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

Powerful chemistry in La Cenerentola in Cologne

Those poor opera lovers in Cologne have a never ending problem with the city’s opera house. Together with the rest of city, the construction of the new opera house is mired in political incompetence.

Wagner Tannhäuser : Royal Opera House, London

London remains starved of Wagner. This season, its major companies offer but two works, Tannhäuser from the Royal Opera and Tristan from ENO. True, Opera North will bring its concert Ring to the South Bank, but that is a somewhat different matter. Comparisons with serious houses, let alone serious cities, are not encouraging, especially if one widens the comparison to nineteenth-century Italian composers. Quite why is anyone’s guess; the composer is anything but unpopular. More to the point, Wagner and Mozart should stand at the heart of any opera house’s repertory. They can hardly do so if they are so rarely performed.

The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf

Dmitry Bertman’s hilarious staging of Rimsky-Korsakov’s political sex-comedy The Golden Cockerel in Düsseldorf.

San Diego Opera Presents a Tragic Madama Butterfly

On April 16, 2016, San Diego Opera presented Giacomo Puccini’s sixth opera, Madama Butterfly, in an intriguing production by Garnett Bruce. Roberto Oswald’s scenery included the usual Japanese styled house with many sliding doors and walls. On either side, however, were blooming cherry trees with rough trunks and gnarled branches that looked as though they had been growing on the property for a hundred years.

Simon Rattle conducts Tristan und Isolde

New Co-Production Tristan und Isolde with Metropolitan: Simon Rattle and Westbroek electrify Treliński’s Opera-Noir.

San Jose’s Smooth Streetcar Ride

In an operatic world crowded with sure-fire bread and butter repertoire, Opera San Jose has boldly chosen to lavish a new production on a dark horse, Andre Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.

Roméo et Juliette: Dutch National Opera and Ballet seal merger with leaden Berlioz

Choral symphony, oratorio, symphonic poem — Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette does not fit into any mould. It has the potential to work as an opera-ballet, but incoherent storytelling and uninspired conducting undermined this production.

Donizetti : Lucia di Lammermoor, Royal Opera House

When Kasper Holten took the precaution of pre-warning ticket-holders that the Royal Opera House’s new production of Lucia di Lammermoor featured scene portraying ‘sexual acts’ and ‘violence’, one assumed that he was aiming to avert a re-run of the jeering and hectoring that accompanied last season’s Guillaume Tell. He even went so far as to offer concerned patrons a refund.

Five Reviews of Regina at Maryland Opera Studio

These are five very different reviews by students at the University of Maryland on its Opera Studio production of Regina — an interesting, informative and entertaining read . . .

Three Cheers for the English Touring Opera

‘Remember me, the one who is Pia;/ Siena made me, Maremma undid me.’ The speaker is Pia de’ Tolomei. She appears in a brief episode of Dante’s Divine Comedy (Purgatorio V, 130-136) which was the source for Gaetano Donizetti’s Pia de’ Tolomei - by way of Bartolomeo Sestini’s verse-novella of 1825.

Andriessen's De Materie at the Park Avenue Armory

"The large measure of formalism which forms the basis of De Materie does not in itself offer any guarantee that the work will be beautiful," says Dutch composer Louis Andriessen of his four-movement opera.

Falstaff Makes a Big Splash in Phoenix

On April 1, 2016, Arizona Opera presented Falstaff by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) and Arrigo Boito (1842-1918) in Phoenix. Although Boito based most of his libretto on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor, he used material from Henry IV as well. Verdi wrote the music when he was close to the age of eighty. He was concerned about his ability at that advanced age, but he was immensely pleased with Boito’s text and decided to compose his second comedy, despite the fact that his first, Un giorno di regno, had not been successful.

Svadba in San Francisco

The brand new SF Opera Lab opened last month with artist William Kentridge’s staged Schubert Winterreise. Its second production just now, Svadba-Wedding — an a cappella opera for six female voices — unabashedly exposes the space in a different, non-theatrical configuration.

