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

Fortepiano Schubert : Wigmore Hall

The Wigmore Hall complete Schubert song series continued with a recital by Georg Nigl and Andreas Staier. Staier's a pioneer, promoting the use of fortepiano in Schubert song. In Schubert's time, modern concert pianos didn't exist. Schubert and his contemporaries would have been familiar with a lighter, brighter sound. Over the last 30 years, we've come to better understand Schubert and his world through the insights Staier has given us. His many performances, frequently with Christoph Prégardien at the Wigmore Hall, have always been highlights.

MOZART 250: the year 1767

Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 project has reached the year 1767. Two years ago, the company embarked upon an epic, 27-year exploration of the music written by Mozart and his contemporaries exactly 250 years previously. The series will incorporate 250th anniversary performances of all Mozart’s important compositions and artistic director Ian Page tells us that as 1767 ‘was the year in which Mozart started to write more substantial works - opera, oratorio, concertos … this will be the first year of MOZART 250 in which Mozart’s own music dominates the programme’.

Monteverdi, Masters and Poets - Imitation and Emulation

‘[T]hey moderated or increased their voices, loud or soft, heavy or light according to the demands of the piece they were singing; now slowing, breaking of sometimes with a gentle sigh, now singing long passages legato or detached, now groups, now leaps, now with long trills, now with short, or again, with sweet running passages sung softly, to which one sometimes heard an echo answer unexpectedly. They accompanied the music and the sentiment with appropriate facial expressions, glances and gestures, with no awkward movements of the mouth or hands or body which might not express the feelings of the song. They made the words clear in such a way that one could hear even the last syllable of every word, which was never interrupted or suppressed by passages or other embellishments.’

Visionary Wagner - The Flying Dutchman, Finnish National Opera

An exceptional Wagner Der fliegende Holländer, so challenging that, at first, it seems shocking. But Kasper Holten's new production, currently at the Finnish National Opera, is also exceptionally intelligent.

Don Quichotte at Chicago Lyric

A welcome addition to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s roster was its recent production of Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte.

Written on Skin: Royal Opera House

800 years ago, every book was a precious treasure - ‘written on skin’. In George Benjamin’s and Martin Crimp’s 2012 opera, Written on Skin, modern-day archivists search for one such artefact: a legendary 12th-century illustrated vanity project, commissioned by an unnamed Protector to record and celebrate his power.

Madama Butterfly at Staatsoper im Schiller Theater

It was like a “Date Night” at Staatsoper unter den Linden with its return of Eike Gramss’ 2012 production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. While I entered the Schiller Theater, the many young couples venturing to the opera together, and emerging afterwards all lovey-dovey and moved by Puccini’s melodramatic romance, encouraged me to think more positively about the future of opera.

It’s the end of the world as we know it: Hannigan & Rattle sing of Death

For the Late Night concert after the Saturday series, fifteen Berliners backed up Barbara Hannigan in yet another adventurous collaboration on a modern rarity with Simon Rattle. I was completely unfamiliar with the French composer, but the performance tonight made me fall in love with Gérard Grisey’s sensually disintegrating soundscape Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil, or “Fours Songs to cross the Threshold”.

A Vocally Extravagant Saturday Night with Berliner Philharmoniker

One of the things I love about the Philharmonie in Berlin, is the normalcy of musical excellence week after week. Very few venues can pull off with such illuminating star wattage. Michael Schade, Anne Schwanewilms, and Barbara Hannigan performed in two concerts with two larger-than-life conductors Thielemann and Rattle. We were taken on three thrilling adventures.

Les Troyens at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Lyric Opera of Chicago’s original and superbly cast production of Hector Berlioz’s Les Troyens has provided the musical public with a treasured opportunity to appreciate one of the great operatic achievements of the nineteenth century.

Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock

The Little Opera Company opened its 21st season by championing its own, as it presented the world premiere of Winnipeg composer Neil Weisensel’s Merry Christmas, Stephen Leacock.

A Christmas Festival: La Nuova Musica at St John's Smith Square

Now in its 31st year, the 2016 Christmas Festival at St John’s Smith Square has offered sixteen concerts performed by diverse ensembles, among them: the choirs of King’s College, London and Merton College, Oxford; Christchurch Cathedral Choir, Oxford; The Gesualdo Six; The Cardinall’s Musick; The Tallis Scholars; the choirs of Trinity College and Clare College, Cambridge; Tenebrae; Polyphony and the Orchestra of the Age of the Enlightment.

Fleming's Farewell to London: Der Rosenkavalier at the ROH

As 2016 draws to a close, we stand on the cusp of a post-Europe, pre-Trump world. Perhaps we will look back on current times with the nostalgic romanticism of Richard Strauss’s 1911 paean to past glories, comforts and certainties: Der Rosenkavalier.

Loft Opera’s Macbeth: Go for the Singing, Not the Experience

Ah, Loft Opera. It’s part of the experience to wander down many dark streets, confused and lost, in a part of Brooklyn you’ve never been. It is that exclusive—you can’t even find the performance!

