Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Haydn's Applausus: The Mozartists at Cadogan Hall

Continuing their MOZART 250 series, The Mozartists/ Classical Opera began dipping into the operatic offerings of 1768 at Wigmore Hall in January, when they presented numbers from Mozart’s La finta semplice, Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Pirano e Tisbe and Haydn’s Lo speziale.

Schubert Schwanengesang revisited—Florian Boesch, Wigmore Hall

Schwanengesang isn't Schubert's Swan Song any more than it is a cycle like Die schöne Müllerin or Winterreise. The title was given it by his publishers Haslingers, after his death, combining settings of two very different poets, Ludwig Rellstab and Heinrich Heine. Wigmore Hall audiences have heard lots of good Schwanengesangs, including Boesch and Martineau performances in the past, but this was something special.

Rinaldo: The English Concert at the Barbican Hall

“After such cruel events, I don’t know if I am dreaming or awake.” So says Almirena, daughter of the Crusader Goffredo, when she is rescued by her beloved warrior-hero, Rinaldo, from the clutches of the evil sorceress, Armida.

Hamlet abridged and enriched in Amsterdam

French grand opera and small opera companies are an unlikely combination. Yet OPERA2DAY, a company of modest means, is currently touring the Netherlands with Hamlet by Ambroise Thomas.

The ROH's first production of From the House of the Dead

Krzysztof Warlikowski’s production for the ROH of From the House of the Dead is ‘new’ in several regards. It’s (astonishingly) the first time that Janáček’s last opera has been staged at Covent Garden; it’s Warlikowski’s debut at Covent Garden; and the production uses a new 2017 critical edition prepared by John Tyrrell.

Così fan tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago

With artifice, disguise, and questions on fidelity as the basis of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, the composer’s mature opera has returned to the stage at Lyric Opera of Chicago.

WNO's Wheel of Destiny rolls into Birmingham

Welsh National Opera’s wheel of destiny has rolled into Birmingham this week, with Verdi’s sprawling tragedy, La forza del destino, opening the company’s ‘Rabble Rousing’ triptych at the Hippodrome.

A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Royal College of Music

The gossamer web of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is sufficiently insubstantial and ambiguous to embrace multiple interpretative readings: the play can be a charming comic caper, a jangling journey through human pettiness and cruelty, a moonlit fairy fantasy or a shadowy erotic nightmare, and much more besides.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Robert Carsen's A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to ENO

Having given us Christopher Alden's strangely dystopic production of Britten's A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2011, English National Opera (ENO) has opted for Robert Carsen's bed-inspired vision for the latest revival of the opera at the London Coliseum.

Turandot in San Diego—Prima la voce

The big musical set pieces in Turandot require voice, voice, and more voice, and San Diego Opera has gifted us with a world-class cast of singing actors.

Dialogues de Carmélites at the Guildhall School: spiritual transcendence and transfiguration

Four years have passed since my last Dialogues des Carmélites, and on that occasion - Robert Carsen’s production for the ROH - heightened dramatic intensity, revolutionary insurrection (enhanced by an oppressed populace formed by a 67-strong Community Ensemble) and, under the baton of Simon Rattle, luxuriant musical rapture, were the order of the day.

'B & B’ in a new key

Seattle Opera’s new production of Béatrice et Bénédict is best regarded as a noble experiment, performed expressly to see if Berlioz’ delectable 1862 opéra comique can successfully be brought into the living repertory outside its native France. As such, it is quite a success.

Songs for Nancy: Bampton Classical Opera celebrate legendary soprano, Nancy Storace

Bampton Classical Opera’s 25th anniversary season opens with a concert on 7th March at St John’s Smith Square to celebrate the legendary soprano Nancy Storace.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A newly discovered song by Alma Mahler

It is well known that in addition to the fourteen songs by Alma Mahler published in her lifetime, several dozen more - perhaps as many as one hundred - were written and have been lost or destroyed.

Of Animals and Insects: a musical menagerie at Wigmore Hall

Wigmore Hall was transformed into a musical menagerie earlier this week, when bass-baritone Ashley Riches, a Radio 3 New Generation Artist, and pianist Joseph Middleton took us on a pan-European lunchtime stroll through a gallery of birds and beasts, blooms and bugs.

