Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Proms at ... Cadogan Hall 5: Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman

“On the wings of song, I’ll bear you away …” So sings the poet-speaker in Mendelssohn’s 1835 setting of Heine’s ‘Auf Flügeln des Gesanges’. And, borne aloft we were during this lunchtime Prom by Louise Alder and Gary Matthewman which soared progressively higher as the performers took us on a journey through a spectrum of lieder from the first half of the nineteenth century.

Glowing Verdi at Glimmerglass

From the first haunting, glistening sound of the orchestral strings to the ponderous final strokes in the score that echoed the dying heartbeats of a doomed heroine, Glimmerglass Festival’s superior La Traviata was an indelible achievement.

Médée in Salzburg

Though Luigi Cherubini long outlived the carnage of the French Revolution his 1797 opéra comique [with spoken dialogue] Médée fell well within the “horror opera” genre that responded to the spirit of its time. These days however Médée is but an esoteric and extremely challenging late addition to the international repertory.

Queen: A Royal Jewel at Glimmerglass

Tchaikovsky’s grand opera The Queen of Spades might seem an unlikely fit for the multi-purpose room of the Pavilion on the Glimmerglass campus but that qualm would fail to reckon with the superior creative gifts of the production team at this prestigious festival.

Blue Diversifies Glimmerglass Fare

Glimmerglass Festival has commendably taken on a potent social theme in producing the World Premiere of composer Jeanine Tesori and librettist Tazewell Thompson’s Blue.

Vibrant Versailles Dazzles In Upstate New York

From the shimmering first sounds and alluring opening visual effects of Glimmerglass Festival’s The Ghosts of Versailles, it was apparent that we were in for an evening of aural and theatrical splendors worthy of its namesake palace.

Gilda: “G for glorious”

For months we were threatened with a “feminist take” on Verdi’s boiling 1851 melodrama; the program essay was a classic mashup of contemporary psychobabble perfectly captured in its all-caps headline: DESTRUCTIVE PARENTS, TOXIC MASCULINITY, AND BAD DECISIONS.

Simon Boccanegra in Salzburg

It’s an inescapable reference. Among the myriad "Viva Genova!" tweets the Genovese populace shared celebrating its new doge, the pirate Simon Boccanegra, one stood out — “Make Genoa Great Again!” A hell of a mess ensued for years and years and the drinking water was poisonous as well.

Rigoletto at Macerata Opera Festival

In this era of operatic globalization, I don’t recall ever attending a summer opera festival where no one around me uttered a single word of spoken English all night. Yet I recently had this experience at the Macerata Opera Festival. This festival is not only a pure Italian experience, in the best sense, but one of the undiscovered gems of the European summer season.

BBC Prom 37: A transcendent L’enfance du Christ at the Albert Hall

Notwithstanding the cancellation of Dame Sarah Connolly and Sir Mark Elder, due to ill health, and an inconsiderate audience in moments of heightened emotion, this performance was an unequivocal joy, wonderfully paced and marked by first class accounts from four soloists and orchestral playing from the Hallé that was the last word in refinement.

Tannhäuser at Bayreuth

Stage director Tobias Kratzer sorely tempts destruction in his Bayreuth deconstruction of Wagner’s delicate Tannhäuser, though he was soundly thwarted at the third performance by conductor Christian Thielemann pinch hitting for Valery Gergiev.

Opera in the Quarry: Die Zauberflöte at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt, Austria

Oper im Steinbruch (Opera in the Quarry) presents opera in the 2000 quarry at St Margarethen near Eisenstadt in Austria. Opera has been performed there since the late 1990s, but there was no opera last year and this year is the first under the new artistic director Daniel Serafin, himself a former singer but with a degree in business administration and something of a minor Austrian celebrity as he has been on the country's equivalent of Strictly Come Dancing twice.

BBC Prom 39: Sea Pictures from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales

Sea Pictures: both the name of Elgar’s five-song cycle for contralto and orchestra, performed at this BBC Prom by Catriona Morison, winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World Main Prize in 2017, and a fitting title for this whole concert by the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Elim Chan, which juxtaposed a first half of songs of the sea, fair and fraught, with, post-interval, compositions inspired by paintings.

BBC Prom 32: DiDonato spellbinds in Berlioz and the NYO of the USA magnificently scales Strauss

As much as the Proms strives to stand above the events of its time, that doesn’t mean the musicians, conductors or composers who perform there should necessarily do so.

Get Into Opera with this charming, rural L'elisir

Site-specific operas are commonplace these days, but at The Octagon Barn in Norwich, Genevieve Raghu, founder and Artistic Director of Into Opera, contrived to make a site persuasively opera-specific.

A disappointing Prom from Nathalie Stutzmann and BBCNOW

Nathalie Stutzmann really is an impressive conductor. The sheer elegance she brings to her formidable technique, the effortless drive towards making much of the music she conducts sound so passionate and the ability to shock us into hearing something quite new in music we think we know is really rather refreshing. Why then did this Prom sometimes feel weary, even disappointing at times?

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

Merola’s Striking If I Were You

Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer have become an indispensable presence in the contemporary opera world, and their latest premiere, If I Were You, found the duo at the very top of their game.

The Thirteenth Child: When She Was Good…

Santa Fe Opera continues its remarkable record for producing World (and American) Premieres with The Thirteenth Child, music by Poul Ruders, libretto by Becky and David Starobin.

The Sopranos at Tanglewood

Among classical music lovers, Wagner inspires equal measures of devotion and disdain. Some travel far and sit for hours to hear his operas live. Others eschew them completely.

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):