Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Puccini Tosca Royal Opera House June not July

Quick note about Tosca at the Royal Opera House last night. First thoughts below. But please see HERE for the full review.

First thoughts :
It's a revival of the Jonathan Kent production of 2006 which originally has at various stages starred Bryn Terfel, Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann. How does it stand up without mega mega stars? Pleasant enough, but wait for the mega mega star repeat together in two performances on 14th and 17th July, which is being filmed for broadcast.

That said, Martina Serafin's Tosca delighted, and Juha Uusitalo's Scarpia was better than expected. He's done the role many times, it's one of his signature roles. The confidence showed, as he showed an interesting, almost sympathetic side of Scarpia. Toscas are usually so overwhelmingly diva that you don't really take in the hysterical, megalomaniac side of her personality. She's a bit of a fantasist. Scarpia is a realist, he does realpolitik. Maybe Tosca's attractive because she is a challenge. Anyway, the joke is on both of them.  Generally, Uusitalo hasn't overwhelmed me in the past, but here he was convincing enough.

Contrary to popular opinion, Scarpia doesn't have to be a boorish buffoon.  He's powerful because he's risen by stealth. He's the opposite of Tosca who wears her heart on her sleeve. In connection with the 2007 revival of this production, I interviewed Paolo Gavanelli about interpreting the role. He had plenty of perceptive things to say. Please use the search box on this blog search on Gavanelli Scarpia.

Sheer volume goes a long way in the potboiler that is Tosca, and audiences come to be blown away by the tunes, climaxes and very loud singing.  Had Verdi written Tosca, things might be different, but Puccini works fine when he's over the top. Serafin's Tosca wasn't refined or particularly deep psychologically. You can hear the orchestra welling up after the attempted rape so you know something shocking is about to happen. But when Serafin stabs Uusitalo, it's so polite and underwhelming that she might as well have been adjusting his tie. If he had one, that is.  Generally very buttoned up performance, dutifully presented.  Even Anthony Pappano seemed on formal best behaviour.  Puccini and Verdi are composers Pappano can do extremely well.  Except here. The orchestra were playing the right notes nicely, but the music didn't catch fire. Maybe this was a rehearsal for July, when chances are that Pappano will really show what he can do when he's fully charged and inspired.

Marcello Giordano started off as if this was a rehearsal, too, and later had some good moments. Then in the all-important Act 3 arias, his voice cracked badly. Volume at the expense of feeling and modulation. not a good idea. He's done this part inn this production before, so maybe he thought he had it pat. He didn't.  I winced, but most of the audience didn't seem to mind.  Tosca is wonderful theatre, so if the singing goes awry, it's still a good enough night out.

One unexpected bonus of this performance was that it was an opportunity to pay much more attention to the set. Can't do that when Terfel, Gheorghiu and Kaufmann are about. Although the designs (Paul Brown) are  only five years old, the first two acts seem dated already. They'll pass muster for a few years yet and look good on film. The Third Act is brilliant, though. The music gets to work its sinister magic without distraction. Yet the set's contributing, too. The soldiers wear colourful hats - there's a name for them which I can't remember. But soldiers kill.  Fancy hats and costumes are part of the theatre of power. So Jonathan Kent (original director) has a man slowly getting dressed, alone. First, he's a man in his underwear.  On goes the uniform and he's a killing machine.

Scarpia conned Tosca into thinking she could save Cavaradossi. Tosca's deluded because killing Scarpia will unleash mayhem even if Cavaradossi does escape. Poor Cavaradossi hasn't a chance either way. Tosca ends up off the wall, in more ways than one. The set in this final act is eloquent, because it depicts the stark nightmare of the situation, shrouded in murky darkness.

Currently I don't have proper internet access, but a full review will shortly appear in Opera Today.


Hariclea said...

Sorry, but Bryn, Ange and Jonas never sang Tosca together, the original in 2006 was with Marcelo Alvarez and Jonas sang his first Mario at the ROH with Pappano in the pit and Micaela Carosi& Martina Serafin and Paolo Gavanelli& Lucio Gallo. The last revival before this one did star Ange in a few Tosca, with Bryn and Giordani :-) I for one am looking forward to hearing many of them, i enjoy both casts a lot! :-)

Doundou Tchil said...

You are the star, Hariclea ! So many revivals, so many casts and photos of all of them in the programme book ! There;s a whole page inn the booklet aboutb the casting. Ange, Terf and Alvarez in 2006 or Giordano, Ramey, Nageklstad depending on which day. 2007 Licitra, Urmana, Delavan. 2008 was Carosi, Kaufmann and Gavanelli or Gasllo.2009 was Gheorghiu/Echalaz/Miriciou, Giordano and Terfel. Plus numerous different coinductors, directors. Many manyb thanks ! I think the July cast will be the one to go for. Can't say they won't be familiar with the production !

Hariclea said...

LOL i have just seen the last few, the only reason i know :-) And JK's debut as Cavaradossi was something really to remember! But i did like the revival cast too and i just checked have a ticket for this Sat! So looking forward to it, and glad you enjoyed it!

Also, singers aside, Pappano's Tosca is the most beautiful one i have ever heard, not to be missed :-)))