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

Die Walküre, Opera North

A day is now a very long time indeed in politics; would that it were otherwise. It certainly is in the Ring, as we move forward a generation to Die Walküre.

Early Gluck arias at the Wigmore Hall

If composers had to be categorised as either conservatives or radicals, Christoph Willibald Gluck would undoubtedly be in the revolutionary camp, lauded for banishing display, artifice and incoherence from opera and restoring simplicity and dramatic naturalness in his ‘reform’ operas.

Das Rheingold, Opera North

Das Rheingold is, of course, the reddest in tooth and claw of all Wagner’s dramas - which is saying something.

Peter Grimes in Princeton

The Princeton Festival presents one opera annually, amidst other events. Its offerings usually alternate annually between 20th century and earlier operas. This year the Festival presented Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, now a classic work, in a very effective and moving production.

Scintillating Strauss in Saint Louis

If you like your Ariadne on Naxos productions as playful as a box of puppies, then Opera Theatre of Saint Louis is the address for you.

Saint Louis Takes On ‘The Scottish Opera’

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis took forty years before attempting Verdi’s Macbeth but judging by the excellence of the current production, it was well worth the wait.

Anatomy Theater: A Most Unusual New Opera

On June 16, 2016, Los Angeles Opera with Beth Morrison Projects presented the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Lang's Anatomy Theater at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT).

Shalimar in St. Louis: Pagliaccio Non Son

In its compact forty-year history, the ambitious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has just triumphantly presented its twenty-fifth world premiere with Shalimar the Clown.

Jenůfa, ENO

The sharp angles and oddly tilting perspectives of Charles Edwards’ set for David Alden’s production of Jenůfa at ENO suggest a community resting precariously on the security and certainty of its customs, soon to slide from this precipice into social and moral anarchy.

The “Other” Marriage of Figaro in a West Village Townhouse

Last week an audience of 50 assembled in the kitchen of a luxurious West Village townhouse for a performance of Marriage of Figaro.

West Wind: A new song-cycle by Sally Beamish

In a recent article in BBC Music Magazine tenor James Gilchrist reflected on the reason why early-nineteenth-century England produced no corpus of art song to match the German lieder of Schumann, Schubert and others, despite the great flowering of English Romantic poetry during this period.

Florencia en el Amazonas, NYCO

With the New York Premiere of Florencia en el Amazonas, the New York City Opera Steps Out of the Shadows of the Past

Idomeneo, re di Creta, Garsington

Opportunities to see Idomeneo are not so frequent as they might be, certainly not so frequent as they should be.

Don Carlo in San Francisco

Not merely Don Carlo, but the five-act Don Carlo in the 1886 Modena version! The welcomed esotericism of San Francisco Opera’s extraordinary spring season.

Jenůfa in San Francisco

The early summer San Francisco Opera season has the feel of a classy festival. There is an introduction of Spanish director Calixto Bieito to American audiences, a five-act Don Carlo and two awaited, inevitable role debuts, Karita Mattila as Kostelnička and Malin Bystrom as Janacek's Jenůfa.

Musings on the “American Ring

Now that the curtain has long fallen on the third and last performance of the Ring cycle at the Washington National Opera (WNO), it is safe to say that the long-anticipated production has been an unqualified success for the company, director Francesca Zambello, and conductor Philippe Auguin.

Nabucco, Covent Garden

Most of the attention during this revival of Daniele Abbado’s 2013 production of Nabucco has been directed at Plácido Domingo’s reprise of the title role, with the critical reception somewhat mixed.

The Cunning Little Vixen, Glyndebourne

Four years ago, almost to the day (13th to 12th), I saw Melly Still’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen during its first Glyndebourne run. I found myself surprised how much more warmly I responded to it this time.

London: A 90th birthday tribute to Horovitz

This recital celebrated both the work of the Park Lane Group, which has been supporting the careers of outstanding young artists for 60 years, and the 90th birthday of Joseph Horovitz, who was born in Vienna in 1926 and emigrated to England aged 12.

Opera Las Vegas: A Blazing Carmen in the Desert

Headed by General Director Luana DeVol, a world-renowned dramatic soprano, Opera Las Vegas is a relatively new company that presents opera with first-rate casts at the University of Las Vegas’s Judy Bayley Theater. In 2014 they presented Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and in 2015, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. This year they offered a blazing rendition of Georges Bizet’s Carmen.

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):