Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Performances

Santa Fe Opera Presents Updated, at One Point Up-ended, Don Pasquale

On August 9, 2014, Santa Fe Opera presented a new updated production of Don Pasquale that set the action in the 1950s. Chantal Thomas’s Act I scenery showed the Don’s furnishing as somewhat worn and decidedly dowdy. Later, she literally turned the Don’s home upside down!

Dolora Zajick Premieres Composition

At a concert in the Cathedral of Saint Joseph in San Jose, California, on August 22, 2014, a few selections preceded the piece the audience had been waiting for: the world premiere of Dolora Zajick’s brand new composition, an opera scene entitled Roads to Zion.

Santa Fe Opera Presents Huang Ruo's Sun Yat-sen

By emphasizing the love between Sun Yat-sen and Soong Ching-ling, Ruo showed us the human side of this universally revered modern Chinese leader. Writer Lindsley Miyoshi has quoted the composer as saying that the opera is “about four kinds of love.” It speaks of affection between friends, between parents and children, between lovers, and between patriots and their country.

Britten War Requiem - Andris Nelsons, CBSO, BBC Prom 47

In light of the 2012 half-centenary of the premiere in the newly re-built Coventry Cathedral of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, the 2013 centennial celebrations of the composer’s own birth, and this year’s commemorations of the commencement of WW1, it is perhaps not surprising that the War Requiem - a work which was long in gestation and which might be seen as a summation of the composer’s musical, political and personal concerns - has been fairly frequently programmed of late. And, given the large, multifarious forces required, the potent juxtaposition of searing English poetry and liturgical Latin, and the profound resonances of the circumstances of the work’s commission and premiere, it would be hard to find a performance, as William Mann declared following the premiere, which was not a ‘momentous occasion’.

Santa Fe Opera Presents an Imaginative Carmen

Santa Fe opera has presented Carmen in various productions since 1961. This year’s version by Stephen Lawless takes place during the recent past in Northern Mexico near the United States border. The performance on August 6, 2014, featured Ana Maria Martinez as a monumentally sexy Gypsy who was part of a drug smuggling group.

Elgar Sea Pictures : Alice Coote, Mark Elder Prom 31

Sir Mark Elder and the Hallé Orchestra persuasively balanced passion and poetry in this absorbing Promenade concert. Elder’s tempi were fairly relaxed but the result was spaciousness rather than ponderousness, with phrases given breadth and substance, and rich orchestral colours permitted to make startling dramatic impact.

Berio Sinfonia, Shostakovich, BBC Proms

Although far from perfect, the performance of Berio’s Sinfonia in the first half of this concert was certainly its high-point; indeed, I rather wish that I had left at the interval, given the tedium induced by Shostakovich’s interminable Fourth Symphony. Still, such was the programme Semyon Bychkov had been intended to conduct. Alas, illness had forced him to withdraw, to be replaced at short notice by Vasily Petrenko.

Four countertenors : Handel Rinaldo Glyndebourne

Handel's Rinaldo was first performed in 1711 at London's King's Theatre. Handel's first opera for London was designed to delight and entertain, combining good tunes, great singing with a rollicking good story. Robert Carsen's 2011 production of the opera for Glyndebourne reflected this with its tongue-in-cheek Harry Potter meets St Trinian's staging.

Santa Fe Opera Presents The Impresario and Le Rossignol

On August 7, 2014, the Santa Fe Opera presented a double bill of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Impresario and Igor Stravinsky’s Le Rossignol (The Nightingale). The Impresario deals with the casting of an opera and Le Rossignol tells the well-known fairy tale about the plain gray bird with an exquisite song.

Barber in the Beehive State

Utah Festival Opera and Musical Theatre has gifted opera enthusiasts with a thrilling Barber, and I don’t mean . . . of Seville.

Stravinsky : Oedipus Rex, BBC Proms

In typical Proms fashion, BBC Prom 28 saw Stravinsky's Oedipus Rex performed in an eclectic programme which started with Beethoven's Egmont Overture and also featured Electric Preludes by the contemporary Australian composer Brett Dean. Sakari Oramo,was making the first of his Proms appearances this year, conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus.

Santa Fe Opera Presents a Passionate Fidelio

Santa Fe Opera presented Beethoven’s Fidelio for the first time in 2014. Since the sides of the opera house are open, the audience watched the sun redden the low hanging clouds and set below the Sangre de Cristo mountains while Chief Conductor Harry Bicket led the Santa Fe Opera Orchestra in the rousing overture. At the same time, Alex Penda as the title character readied herself for the ordeal to come as she endeavored to rescue her unjustly imprisoned husband.