Benvenuto Cellini in Rome

One may think of Tosca as the most Roman of all operas, after all it has been performed at the Teatro Costanzi (Rome’s opera house) well over a thousand times since 1900. Though equally, maybe even more Roman is Hector Berlioz’ Benvenuto Cellini that has had only a dozen or so performances in Rome since 1838.

Handel : Elpidia - Opera Settecento

Roll up! A new opera by Handel is to be performed, L’Elpidia overo li rivali generosi. It is based upon a libretto by Apostolo Zeno with music by Leonardo Vinci - excepting a couple of arias by Giuseppe Orlandini and, additionally, two from Antonio Lotti’s Teofane (which the star bass, Giuseppe Maria Boschi , on bringing with him from the Dresden production of 1719).

Roberto Devereux in Genova

Radvanovsky in New York, Devia in Genoa — Donizetti queens are indeed in the news! Just now in Genoa Mariella Devia was the Elizabeth I for her beloved Roberto Devereux in a new trilogy of Donizetti queens (Maria Stuarda and Anne Bolena) directed by baritone Alfonso Antoniozzi.

The Importance of Being Earnest, Royal Opera

‘All men become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.’ ‘Is that clever?’ ‘It is perfectly phrased!’

Mahler’s Third, Concertgebouw

Evolving in Mahler’s Third: Dudamel and L.A. Philharmonic’s impressive adaption to the Concertgebouw

La Juive in Lyon

Though all big opera is called grand opera, French grand opera itself is a very specific genre. It is an ephemeral style not at all easy to bring to life. For example . . .

Benjamin, Dernière Nuit in Lyon

That’s Walter Benjamin of the Frankfort School [philosophers in the interwar period (WW’s I and II) who were at home neither with capitalism, fascism or communism].

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Amanda Echalaz as Tosca [Photo by ROH / Kenton]
05 Mar 2013

Tosca, Royal Opera

Puccini’s “shabby little shocker”, to quote Kerman, does not invite subtlety. For those who feel that opera — a hybrid art form encompassing all the arts and embracing all of life and love, transfiguration and tragedy — is ideally suited to depicting the excesses of human ecstasy and suffering, Tosca epitomises the immoderations of the genre.

Tosca, Royal Opera

A review by Claire Seymour

Above: Amanda Echalaz as Tosca [Photo by ROH / Kenton]

 

The dramatic pulse certainly runs high in Jonathan Kent’s ROH production, first seen in 2006 and here receiving its fifth revival under the direction of Andrew Sinclair. Kent’s approach is characterised by two principals: tradition and realism. This is no bad thing: we’re given an experience which, one imagines, must be just as Puccini imagined it — all visual extravagance, dramatic intensity and musical emotionalism. Kent combines the universality of the emotional drama with the particularities of the time and place, costume and setting unambiguously announcing the Napoleonic context.

The opulent rococo interior of Paul Brown’s gilded church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act 1 makes a bold visual statement, its split levels shimmering in the lavish glow of a multitude of sacred candles. We are behind the high altar, the crypt visible below; the effect should be one of spaciousness but in fact the numerous balustrades and balconies restrict the stage space available, and it feels rather cluttered and overly fussy. Moreover, the chorus are pushed to the back, which diminishes the impact of the Te Deum.

Scarpia’s sordid study in the Palazzo Farnese is dominated by a huge statue, a striking symbol of domination and intimidation. The bookcases are empty, save for the single set of shelves which hide the door to his torture chamber. In contrast to the baroque splendour of Act 2, the Castel Sant’Angelo in the final act is more sparsely adorned save for a gigantic statue fragment that flies aloft. Mark Henderson’s beautiful lighting design skilfully paint the expressive colours; most strikingly, in Act 2 Henderson atmospherically conjures the shadowy recesses of Scarpia’s psyche.

