Puccini - Tosca

Metropolitan Opera, New York, Wednesday April 26 2006

Conductor: Carlo Rizzi. Production: Franco Zeffirelli. Tosca: Deborah Voigt. Mario Cavaradossi: Franco Farina. Baron Scarpia: James Morris. Sacristan: Paul Plishka.

I saw Tosca at the Met last week. I won't write up a full review. This extract, however, from nymetro.com, is close to my experience:

“A change has also come over Voigt’s voice lately, though it’s hard to tell if it’s from weight loss or normal aging […] Not that Voigt as yet exhibits any of Callas’s technical problems: Her voice continues to be reliably supported and under control. What is noticeable, however—earlier this season in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino and now in Tosca—is a marked thinning of quality at the very center of the instrument, together with a slight acidity and tightening of the tone that has definitely taken the youthful bloom off, especially at the top. This is not necessarily bad, since her basic sound continues to appeal as well as suggest possibilities for a wider range of expressive effects.

“So far she hasn’t taken advantage of those options, and I fear that Voigt’s Tosca is not an especially vocally compelling or consistently developed interpretation. Tosca may be maddeningly volatile and impulsive, but Voigt gives us a woman whose personality is simply too fragmented and loosely knit. The whole opening love banter with Cavaradossi has an inappropriate sitcom flavor from which the character never really recovers. The heated theatrics that lead up to Scarpia’s murder seem more mechanically worked out than honestly felt, and the spectacular suicide leap at the end literally comes out of thin air. The words clearly do mean something to Voigt, but she seldom colors them in ways that bring the drama to life. And she seems quite unable to get her voice under the large arcs of Puccini’s melodic lines, launch them to exciting musical purpose, and nail the climactic moment. The final tentative phrases of her Act Two aria are a major disappointment in this respect, or at least they were during her first performance.

“Perhaps careful direction and more inspired colleagues could spur Voigt to present a more fully drawn and convincing Tosca than this pallid effort. Franco Farina is a dependable, idiomatic Cavaradossi, but he sings the music with little charm or finesse. James Morris continues the deplorable tradition of casting an aging bass in the baritone role of Scarpia, in this case a bland villain who hardly acts like a fiend worth slashing to death. Conductor Carlo Rizzi keeps the notes moving, but not much else. It’s actually been some time since the Met has come up with a cast able to stir Puccini’s perennial melodrama to life, and right now Franco Zeffirelli’s lush scenery still steals the show.”

Lush? Lush? But part from that, I agree with this chap: it's impossible to tell whether the change in the voice is from losing weight or one that would have come about anyway, but I'm sorry to say I think it is now less spectacular, the silver-bright top having simply gone. And she made rather a "boulangère" of Tosca, which isn't her fault - we know she can act when directed, but who directs a 21-year old Zeffirelli production?

Farina can be quite elegant (vocally), but when he has to pump up the volume his vibrato opens out and spreads well above the note, so when in unison with the ever-accurate Voigt it was excruciating.

To my companions and myself, as the sets aren't really our kind of thing (the sort you simply never, never see in Paris) the star of the show was James Morris, though he was audibly tired (troublesome high notes) by the time he got the knife. By the way, I'm not saying we shouldn't have sets of that kind from time to time in Paris: large-scale naturalism; but in that case, somebody needs to direct what goes on in them. The Te Deum scene, for example, could have been impressive, but was simply perfunctory. Also, I'm not saying we have had a better production of Tosca here in the past 25 years, though the one we actually had 25 years ago was certainly more impressive...

The audience, by the way, laughed all the time, even at Tosca stabbing Scarpia. Nice to know they were enjoying it!

Maestro Wenarto sings "E lucevan le stelle".


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