Tosca - Royal Opera House, 14 July 2011
Talk about a hot ticket. Queuing for the 67 day seats for this Tosca started the night before. But after a season short on star power, the lure of Gheorghiu, Kaufmann and Terfel (for just two shows) is hard to resist. Even if the staging is well-worn, and frankly not that exciting in the first place.
What really delivered the thrills tonight was a phenomenal performance from Tony Pappano and the orchestra. Rock'n'roll loud, raw as they come, the music swept everything along before it. Applause intruded only once, after Vissi d'arte. Not because the singing was indifferent (quite the opposite) but because the story's flow was simply unstoppable. A masterpiece of pacing.
Even Angela Gheorghiu gave a credible performance. She began, as usual, by impersonating an opera singer, but Bryn Terfel seemed to bring out something more real in her. (It helps of course that in this role flouncing around and pouting is a valid artistic choice). Never mind the underprojection, the prompting (and she still managed to muck up some lines) and the loss of vocal lustre. By the end of the first act Angela Was Tosca.
It's three years since Jonas Kaufmann first sang in this production and his interpretation has grown up too. His Cavaradossi is a serious-minded political activist. The painting is a sideline and even his love for Tosca seems at times more diversionary than passionate. He was in superlative voice, holding notes rock steady on an endless stream of breath, the tone bronzed and effortless.
Bryn Terfel was if anything even better. The sometimes frayed tone of recent months is gone - in its place the booming health of former years. Every note, every word, every gesture is pared to perfection, creating a Scarpia of terrifying stillness and power, like an animal waiting to pounce. It's a tragedy he now spends so much of his time on concerts. No doubt the pay's a lot better, but it's opera's loss.
Perhaps when Bryn finally hangs up his jackboots, it'll be Lukas Jakobski's turn as Scarpia. A big guy with a big voice, he made a notable Angelotti, not remotely outclassed by the starry company he kept.
production photos (above) - Catherine Ashmore / Royal Opera House
curtain call photos (below) - intermezzo.typepad.com