Western Mail, 16 July 2011
Mike Smith
Puccini: Tosca, ROH London, 14 July 2011
Review: Bryn Terfel in Tosca at Royal Opera House
IT isn’t often an audience bursts into cheers at the end of the first act of an opera. But then not every first act ends with Bryn Terfel singing and acting a role that he could have been born to perform.

The role is the evil police chief Scarpia in Puccini’s Tosca, a character that allows the great singer to display those two sides of his artistry that have made him opera’s hot ticket: a vocal magnificence that truly sends shivers down your spine and a passion for performance.

Scarpia can be a wildly melodramatic pantomime baddie whom audiences enjoy hissing and booing more than cheering at the curtain calls. Not here. The character development is as subtle and considered as the singing.

When Scarpia lays a trap for Floria Tosca, pretending her lover Cavaradossi is unfaithful, and then as he forces her into choosing between giving in to his sexual advances or allowing her lover to hang, Terfel brings a fresh element to the role.

He plays the role almost like an evil scientist or nasty child. He watches with a macabre fascination, his head lowered to one side, as his victim – or experiment – emotionally and physically contorts in agony.

Those cheers at the end of the first act became a foot-stomping explosion at the end of the performance when Terfel took his curtain call.

The audience also relished the richly voiced Cavaradossi from German Jonas Kaufmann. He also acts and looks perfect for this role and is a refreshingly agile and convincing tenor.

The night sort of belongs to Romanian Angela Georgiou, another favourite at this opera house. The soprano was on good form, her duets with Cavaradossi engaging and charming, her showpiece arias exquisite, and her acting gripping. Yet there was no mistaking this was a night when the two principal men stole the show.

Conductor Antonio Pappano took no prisoners with the orchestra on ravishing form, the contrasts between the beauty of the music for our lovers contrasting like night and day with Scarpia’s violent, dark sounds. Treat yourself to a night at the cinema in November as this performance was filmed for screening.


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