joy’ (The Spectator), ‘lively, inventive ... a joy from start to finish’ (The Oxford Times), ‘They have done Salieri proud’ (The Arts Desk) and ‘an enthusiastic performance of riotously spirited music’ (Opera Britannia) were just some of the superlative compliments festooned by the critical press.

The nature of narropera?

How many singers does it take to make an opera? There are single-role operas - Schönberg’s Erwartung (1924) and Eight Songs for a Mad King by Peter Maxwell Davies (1969) spring immediately to mind - and there are operas that just require a pair of performers, such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Mozart i Salieri (1897) or The Telephone by Menotti (1947).

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

An English Winter Journey

Roderick Williams’ and Julius Drake’s English Winter Journey seems such a perfect concept that one wonders why no one had previously thought of compiling a sequence of 24 songs by English composers to mirror, complement and discourse with Schubert’s song-cycle of love and loss.

History Repeating Itself: Prokofiev’s Semyon Kotko, Amsterdam Concertgebouw

A historical afternoon at the NTR Saturday Matinee occurred with an epic concert version of Prokofiev’s Soviet Opera Semyon Kotko.

L’amour de loin at the Metropolitan Opera

Opening night at the Metropolitan is a gleeful occasion even when the composer is long gone, but December 1st was an opening for a living composer who has been making waves around the world and is, gasp, a woman — the second woman composer ever to have an opera presented at the Met.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Deborah Voigt as Tosca [Photo by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago]
19 Oct 2009

Tosca at Lyric Opera of Chicago

For the first production of its 55th season Lyric Opera of Chicago has staged a revival of Puccini’s Tosca with a cast of notable singers led by music director Sir Andrew Davis.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Tosca: Deborah Voigt (Sept. & Oct.), Violeta Urmana (Jan).; Cavaradossi: Vladimir Galouzine (Sept. & Oct.), Marco Berti (Jan.); Scarpia: James Morris (Sept. & Oct.), Lucio Gallo (Jan.); Sacristan: Dale Travis; Spoletta: John Easterlin (Sept. & Oct.), David Cangelosi (Jan.); Sciarrone: Paul Corona; Jailer: Sam Handley; Angelotti: Craig Irvin; Shepherd: Angela Mannino. Conductor: Sir Andrew Davis (Sept. & Oct.), Stephen Lord (Jan.). Original Production: Franco Zeffirelli. Director: Garnett Bruce.

Above: Deborah Voigt as Tosca

All photos by Dan Rest courtesy of Lyric Opera of Chicago

 

The opening night performance (seen here) offered the expected celebratory mood with festive dress, champagne, and the house itself decked out in appropriate splendor. The choice of this staging is also a celebration of operatic history: Zeffirelli’s original production for a Covent Garden Tosca with Maria Callas was acquired by Lyric Opera in time for its 2004-05 anniversary season and are used again now in this festive season opener.

Galouzine_Voigt_Tosca_Chicago.pngVladimir Galouzine as Cavaradossi and Deborah Voigt as Tosca