Rameau Grand Motets, BBC Proms

Best of the season so far! William Christie and Les Arts Florissants performed Rameau Grand Motets at late night Prom 17.

Adriana Lecouvreur, Opera Holland Park

Twelve years after Opera Holland Park's first production of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, the opera made a welcome return.

Back to the Beginnings: Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria at Iford Opera.

The Italianate cloister setting at Iford chimes neatly with Monteverdi’s penultimate opera The Return of Ulysses, as the setting cannot but bring to mind those early days of the musical genre.

Schoenberg : Moses und Aron, Welsh National Opera, London

Once again, we find ourselves thanking an unrepresentable being for Welsh National Opera’s commitment to its mission.

Count Ory, Dead Man Walking
and La traviata in Des Moines

If you don’t have the means to get to the Rossini festival in Pesaro, you would do just as well to come to Indianola, Iowa, where Des Moines Metro Opera festival has devised a heady production of Le Comte Ory that is as long on belly laughs as it is on musical fireworks.

Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, BBC Proms

Composed during just a few weeks of the summer of 1926, Janáček’s Slavonic-text Glagolitic Mass was first performed in Brno in December 1927.

Donizetti and Mozart, Jette Parker Young Artists Royal Opera House, London

With the conclusion of the ROH 2013-14 season on Saturday evening - John Copley’s 40-year old production of La Bohème bringing down the summer curtain - the sun pouring through the gleaming windows of the Floral Hall was a welcome invitation to enjoy a final treat. The Jette Parker Young Artists Summer Showcase offered singers whom we have admired in minor and supporting roles during the past year the opportunity to step into the spotlight.

Glyndebourne's Strauss Der Rosenkavalier, BBC Proms

Many words have already been spent - not all of them on musical matters - on Richard Jones’s Glyndebourne production of Der Rosenkavalier, which last night was transported to the Royal Albert Hall. This was the first time at the Proms that Richard Strauss’s most popular opera had been heard in its entirety and, despite losing two of its principals in transit from Sussex to SW1, this semi-staged performance offered little to fault and much to admire.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Performances

Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role of
05 Jun 2013

La Tosca in Los Angeles

When is verismo verily veristic? Or what is a virginal girl dressed in communion white doing in the two murderous acts of the Los Angeles Opera’s current production of Tosca? And why does she sing the shepherd's song?

La Tosca in Los Angeles

A review by Estelle Gilson

Above: Sondra Radvanovsky Tosca

Photos bu Robert Millard courtesy of Los Angeles Opera

 

Before we explore the girl’s presence, we must meet Floria Tosca, the eponymous heroine of the opera, originally the creation of French playwright Victorien Sardou. Sardou’s five act play, La Tosca, which takes place in Rome on a June day in 1800, was an immensely popular work with which Sarah Bernhardt toured the world. Puccini and librettist Luigi Illica reduced the work to an intense and brutal drama featuring three principals: Tosca, a famous opera singer; the artist Maria Cavaradossi, her lover, who is sheltering an escaped revolutionary prisoner in his country home; and Baron Scarpia, chief of police, who lusts for Tosca. Lusts is the right word. He announces that he plans to have her violently and briefly. After arresting Cavaradossi, Scarpia invites Tosca to his office, from which she can hear Cavaradossi’s screams of pain as he is being tortured. Scarpia sentences Cavaradossi to death, then appears to agree to a mock execution and a safe conduct out of Rome for the lovers if Tosca will surrender to him. When Scarpia has signed the order and turns towards her, Tosca stabs him to death. Immediately thereafter, she rushes to prison to tell Mario there will be a fake execution, but when he is really shot, and her own crime is discovered, Tosca leaps from the prison tower.

Sondra Radvanovsky’s appearance as the Roman diva made this a special occasion for the Los Angeles Opera company and its audience. Since the soprano’s first appearance with the company in 2004 in Verdi’s Il Trovatore, she has made an international career in Verdi roles. Ms. Radvanovsky’s radiant voice is evenly produced throughout all registers. Her moving “vissi d’arte” which concluded with a messa di voce brought vociferous applause. Her stabbing of Scarpia with two knife thrusts was one of the most vehement I have seen.

