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

Il barbiere di Siviglia, Glyndebourne Festival Opera at the Proms

For its annual visit to the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, Glyndebourne brought its new production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia, an opera which premiered 200 years ago.

Béatrice and Bénédict at Glyndebourne

‘A caprice written with the point of a needle’: so Berlioz described his opera Béatrice and Bénédict, which pares down Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing to its comic quintessence, shorn of the sub-plots, destroyed reputations and near-bloodshed of Shakespeare’s original.

Der fliegende Holländer, Bavarian State Opera

‘This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.’ It is, perhaps, a line quoted too often; yet, even though it may not have been entirely accurate on this occasion, it came to my mind. Its accuracy might be questioned in several respects.

Evergreen Baby in Colorado

Central City Opera celebrated the 60th anniversary of The Ballad of Baby Doe with a hip, canny, multi-faceted new production.

Lean and Mean Tosca in Colorado

Someone forgot to tell Central City Opera that it would be difficult to fit Puccini’s (usually) architecturally large Tosca on their small stage.

Die Walküre, Baden-Baden

A cast worthy of Bayreuth made for an unforgettable Wagnerian experience at the Sommer Festspiele in Baden-Baden.

Des Moines’ Elusive Manon

Loving attention to the highest quality was everywhere evident in Des Moines Metro Opera’s Manon.

Falstaff in Iowa: A Big Fat Hit

Des Moines Metro Opera had (almost) all the laughs in the right places, and certainly had all the right singers in these meaty roles to make for an enjoyable outing with Verdi’s masterpiece

Die Fledermaus, Opera Holland Park

With the thermometers reaching boiling point, there’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived in London. But, the sun seems to have been shining over the large marquee in Holland Park all summer.

Nice, July 14, and then . . .

J.S. Bach’s cerebral Art of the Fugue in Aix, Verdi’s massive Requiem in Orange, Ibn al-Muqaffa’ ‘s fable of the camel, jackal, wolf and crow, Sophocles’ blind Oedipus Rex and the Bible’s triumphant Psalm No. 150 in Aix.

Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance

The champagne corks popped at the close of this year’s Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Performance at the Royal Opera House, with Prince Orlofsky’s celebratory toast forming a fitting conclusion to some superb singing.

Prom 2: Boris Godunov, ROH

Bryn Terfel is making a habit of performing Russian patriarchs at the Proms.

Des Moines’ Gluck Sets the Standard

What happens when just everything about an operatic performance goes joyously right?

Des Moines: Jewels in Perfect Settings

Two years ago, the well-established Des Moines Metro Opera experimented with a 2nd Stages program, with performances programmed outside of their home stage at Simpson College.

First Night of the Proms 2016

What to make of the unannounced decision to open this concert with the Marseillaise? I am sure it was well intended, and perhaps should leave it at that.

La Cenerentola, Opera Holland Park

In a fairy-tale, it can sometimes feel as if one is living a dream but on the verge of being awoken to a shock. Such is life in these dark and uncertain days.

Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno in Aix

The tense, three hour knock-down-drag-out seduction of Beauty by Pleasure consumed our souls in this triumphal evening. Forget Time and Disillusion as destructors, they were the very constructors of the beauty and pleasure found in this miniature oratorio.

Pelleas et Mélisande in Aix

Three parallel universes (before losing count) — the ephemeral Debussy/Maeterlinck masterpiece, the Debussy symphonic tone poem, and the twisted intricacies of a moldy, parochially English country estate.

Siegfried, Opera North

This, alas, was where I had to sign off. A weekend conference on Parsifal (including, on the Saturday, a showing of Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s Parsifal film) mean that I missed Götterdämmerung, skipping straight to the sequel.

Götterdämmerung, Opera North

The culmination of Opera North’s “Ring for Everyone”, this Götterdämmerung showed the power of the condensed movement so necessary in a staged performance - each gesture of each character was perfectly judged - as well as the visceral power of having Wagner’s huge orchestra on stage as opposed to the pit.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Martina Serafin as Tosca [Photo by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of Royal Opera House]
12 Jun 2011

Tosca, Covent Garden

The current Tosca at the Royal Opera House is something of a classic, revived four times in five years. It’s now being filmed for cinema to be released in November 2011.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Angelotti: Lukas Jakobski, Sacristan: Jeremy White, Cavaradossi: Marcelo Giordano, Tosca: Martina Serafin, Baron Scarpia: Juha Uusitalo, Spoletta: Hubert Francis, Sciarrone: Zhengzhong Zhou, Shepherd Boy: William Payne, Gaoler: Joihn Morrisey. Conductor: Antonio Pappano. Chorusmaster: Renato Balsadonna. Director (original): Jonathan Kent. Director (revival): Duncan MacFarlane. Designs: Paul Brown. Lighting: Mark Henderson. Royal Opera House, London, 7th June 2011.