The principal singers in Lyric’s current run (a second cast will be featured for additional performances in January) include Deborah Voigt as Floria Tosca, Vladimir Galouzine as Mario Cavaradossi, and James Morris as the Baron Scarpia. In smaller yet significant roles Craig Irvin sang Cesare Angelotti, Dale Travis was the Sacristan, and John Easterlin portrayed Spoletta. As the curtain rose after a brief orchestral introduction, the former prisoner Angelotti staggered into the Church of Sant’ Andrea della Valle while seeking exile. Here and in the following scene Irvin showed a believable desperation, his athletic movements in line with Angelotti’s vocal utterances underscoring the conviction of his beliefs. The interior of the church as depicted seems appropriately cluttered for the mix of worship and artistic project underway in the first act. Once the prisoner hides, the sacristan enters and busies himself with cleaning as well as credible acts of devotion and prayer. The painter Cavaradossi interrupts the sacristan with a bemused look and the famous line, “Che fai?” [“What are you doing?”]. Galouzine delivered these lines with a tension signaling, on the one hand, his friendly encouragement, yet on the other his preoccupation with both worldly and personal matters. As Cavaradossi turns to unveil the painting of the Madonna, on which he has lately worked, the sacristan recognizes the features of a woman who has often come to pray. At this point Cavaradossi sings the well-known aria “Recondita armonia,” [“What subtle harmony”] in which he muses on the appreciation of beauty in more than one woman, his final thoughts of devotion settling on the beloved Tosca. Here Galouzine began with a warm, almost baritonal depth, his voice blooming into the full tenor range during the course of the piece and finally ending with pointedly steady and ringing high notes on the words “Tosca, sei tu!” [“Tosca, it is you!”] From this point on into the evening Galouzine commanded the stage in those scenes where his presence required vocal statements of emotional enthusiasm. As a foil to his passion and introspection, Deborah Voigt’s entrance as Tosca signaled both feeling and religious devotion, giving way alternately to suspicion, to ardor, and to faith in the ways of the Divinity. This complexity would then inform Voigt’s interpretation throughout the remainder of the performance. After her initial jealous outburst is calmed by Cavaradossi, she settled into an inspired love-duet, punctuated intermittently by Voigt with pointed emphases. At times the voice was pressed forte more than necessary, whereas at other moments, especially in her duet with Galouzine, a moving tenderness was communicated in a softer vocal delivery. After her departure and the painter’s reunion and hurried exit with Angelotti, the stage was again left to the sacristan. Mr. Travis maintained an admirably steady legato and, in his acting, was skilled at realistic portrayal without descending into the purely buffo characterization drawn on by some who have interpreted this role. His interaction with the children entering the church suggested a lilting respect for position and surroundings. Of course Scarpia’s appearance is calculated to change everything. As he and his police henchmen persevere in their search for Angelotti, the musical accompaniment becomes decidedly menacing.

Voigt_Morris_Tosca_Chicago.pngJames Morris as Scarpia and Deborah Voigt as Tosca

The Scarpia of James Morris is, in this performance, decidedly understated, at times lighter of voice than one’s expectations, yet also communicative through glance, gesture, and movement. As Tosca returned to the Church, the two engaged in a vocal and dramatic battle for dominance with Voigt showing full realization of both the danger and challenge of her position as she once again left. The conclusion of the act showcased Scarpia in the famous Te Deum scene, Morris again here blending into a fully populated stage without yet reaching a full crescendo of power and lust.

That very powerful characterization of Scarpia began its development at the start of the second act. Here Morris achieved a synthesis of volume and feeling as he contemplated with relish the possibilities of his amorous conquest. His address to Cavaradossi showed him to be the ruthless villain whose demise shocks but seems, ultimately, inevitable. As the trio of principals interacted during the middle portion of this act, Galouzine again stood out as his voice rang in thrilling declarations of “Vittoria!” [“Victory!”] Although his actual torture was cut short by Tosca’s divulging information to Scarpia, he still remains a prisoner. She must agree to give herself to the Baron in order to buy safe passage out of the city for Cavaradossi and herself. In her aria “Vissi d’arte” [“I have lived for art”] Voigt invested her delivery with peaks of emotional dedication in order to lend an expressive fullness to her interpretation. At times the voice responded to this approach, at others the aria was less effective especially when pitch or volume might have shown greater control. After Scarpia signs the document for their alleged freedom, Tosca commits the murder that leads to her suicide at the close of the opera. Sir Andrew Davis managed orchestral tempos here with a subtlety that gave a yet deeper impression of Tosca’s emotional struggle before she hurriedly closed the door while leaving Scarpia dead on the floor of his apartment.

In Act III of the opera Cavaradossi contemplates his impending execution until Tosca arrives to give him the news of their safe passage. In these solitary moments Galouzine’s performance of “E lucevan le stelle” [“And the stars were shining”] was assuredly a vocal highlight of this performance. When Tosca appears to tell of her plan and the price that she has paid, Voigt gives the impression of being in full control, not realizing of course that Scarpia has betrayed her trust. As Cavaradossi indeed falls dead from the bullets of the firing squad and Tosca understands the horror of her position, Voigt continues to display that dramatic control: she jumps from the parapet to her death only after pushing with evident force a pursuant officer and causing him to fall backward. As she declares, she and Scarpia will meet again before God.

Salvatore Calomino

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):