Evening Standard, 15 July 2011
Barry Millington
Puccini: Tosca, ROH London, 14 July 2011
Tosca, Royal Opera House - review

Three of the most sought-after singers came together at Covent Garden last night for a special revival of Tosca.

Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel were appearing in the first of only two performances - happily captured on film for cinema release in November - and expectations (like the seat prices) were high.

Too often the results on such occasions are revolving-door efforts - singer in/collects fat fee/singer out - with only a nod in the direction of the drama. That this emphatically wasn't the case here may have been down to all three appearing previously in Jonathan Kent's production - indeed Gheorghiu and Terfel had created their roles in 2006.

Terfel's entrance as the malevolent police chief Scarpia, at the top of a gilded staircase, was electrifying and he held the stage with his potent body language and vocal intelligence.

Gheorghiu resorts to stock gestures more than she ought and arguably lacks the vocal muscle the role ideally requires. But she brings to it authentic flashes of diva temperament, and her delivery of Vissi d'arte was subtle and persuasive. The ringing tone and heroic address of Jonas Kaufmann make him a formidable Cavaradossi. He's no mean actor either.

Binding together these stellar performances was the charismatic conducting of Antonio Pappano, screwing up the tension here, allowing the lyricism to blossom there, and always skilfully layering Puccini's luscious textures. "The stars were shining", Cavaradossi sings shortly before facing the firing squad. They certainly were last night.



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