Opera.uk, September 2011
Puccini: Tosca, ROH London, 14 July 2011
Tosca - Royal Opera at Covent Garden, July 14
Although Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel had all appeared in past outings of the Royal Opera's Tosca, this was the first night on which the three stars shone brightly together. TV cameras had duly sprouted around the stalls in preparation for a November relay to cinemas around the world. With the three luminaries looking their parts, consistently supplying dramatic detail and striking sparks off each other, the show should make a satisfying impact on the big screen. In the theatre, Gheorghiu lacked the spinto body and bite of Martina Serafin, her predecessor in this revival by Duncan Macfarland of Jonathan Kent's production, but there is no denying her expertise and allure in the role. It was only at the most brutal moments, such as the Act 3 narrative of Scarpia's murder, that the requisite firepower was disappointingly absent She compensated with such touches as her flirtatious manipulation in Act 1 and her distracted air as she explained the escape plan to Cavaradossi. Strangely (like many other Toscas) she had seemed too much in control after the murder itself, and `Vissi d'arte'-which ought to be a walk in the Villa Borghese for her-was not a high point of the evening. As in her earlier evocation of `la nostra casetta', she and Antonio Pappano seemed to be playing catch, trespassing in choppy, flustered fashion beyond the limits of rubato. Elsewhere, Pappano's conducting packed even more theatrical punch than it had with the previous cast.

With Bryn Terfel as Scarpia, there was no doubt who was making Rome tremble, though this particular sociopath could occasionally have afforded to enjoy himself a little more-the irony of `la povera mia cena' is lessened when the baron has been sitting like Billy No-Mates as he chews his dinner. That being said, Terfel's sullen bullying of Jeremy White's frightened rabbit of a Sacristan made the episode as sinister as it ought to be. Vocally, while the velvet seems to have rubbed off his tone, Terfel commanded attention at every dynamic. Even the most carping critic would have had trouble finding fault with Jonas Kaufmann's Cavaradossi, an interpretation that combined gorgeous sound (and a virtuosic diminuendo at the end of `Recondita armonia') with a rounded and acute characterization that duly reminded us that painters can be divas too.


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