Hugo Wolf, Italienisches Liederbuch

Nationality is a complicated thing at the best of times. (At the worst of times: well, none of us needs reminding about that.) What, if anything, might it mean for Hugo Wolf’s Italian Songbook? Almost whatever you want it to mean, or not to mean.

San Jose’s Dutchman Treat

At my advanced age, I have now experienced ten different productions of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman in my opera-going lifetime, but Opera San Jose’s just might be the finest.



07 Nov 2014

Tosca in San Francisco

Yet another Tosca is hardly exciting news, if news at all. The current five performances have come just two years after SFO alternated divas Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette in the title role.

Tosca in San Francisco

A review by Michael Milenski

Above:Lianna Haroutounian as Floria Tosca [All photos by Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera]


It begs asking why the opera comes back so soon. This is not a distinguished cast, and the production is the 1997 remake of the 1932 SFO production mounted for the umpteenth time.

Still it was an interesting and amusing experience.

The conducting was strikingly different from the powerfully present performances of 2012 (Nicola Luisotti). Just now the conductor was Riccardo Frizza, an Italian maestro who has worked in many important theaters around the world. If his program booklet biography is at all complete he has never before conducted a verismo opera.

Here in San Francisco he has earned critical accolades for the bel canto repertoire (Lucrezia Borgia and I Capuleti e i Montecchi. And this Tosca was pure bel canto — beautiful (pretty) music, lovely detail, flowing lines. It was music about singing, not about the brutal humanity of verismo. The first act was a delightful revelation of relaxed tempos that allowed a melodic flow. It was almost like you had never before seen the opera.

However the melodic flow was uncomfortably broken from time to time to accommodate a singer’s need/urge to exaggerate the duration of a high note, a basic stylistic impulse of later Italian style.

These same relaxed tempos imposed a dramatically flaccid second act. The pastoral beginning of the third act erased any hint, and there had been very few, of dramatic tension. We simply waited until Tosca leapt.

Young Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian was the Tosca. Mlle. Haroutounian is not a diva. Tosca is a diva. That Mlle. Haroutounian may soon be a diva is without question, though divas come in all manner, shape and size. Probably this wonderful young proto-diva will never be a Tosca, i.e. a character diva. She exudes little innate dramatic temperament.

Mlle. Haroutounian does exude a purity of voice that casts her as the Verdi heroine. She has the beauty of voice, the size of voice, and the security of technique to immediately place her among the most sought after choices for these roles. That she has the complexity of personality and the dramatic intelligence to become a great artist is yet to be seen.

Tosca_SF2.png Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi

Young American tenor Brian Jagde was the Cavaradossi. This former Adler Fellow has at last shown that he is ready for the War Memorial and other important stages, that he a finished artist. As the Luisotti Cavaradossi and Pinkerton he seemed over-parted, maybe even terrorized. Here with Maestro Riccardo Frizza in the pit he was given the musical space to sing, and that he did beautifully. While Mr. Jagde does not embody the Italian tenor emblematic of this role he did exhibit the fruits of his excellent American training.

Baritone Mark Delavan sang Scarpia. Without musical tension coming from the pit, and without a Tosca with whom he could emotionally spar his cardboard evil character was meaningless. Perhaps he was attempting to create character by slurring his words but the effect was that he might have had some caramel in his mouth. On the other hand the Italian diction of Kansas born Scott Conner as Angelotti was admirable.

Jose Maria Condemi was the stage director. This very able facilitator of remounted productions was sabotaged by the musical pace from the pit and the naiveté (inexperience) of Mlle. Haroutounian. What would have been effective staging in a dramatically pointed performance became too many clumsy moves.

It was an evening of beautiful music and beautiful singing. Maybe you wanted more.

Michael Milenski

Casts and production information:

Floria Tosca: Lianna Haroutounian; Mario Cavaradossi: Brian Jagde; Baron Scarpia: Mark Delavan; Cesare Angelotti: Scott Conner; Sacristan: Dale Travis; Spoletta: Joel Sorensen; Sciarrone: Efrain Solis; Jailer: Hadleigh Adams. San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra. Conductor: Riccardo Frizza; Stage director: Jose Maria Condemi; Production designer: Thierry Bosquet; Lighting designer: Gary Marder. War Memorial Opera House, November 4, 2014, Row M.

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):