Above: Martina Serafin as Tosca

All photos by Catherine Ashmore courtesy of Royal Opera House

 

The film will feature Angela Gheorghiu, Bryn Terfel and Jonas Kaufmann, all of whom have sung in this production before — Gheorghiu and Terfel together in 2006 and 2009, and Kaufmann for the first time in 2008.

The current season started, however, with an alternate cast — Marcelo Giordano, Juha Uusitalo and Martina Serafin. Giordano sang Cavaradossi in 2006, and with Gheorghiu and Terfel in 2009, so he’s experienced in the role. On the first night of the run, he had intonation problems to start with, but settled well, only to have his voice break badly in the crucial Act Three arias. No-one regrets it more than the singer himself, when “E muoio disperato!” comes out more desperate than it should be. But such things happen, even to very experienced singers. In any case, this audience didn’t seem to mind and applauded him warmly. Tosca is such a glorious opera that it’s always a good night out even when it’s not perfect.

TOSCA.2484ashm_0188.gifMartina Serafin as Tosca and Juha Uusitalo as Scarpia

Juha Uusitalo was making his Royal Opera House debut, though he’s appeared all over Europe and in the US, and in concert performances in London. His Scarpia is interesting, more subtle and introspective than some, but that’s a perfectly valid interpretation of the role. Tosca wears her heart on her sleeve, but Scarpia has risen to power by concealing his. Scarpia is a cold-blooded hunter who doesn’t reveal himself, but Uusitalo’s tightly controlled phrases and brisk intonation suggest the tension that might lie within the charcater.He’s so used to being in command that he can silence the commotion in church by a swift glance and a sarcastic phrase “Bel rispetto!”. Uusitalo ‘s stage presence carries authority even when he’s not singing.

Martina Serafin has created Tosca in Vienna, Rome and Taormina. She’s charming and the London audience delighted in her coquettish Act One jealousy. Tosca, however, is a much more complex personality, and the jealousy can be a glimpse of much greater violence in the character. Whether it’s Serafin or the revival direction (Duncan Macfarlane) the murder scene is a curious anticlimax. The orchestra wells up, as the music’s expressing extreme alarm. Serafin leans against Uusitalio, but so politely that if you didn’t know, you’d wonder why he drops to the ground in agony.

In contrast, Jeremy White’s Sacristan was very animated, reflecting the subtle changes in mood as the Sacristan interacts with different people. As whole mayhem breaks out around him, the Sacristan is anchored, sensitive to others, but sensible. Another contrast to Tosca, but without Scarpia’s menace,

TOSCA.2484ashm_0455.gifMarcello Giordani as Cavaradossi and Martina Serafin as Tosca

Hubert Francis’s Spoletta worked well with Uusitalo’s discreet Scarpia. Angelotti was Lukas Jakobski and Sciarrone was Zhengzhong Zhou, both members of the Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. The Shepherd Boy, William Payne, was a delight.

Usually, Antonio Pappano’s Puccini is superb, as he has the Puccini spirit in his soul, but at the first night performance even his irrepressible energy seemed to have deserted him. Just as the direction on stage seemed lifeless, the orchestral playing sounded like a rehearsal. Nonetheless, Pappano and the Royal Opera House orchestra are very good even when under par. In other houses this would have been fine, but we’re so used to excellence that average doesn’t excite.

One compensation was that it was an opportunity to study the scenery, which you can’t when performances are white hot. The scene in the church is brightly lit, with candles everywhere. On stage, attention is dissipated, but the scene could film well. Scarpia’s chambers reflect the grandeur of his status. Magnificent statues dwarf the singers, just as the opulence of the music shows up the tawdry proceedings in the plot.

The Final Act is most impressive of all. Gone are the trappings of worldly splendour. Cavaradossi now inhabits a stark no man’s land. The music gets to work its sinister magic without distraction. A man is seen getting dressed. He looks human and vulnerable, but when he’s in uniform he becomes a killing machine. The set is plain, but eloquent, for now there’s no room for manoeuvre. Even if Cavaradossi escaped, he wouldn’t be safe when news gets out of Scarpia’s death. Poor Tosca goes off the wall, in more ways than the obvious.

Tosca runs at the Royal Opera House, London until 17th July. Filming with the second cast starts on 14th July. For more information please see the Royal Opera House site.

Anne Ozorio

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):