The Express On Sunday, 18 May 2008
Clare Colvin
Puccini: Tosca, London, ROH, 12 May 2008
Sparks fly in this white hot affair
TRADITIONALLY, Puccini's sex-and-violence melodrama is a star vehicle for the soprano. Tosca, after all, was a diva and the composer gave her one of the world's great arias in Vissi D'Arte. With the second revival of Jonathan Kent's gilded 2006 production, though, Cavaradossi calls the shots in German tenor Jonas Kaufmann's superlative performance.

Kaufmann set out to stun the audience and he succeeded in his first aria, Recondita Armonia, where Cavaradossi, perched high on the scaffold in the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle, compares the portrait he is working on of Mary Magdalen with his lover, Tosca.

It was a tour de force that won a storm of applause and left one wondering if he would have the energy left for the arias to come.
We needn't have worried.

Kaufmann was still in peak form for E Lucevan Le Stele, where Cavaradossi, awaiting the firing squad, reflects that he has never loved life so much before.
As to acting - he and Micaela Carosi's Tosca struck sparks as they canoodled in front of the statue of the Madonna.

This, as Puccini makes clear in his music, is a white-hot affair.

Making her Royal Opera debut, Carosi has a rich, burnished soprano, heard to full advantage in the famous Vissi D'Arte.

She is darkly petite and dramatically convincing in Tosca's jealous tiffs with her lover. As Baron Scarpia, bass baritone Paolo Gavanelli was vocally strong, though he hasn't the sheer brute power Bryn Terfel brought to the part two years ago.

Paul Brown's designs are monumental, from the glittering church of the first act, to Scarpia's dark study with its dominating blood-red statue and the third act battlements scene. A pity they take such a lot of shifting, though.

Two long intervals adding up to an extra hour lessen the dramatic tension.

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