The Telegraph, 18 July 2011
Rupert Christiansen
Puccini: Tosca, ROH London, 14 July 2011
Tosca, Royal Opera House
Rupert Christiansen's synical feelings about this Rolex-cushioned Royal Opera revival of Tosca were unfounded. Rating: Tosca: * * * * *
Bitter experience suggests that star-studded and tremendously expensive opera productions sponsored by luxury brands turn out to be sad artistic disappointments, and I had a cynical feeling that this Rolex-cushioned Royal Opera revival of Tosca would turn out to be a dud.

But from the moment that Antonio Pappano’s baton slashed furiously into the savage opening chords, it was clear that with cameras recording them for posterity (and cinema transmission in November), everyone concerned would be on their mettle.

All three principals have previously appeared in Jonathan Kent’s 2006 production, but not in this combination and the chemistry proved electrifying.

Angela Gheorghiu was playing a role perhaps not a million miles from her own personality, but she sensitively conveyed Tosca’s moral and emotional confusion and made Vissi d’arte seem like a genuine inner musing rather than a showpiece aria. Although she will never command the sheer chesty force required for some passages (Tosca’s entrance in Act 3, for example), the velvety smoothness of her line and tone was something to marvel at.

Bryn Terfel’s Scarpia and Jonas Kaufmann’s Cavaradossi were both stupendous.

Terfel, in magnificent voice, was the embodiment of creeping but charismatic sadism, while Kaufmann impressed as much by his exploration of the poetry of E lucevan le stelle as by his roof-raising, triple fortissimo cries of Vittoria!

Add Lukas Jakobski’s striking Angelotti and Hubert Francis’ wonderfully creepy Spoletta, as well as Pappano’s utterly committed conducting, and you have a performance which confounded my initial cynicism. I neither love nor admire Tosca = a coarse bodice-ripper with some crashingly vulgar music = but how could anyone resist stellar power of this calibre?

I only wish Kent’s production, adequately rehearsed here by Duncan Macfarland, was visually stronger: Act 1 looks more like Chez Maxim than San Andrea della Valle, while Act 3 belongs in the world of cheap sci-fi.




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