A clipped Walküre in Amsterdam

Let’s start by getting a couple of gripes out of the way. First, the final act of Die Walküre does not constitute a full-length concert, even with a distinguished cast and orchestra, and with animated drawings fluttering on a giant screen.

A Leonard Bernstein Delight

When you combine two charismatic New York stage divas with the artistry of Los Angeles Opera, you have a mix that explodes into singing, dancing and an evening of superb entertainment.

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’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca and Massimo Giordano as Cavaradossi [Photo by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera]
16 Nov 2012

Tosca in San Francisco

Operatic train wreck in San Francisco, hopes crushed for 3000 opera-goers, impresario’s grand scheme derailed.

Tosca in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above: Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca and Massimo Giordano as Cavaradossi

Photos by Cory Weaver courtesy of San Francisco Opera

 

Now that I’ve got your attention.

There were even advance whispers that something dramatic might happen. Well, no surprise given the cast of characters, character that is — Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu.

Huge anticipation was in the air for the American premiere of Mme. Gheorghiu’s Tosca, a role Opera Today’s London critic said she was born to play, the quote trumpeted all over San Francisco. Most of the world knows more about Mme. Gheorghiu marital dramas than it knows about her artistry. But luckily here in San Francisco we do know her charming Rondine and her touching Mimi as well. Adding all this up we were indeed prepped for a dynamite Tosca (after all maestro Luisotti was in the pit).

Angela Gheorghiu was born to play Tosca. The Floria Tosca that entered Sant’Andrea della valle exuded layers of histrionic complexity, her voice was soft, her presence lost, a fiery diva in a sanctuary where women are pure. Her duet with Cavaradossi was fraught with interior conflict that exploded from time to time in full voice, detailing movements of emotion that would prepare her spiritually for what we already knew she must do — in full voice — as the evening unfolded.

Nicola Luisotti drove his orchestra full throttle, the voice of operatic verismo, searching for a depth of histrionic orchestral tone, ignoring the forward dramatic thrust of the words themselves. Often an open conflict between the pit and the stage instigated by this maestro results in inspired music making, a duet of conductor and singer that is exponentially richer than voice alone. But famously la Gheorghiu avoids rehearsing, and perhaps this precipitated the musical error (an early entrance) that passed unnoticed by most (or was accepted as diva histrionics), but certainly unsettled this temperamental diva in performance.

Meanwhile stage director Jose Maria Condemi well exposed the machinations of Scarpia that would fulfill his lust for the actress Tosca. Italian baritone Roberto Frontali relished the role, making the predatory Baron less powerful and more insidious than we have usually seen in San Francisco and elsewhere, aided in no small part by the maestro who gave him huge volume and color to work with. Mr. Frontali has a sizable, not beautiful voice and the musical confidence to contend with the Luisotti pit.

15--Tosca.gifRoberto Frontali as Scarpia and Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca

Well, this leaves Cavaradossi, Massimo Giordano. Mr. Giordano is a flawed singer who has loud high notes that he only seems to effect if he attacks them from above. This places an accent where usually there would be a smooth line. While this mannerism could be used for dramatic effect it became obvious that this was central to his vocal technique. While it was jarring in the first act at least we hoped it might be just an amusing tenorial affectation, if used without taste or discretion.

Mo. Luisotti, Mr. Frontali, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus erupted in a Te Deum that completely enveloped the War Memorial Opera House. The curtain fell, the audience roared, and the evening ended.

Not that the performance did not in fact continue. Mme. Gheorghiu pulled out, physically distressed (intestinal flu we were told), though the suspicion lingers that it was vocal distress, and certainly a large dose of emotional distress must be included. We waited while the cover singer, Melody Moore, was costumed. Mlle. Moore is a promising young singer who does not have the spinto capabilities demanded by the role. She was painfully ill-suited to follow the diva footsteps made by Mme. Gheorghiu in the first act, nor did she seem coached or rehearsed to do so. It is indeed strange that San Francisco Opera had not anticipated such an occurrence, hardly unexpected from la Gheorghiu.

Thus impresario’s David Gockley coup de theatre (not just one, but two Tosca divas) gone up in smoke.

Michael Milenski


Cast and Production

Floria Tosca Act I: Angela Gheorghiu; Floria Tosca Acts II and III: Melody Moore; Mario Cavaradossi: Massimo Giordano; Baron Scarpia: Roberto Frontali; Angelotti: Christian Van Horn; Spoletta: Joel Sorensen; Sacristan: Dale Travis; Sciarrone: Ao Li; Jailer: Ryan Kuster; Shepherd Boy: Etienne Julius Valdez. San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Conductor: Nicola Luisotti; Stage Director: Jose Maria Condemi; Production Designer: Thierry Bosquet; Lighting Designer: Christopher Maravich. San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. November 15, 2012.

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):