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 Performances

Prom 60: Bach and Bruckner

Bruckner, Bruckner, wherever one goes; From Salzburg to London, he is with us, he is with us indeed, and will be next week too. (I shall even be given the Third Symphony another try, on my birthday: the things I do for Daniel Barenboim…) Still, at least it seems to mean that fewer unnecessary Mahler-as-showpiece performances are being foisted upon us. Moreover, in this case, it was good, indeed great Bruckner, rather than one of the interminable number of ‘versions’ of interminable earlier works.

Prom 57: Semyon Bychkov conducts the BBCSO

Thomas Larcher’s Second Symphony (written 2015-16) here received its United Kingdom premiere, its first performance having been given by the Vienna Philharmonic and Semyon Bychkov in June this year. A commission from the Austrian National Bank for its bicentenary, it is nevertheless not a celebratory work, instead commemorating those refugees who have met their deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, ‘expressing grief over those who have died and outrage at the misanthropy at home in Austria and elsewhere’.

40 minutes with Barbara Hannigan...in rehearsal

One of the initiatives for the community at the Lucerne Festival is the ‘40 min’ series. A free concert given before the evening’s main event that ranges from chamber music to orchestral rehearsals.

Prom 54 - Mozart's Last Year with the Budapest Festival Orchestra

The mysteries and myths surrounding Mozart’s Requiem Mass - left unfinished at his death and completed by his pupil, Franz Xaver Süssmayr - abide, reinvigorated and prolonged by Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus as directed on film by Miloš Forman. The origins of the work’s commission and composition remain unknown but in our collective cultural and musical consciousness the Requiem has come to assume an autobiographical role: as if Mozart was composing a mass for his own presaged death.

High Voltage Tosca in Cologne

I saw two operas consecutively at Oper Koln. First, the utterly bewildering Lucia di Lammermoor; then Thilo Reinhardt’s thrilling Tosca. His staging was pure operatic joy with some Hitchcockian provocations.

Haitink at the Lucerne Festival

Bernard Haitink’s monumental Bruckner and Mahler performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (RCO) got me hooked on classical music. His legendary performance of Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 in C-minor, where in the Finale loosened plaster fell from the Concertgebouw ceiling, is still recounted in Amsterdam.

BBC Prom 45 - Janáček: The Makropulos Affair

Karita Mattila was born to sing Emilia Marty, the diva around whom revolves Leoš Janáček's The Makropulos Affair (Věc Makropulos). At Prom 45, she shone all the more because she was conducted by Jirí Belohlávek and performed alongside a superb cast from the National Theatre, Prague, probably the finest and most idiomatic exponents of this repertoire.

Two Tales of Offenbach: Opera della Luna at Wilton's Music Hall

‘Two outrageous operas in one crazy evening,’ reads the bill. Hyperbole? Certainly not when the operas are two of Jacques Offenbach’s more off-the-wall bouffoneries and when the company is Opera della Luna whose artistic director, Jeff Clarke, is blessed with the comic imagination and theatrical nous to turn even the most vacuous trivia into a sharp and sassy riotous romp.

Britten Untamed! Glyndebourne: A Midsummer Night's Dream

This performance of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream at Glyndebourne was so good that it was the highlight of the whole season, making the term ‘revival’ utterly irrelevant. Jakub Hrůša is always stimulating, but on this occasion, his conducting was so inspired that I found myself closing my eyes in order to concentrate on what he revealed in Britten's quirky but brilliant score. Eyes closed in this famous production by Peter Hall, first seen in 1981?

Salzburg encores

A staged piano recital and an opera as a concert.  Pianist András Schiff accompanied the Salzburg Marionette Theater at the Mozarteum Grosser Saal and Anna Netrebko sang Manon Lescaut at the Grosses Festspielhaus.

Leah Crocetto at Santa Fe

On August 4, 2016, soprano Leah Crocetto and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze gave a recital at the Scottish Rite Center in Santa Fe New Mexico. A winner of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions and the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Contest, this year Crocetto was singing Donna Anna in Santa Fe Opera’s excellent Don Giovanni.

Angela Meade at Sante Fe

On July 31, 2016, against the ethereal beauty of the main hall in the Scottish Rite Center, soprano Angela Meade and pianist Joe Illick gave a recital offering both opera and art songs ranging in origin from early nineteenth century Europe to mid twentieth century America. Many in the audience probably remembered Meade’s recent excellent portrayal of Norma at Los Angeles Opera.

Turco in Italia in Pesaro

When more is definitely more, and less would indeed be less. Two of the biggest names in Italian theater art collide in an eponymous theater.

Proms Chamber Music 5: Shakespeare at 400

It was the fifth Proms Chamber Music concert at Cadogan Hall this season, and we were celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th. And, given the extent and range of the composers and artists, and the diversity and profundity of the musical achievement inspired by the Bard, we could probably keep celebrating in this fashion ad infinitum.

La donna del lago in Pesaro

Each August the bleak and leaky, 12,000 seat Arena Adriatica (home of the famed Pesaro basketball team) magically transforms itself into an improvised opera house that boasts the ultimate in opera chic — exemplary Rossini production standards for its now twelve hundred seats.

Proms at … Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

This highly enjoyable Prom, part of 2016’s ‘Proms at …’ mini-series, took as its guiding concept the reopening of London’s theatres following the Restoration, focusing in particular upon musical and dramatic responses to Shakespeare. Purcell, rightly, loomed large, with John Blow and Matthew Locke joining him. Receiving their Proms premieres were the excerpts from Timon of Athens and those from Locke’s The Tempest.

