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

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.

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Claudio Sgura as Scarpia and Chiara Taigi as Tosca [Photo courtesy of Palm Beach Opera]
03 Apr 2011

Tosca, Palm Beach

Victorien Sardou wrote the melodrama La Tosca, a play subject to all sorts of incidental drama and off-stage intrigue, for Sarah Bernhardt.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Tosca: Chiara Taigi (3/25 and 3/27), Tiffany Abban (3/26 and 3/28); Cavaradossi: Riccardo Massi (3/25 and 3/27), Warren Mok (3/26 and 3/28); Scarpia: Claudio Sgura (3/25 and 3/27), Stephen Powell (3/26 and 3/28); Sacristan: Matteo Peirone; Angelotti: Matthew Burns; Sciarrone: Kenneth Stavert; Spoletta: Evanivaldo Correa Serrano. Conductor: Bruno Aprea. Director: Massimo Gasparonpestra and Chorus; Greg Ritchey Chorus Master.

Above: Claudio Sgura as Scarpia and Chiara Taigi as Tosca

Photos courtesy of Palm Beach Opera

 

In a representative case of truth at least rivaling fiction, there were dime-novel circumstances revolving around the play even before “the most famous actress the world has ever known” took the stage, the first Floria Tosca.

For one thing, the whole of the thing was set under the specter of legal issues – another author claimed that Sardou had cribbed the story (those days in theater circles, this was not an altogether uncommon accusation). The show would go on. Bernhardt saw to this herself as partial financier; she rented the theater where the play would debut in 1887.

The plot twists further when Bernhardt learns Sardou made arrangements to have another actress play La Tosca in the stateside premiere. Bernhardt’s threats to desert probably rang hollow; she was overinvested; the theater and the man (her lover) playing Baron Scarpia were hers. Bernhardt’s eventual change of heart aligned her with a calamity of fate, one joined to Floria Tosca’s own. Touring the play in Brazil, she injured herself in performance and eventually lost a limb. La Tosca, as you know, in the hands of Giacomo Puccini, would become the opera Tosca.

There were no such fractures in Palm Beach Opera’s Tosca (seen March 25th). Breaks of the dramatic variety, however, did happen.

It is unclear whether Director Massimo Gasparon’s concepts or the execution of these were faulty. One thing is clear, the acting of the principals tended towards predictable and slack, and in some cases limited in scope. Scarpia’s assault on Tosca is a case in point – more like timid mud-wrestling, the two seemed unsure of how to go about taking the actions of their respective motivations.

The troublesome stage activities seeped into the music and into the pit. Maestro Bruno Aprea showed the bearings of a trooper; through tripped-up entrances and marred text, the conductor mouthed along with singers and kept the music flowing – slowly. What is more, the orchestra pulled out very rich timbres and evenly wound textures. This instrumental balance gave way to the most sprawling soundscapes in act one: for the entire scene of Angelotti’s reappearance and the soaring lines of the duet.

The chorus – prepared by Greg Ritchey – turned in a strong vocal performance in the “Te Deum” and some often over-shadowed musical bits were gleaned from Tosca’s recital.

There were moments when Chiara Taigli seemed miscast in the role of Tosca, her voice a hair light in the middle, with but a touch of steel at top. Her “Vissi d’arte” was labored as Aprea seemed to take things slower still. At the word “assassino” in the second act, Taigli’s stage manner turned more sure and the use of her hands in the final act duet was striking.

Tenor Riccardo Massi has had some important engagements overseas of late. As Cavaradossi here, Massi’s easy high notes complimented a weighted sound that sped through “E lucevan le stelle.” Massi demonstrated he could sing a legato line though there were few instances of him doing it.

ToscaMassi.gifChiara Taigi as Tosca and Riccardo Massi as Cavaradossi

Claudio Sgura appeared to be taking cues from Tito Gobbi’s acting grab bag; the baritone mainly used his eyes to convey wickedness as Scarpia. Sgura’s singing was one-dimensional, an attractive dimension though it is.

Matteo Peirone returns to PBO as Il sagrestano, with a big moment corralling choir boys just before the “Te Deum.” Mathew Burns’ played a woozy Angelotti. Young Artist Evanivaldo Correa Serrano’s Spoletta was obliging to his master Scarpia. With a sharp turn and genuflection towards his liege, as Sciarrone Young Artist Kenneth Stavert’s actions were as if half-mocking Scarpia. Gasparon has the Shepherd Boy – on this night Young Artist Greta Ball, trying her darndest to sing out of vibrato – sitting on the ramparts of Castel Sant'Angelo and shooed away by guards after his paen to the morning.

PBO borrows these sets for Tosca from Sarasota Opera; they were created by Sarasota’s resident scenic designer David P. Gordon. Gordon’s take on Castel Sant'Angelo includes a backdrop (lit by Joseph R. Oshry) view of St. Peter’s Basilica and Vatican City.

Taigli’s suspenseful swinging of her cape before diving from Sant’Angelo’s parapets ended Tosca in better dramatic form than had been the night’s pattern. Incidentally, it was on this fall that Bernhardt shattered her right knee in La Tosca.

Robert Carreras

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):