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

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. The world of commercial public opera had only just dawned with the opening of the Teatro San Cassiano in Venice in 1637 and for the first time opera became open to all who could afford a ticket, rather than beholden to the patronage of generous princes. Monteverdi took full advantage of the new stage and at the age of 73 brought all his experience of more than 30 years of opera-writing since his ground-breaking L’Orfeo (what a pity we have lost all those works) to the creation of two of his greatest pieces, Ulysses and then his final masterpiece, Poppea.

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. It is a sad state of affairs when a season that includes both Boulevard Solitude and Moses und Aron is considered exceptional, but it is - and is all the more so when one contrasts such seriousness of purpose with the endless revivals of La traviata which, Die Frau ohne Schatten notwithstanding, seem to occupy so much of the Royal Opera’s effort. That said, if the Royal Opera has not undertaken what would be only its second ever staging of Schoenberg’s masterpiece - the first and last was in 1965, long before most of us were born! - then at least it has engaged in a very welcome ‘WNO at the Royal Opera House’ relationship, in which we in London shall have the opportunity to see some of the fruits of the more adventurous company’s endeavours.

Rossini is Alive and Well and Living in Iowa

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.

Gergiev : Janáček 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. During the rehearsals for the premiere - just 3 for the orchestra and one 3-hour rehearsal for the whole ensemble - the composer made many changes, and such alterations continued so that by the time of the only other performance during Janáček’s lifetime, in Prague in April 1928, many of the instrumental (especially brass) lines had been doubled, complex rhythmic patterns had been ‘ironed-out’ (the Kyrie was originally in 5/4 time), a passage for 3 off-stage clarinets had been cut along with music for 3 sets of pedal timpani, and choral passages were also excised.

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.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

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):