Santa Fe: Straussian Sweet Nothings

With all the bombast of the presidential campaigns rattling in our heads, with invectives being exchanged and measured discussion all but absent, how utterly lovely to retreat and relax into the harmonious soundscape and well-reasoned debate posed in Strauss’ Capriccio, on magnificent display at Santa Fe Opera.

Santa Fe’s Civil War Gounod

When we entered the Crosby Theatre for Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette the stage was surprisingly dominated by a somber, semi-circular black mausoleum, many chambers inscribed with scrambled names of US Civil War era dead.

Coolly Elegant Vanessa in the Desert

Molten passions were seething just below the icy Nordic exterior of Santa Fe Opera’s wholly masterful production of Barber’s Vanessa.

Le Comte Ory, Seattle

Farce is probably the most difficult of dramatic comedy sub-genres to put across. A farce got up in the stately robes of opera sets its presenters an even higher bar. Presenting an operatic farce on a notoriously chilly and cavernous auditorium is to risk catastrophe.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sondra Radvanovsky as Tosca [Photo by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera]
16 Jan 2011

Tosca, Metropolitan Opera

They have been fiddling with Luc Bondy’s staging of Tosca. Scarpia doesn’t masturbate on the Madonna; he just sort of pinches her erotically.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Tosca: Sondra Radvanovsky; Cavaradossi: Roberto Alagna; Scarpia: Falk Struckmann; Angelotti: Peter Volpe. Conducted by Marco Armiliato. Metropolitan Opera, performance of January 10.

Above: Sondra Radvanovsky as Tosca

All photos by Marty Sohl courtesy of The Metropolitan Opera

 

The firing squad doesn’t rehearse during the exquisite music Puccini wrote to illustrate a perfectly silent, motionless dawn in Rome; instead, the Jailer plays chess with Cavaradossi. The show is still hideously ugly, no incitement to any opera-lovers ever to return to this opera, but casting three terrific singing actors in the leads—one of them a role debut, another a surprise, last-minute house debut, no less—makes a world of difference to the Tosca experience (as perhaps the presentation should be entitled). Seeing any director monkey with a theatrical machine as carefully made as Tosca, with its precise alignments of movement to music (the window that must be shut just as the cantata cuts off, the candles placed beside the corpse, the sunrise with churchbells, and dozens more), you’d think, would give opera directors pause about attempting to “improve” on a classic. But it doesn’t. They just think how much of a reputation they can make by breaking the smoothly running parts. Why don’t they just piss on it out of our sight? That would contribute as much.

TOSCA_Alagna_as_Cavaradossi.gifRoberto Alagna as Cavaradossi

However: Considering the train wreck of a year ago—was it only?—my return to Tosca proved surprisingly satisfying.

Sondra Radvanovsky was singing her first Tosca at the Met—was it her first anywhere? She has a big voice—Met-sized, I’d call it. Too, she is a handsome woman and a passionate actress, with excellent stage instincts. She has been known to go overboard at times, and she did so here, in the outsize boohoos that ornamented her response to her lover’s apparent treachery in Act I, and in the “roll in the hay” under Cavaradossi on the church floor, but opera, especially Verismo opera, is an art with room for going overboard that is not often utilized these days, or not by singers, or not by singers with any gift for high style. I found her thrilling in the part.

My doubts about Radvanovsky have to do with a basic harshness of her instrument. The color does not always give pleasure in sensuous roles with a touch of bel canto to them, such as Leonora (her signature part) or Elena. But Tosca does not fall into that category: Even at her most sensuous, this woman is brittle, excited, suspicious, a little frantic. Radvanovsky inhabited Tosca as Tosca has not been inhabited in the Met for some time. Just don’t expect any Tebaldi or Caballé legatos.

TOSCA_Struckmann_and_Radvan.gifFalk Struckmann as Scarpia and Sondra Radvanovsky as Tosca

Marcelo Álvarez was to have sung Cavaradossi. He withdrew mere hours before the performance, and Roberto Alagna, who was in town to sing Don José and has never sung Cavaradossi here, stepped in for him. What a treat! It says a great deal for Mr. Alagna’s stage sense, which has never been in doubt, that he rarely seemed confused by this unpredictable and complicated staging. His singing, a bit tentative and low-powered at first, built in the course of the evening to the appropriate fire and polish for “Vittoria, vittoria!” His “E lucevan le stelle” was not the most sensuous or dreamy account one has heard of it, but it was gritty and real, poignant and despairing. There was genuine chemistry between him and his Floria, and genuine shock on her part when she found he was dead.

Falk Struckmann is more actor than voice, and Scarpia rewards such talent. He did not overdo the gross touches director Luc Bondy inserted into this staging, and his authority and brutality were in no doubt, but he used them suavely, not overbearingly: a commanding figure, not a gross one. This led to one moment of great humor: When Tosca informed him she intended to leave Rome (after yielding to his lust), Struckmann’s Scarpia parodied a tearful admirer, sentimentally brokenhearted by the news—sarcastically amused by her melodramatic reaction. Too, he was laughing when he assaulted her at last, so that we could enjoy his furious discomfiture the more.

Two further things added to my enjoyment: On this the first night in the production (and with no rehearsal for one of the leading singers), no one seemed to be staring at the conductor, Marco Armiliato, who pieced the well-molded parts of the Tosca jigsaw puzzle together with admirable skill and precision, drowning no one out, foreshadowing and echoing with precision. Second, they have figured out how to mime Tosca’s leap into space without forfeiting either probability or the desired shock.

John Yohalem

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):