As Tosca’s lover, Mario Cavaradossi, Italian tenor, Marco Berti did not match Radvanovsky’s lyricism, particularly early on. Singing the first act’s “recondite armonia” to Placido Domingo, the evening’s conductor, can’t be easy work. However, Berti’s high notes, including the famous “Vittoria” were clarion sounds. And happily, he seemed more comfortable with his last act aria.

TCA1200.pngSondra Radvanovsky as Tosca and Marco Berti as Cavaradossi, with Lado Ataneli as Scarpia

Lado Ataneli made a suave yet savage Scarpia. Keeping with his character, Puccini has given Scarpia sinuously lyrical passages, which the Georgean baritone delivered with subtlety and power. It’s a shame that opera audiences of late have demonstrated a childish tendency to hiss or boo villainous characters at their curtain calls. Ataneli was deprived of the appreciation he deserved. Philip Cokorinos, Joshua Bloom as the Sacristan and Angelotti, the escaped prisoner, respectively, turned in convincing performances, as did Eden McCoy as the young girl. Maestro Domingo led a well-paced performance. At times he seemed to be bent over as though to extract still more emotion from his orchestra. However he effected it, Puccini’s orchestration sounded lush.

John Caird, who has earned honors and worked on every kind of stage throughout the world, led the production team for Tosca, which he originally created for Houston Grand Opera in 2010. Caird considers Tosca “one of the greatest works of music theater ever written” and has lauded its “overwhelming musical, human, moral and religious powers.” At the same time he has enhanced verismo violence by staging a bloodier than usual Tosca. Each act opens with an ever more blood- blotched fore curtain, which is pulled down by the first character to appear in the ensuing act. And he has Tosca slit her own throat. Neither sets nor costumes give an indication of the time of the opera’s setting, though Ms. Radvanovsky was encumbered with a bustle. What is clear, is that the action seems to have followed a calamity. The unit sets are dark, unattractive and except for the last act, cramped. Cavaradossi works on a three story scaffolding, each of which holds a different part of the Madonna’s face he is painting. Talk of verismo — if that painting were put together, there’d be no place to hang it in that church. The second act, usually staged in Scarpia’s elegant Farnese quarters, is here a warehouse filled with cartons, statues, all sorts of matter clearly purporting to be ill gotten gains. The prison is a large empty yard made still uglier for us as we watch Angelotti’s body being hung. At the rear is a large unbarred, open window — another “unverismo” touch.

TCA5139.pngSondra Radvanovsky as Tosca and Lado Ataneli as Scarpia

But now it is time to return to the virginal girl dressed in communion white. It is she who pulls down the curtain for the prison scene. She then crosses the stage, sits at the window’s edge where she sings the shepherd’s greeting to the sun in a childish voice, “For you I will die,” are its last words. She will remain there throughout the act. The girl first appeared in the second act, beckoning to Tosca after the singer killed Scarpia.

There is no mysterious or mystical character in either the Puccini or Sardou stories. The girl is Caird’s creation. But who is she, why does she sing the shepherd’s song? Though the director may seem to have forsaken purists’ interpretation of verismo by inserting this vision, he has, in fact, made more explicit what Puccini had only implied, and what Sardou had made clear: that Tosca was a child of the church. Puccini’s Tosca lays flowers at the Atavanti altar, and refuses to kiss Mario before the Madonna. In “vissi d’arte”, her plea to God, she recalls her devotion and generosity to the church. Her last word in the opera is “God.” In Sardou’s play we learn the full depth of Tosca’s faith. She herded goats as a child until she was found and raised by Benedictine nuns, who expected for her to join their order. As she began singing and her talent was recognized in the secular world, the composer Cimarosa insisted she become an opera singer. Sardou tells us that the entire city of Rome took sides in the ensuing conflict until the girl was brought to sing before the pope. Charmed by her voice, the pontiff patted her cheek and told her, “Go your way, my child, you will move others to compassion, as you have me. You will make people shed gentle tears and that too is a way of praying to God.”

Estelle Gilson


Cast and production information:

Angelotti: Joshua Bloom; Sacristan: Philip Cokorinos; Mario Cavaradossi: Marco Berti; Floria Tosca: Sondra Radvanovsky; Baron Scarpia: Lado Ataneli; Spoleta: Rodell Rosel; Sciarrone: Daniel Armstrong; Young girl: Eden McCoy; Jailer: Hunter Philips. Conductor: Placido Domingo; Director: John Caird; Scenery and Costume Designer: Bunny Christie; Lighting Director: Duane Schuler; Chorus Director: Grant Gershon.

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):