The main roles in this production have previously been inhabited by Gheorghiu, Kaufmann and Terfel — modern operatic titans. But, while there were no ‘superstars’ this time around, the cast is strong-voiced and dramatically convincing, and both Amanda Echalaz and Massimo Giordano have of late established themselves on the international stage, as Tosca and Cavaradossi respectively. Indeed, having won acclaim on the other side of town, at ENO and Holland Park, Eschalaz also stood in for the indisposed Gheorghiu at Covent Garden in 2009.

Echalaz used her weighty voice and full vibrato to portray a Tosca equipped with feisty self-belief, her petulant exchanges with Cavaradossi in Act 1 revealing a woman who knows her own mind and who has a short emotional fuse. She was at her best in this opening act, and during her agonised resistance to Scarpia in Act 2, where her rich legato and dramatic commitment won our full compassion. Perhaps this Tosca lacked a little of the frail vulnerability which contrasts with her impetuousness, and which underpins her tragedy? That said, ‘Vissi d’arte’ was quietly understated but deeply felt and affecting, as Echalaz convincingly conveyed the poignant destruction wrought by Scarpia’s ruthless cruelty.

Just as Echalaz has visited this production stage before, so Massimo Giordano also stepped in for the Marcello Giordani back in 2009 and is an experienced Cavaradossi. Giordano looks and sounds the part: young and handsome, he can embody the fervent swagger and heroic self-belief of the painter, and this demeanour is matched by a warm, smooth tone and firm vocal weight. However, while volume was never prioritised at the expense of dramatic engagement, Giordano’s characterisation seemed somewhat superficial. There was much Italianate grace in the tenor’s singing, but also a few unsteady swoops up to the top: while his big Act 1 aria, ‘Recondita armonia’ was full of impact, it was low on delicacy and subtlety.

In ‘E lucevan le stelle’ Giordano more successfully balanced power and feeling, and the moments as he waited for his execution, on the roof of the Castel Sant’ Angelo were painfully fraught. Together Echalaz and Giordano told a convincing tale without really tugging at the heart-strings.

Michael Volle’s Scarpia was a more commanding presence, all sneering contempt and brooding evil. Volle was no cartoon-villain: his gestures were discreet but his moral ugliness and perverted desires were chillingly apparent. This was a man as devoid of humanity as his library is barren of books; his Act 2 duet with Echalaz built to an almost unbearable point of psychological repulsion, as his depravity was exposed for both Tosca and us.

The minor roles were all excellent; well-sung and charismatic. Jeremy White as the Sacristan engaged naturally and convincingly with the other personnel, and Hubert Francis was a nastily predatory Spoletta. Best of all, Michael Clayton-Jolly gave a wonderful rendition of the shepherd boy’s song.

After a rather understated opening, conductor Maurizio Benini revealed a sure ear for a diversity of Puccinian textures, proving alert to the details of the score and conveying a strong sense of the grand sweep of the musico-drama. There was much superb playing from the pit, although I’d have liked a bit more rawness and concentrated intensity at the climactic heights.

Overall, a revival worth seeing. Musical and dramatic standards are consistently high, sets and costumes are captivatingly luxurious and, however familiar, there’s nothing like Tosca to stir the passions.

Claire Seymour


Cast and production information:

Floria Tosca — Amanda Echalaz; Mario Cavaradossi — Massimo Giordano; Baron Scarpia — Michael Volle; Spoletta — Hubert Francis; Angelotti — Michel de Souza; Sacristan — Jeremy White; Sciarrone — Jihoon Kim; Gaoler — John Morrissey; Shepherd Boy — Michael Clayton-Jolly; Conductor — Maurizio Benini; Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera Chorus; Director — Jonathan Kent; Designs — Paul Brown; Lighting design — Mark Henderson; Revival Director — Andrew Sinclair. Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, Saturday 2nd March 2013

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):