Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Met: Tosca

Painting at the met
The Metropolitan Opera

Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 8:00 pm

Conductor: Joseph Colaneri
Tosca: Karita Mattila
Cavaradossi: Marcelo Álvarez
Scarpia: George Gagnidze
Sacristan: Paul Plishka
Angelotti: David Pittsinger
Spoletta: Joel Sorensen
Sciarrone: James Courtney
Shepherd: Jonathan Makepeace
Jailer: Keith Miller

Production: Luc Bondy
Set Designer: Richard Peduzzi

Everyone here is talking about the Met's new Tosca, & I attended expecting a scandal, complete with outraged booing. Instead I found an audience cheering for the principals & a drab modern setting that looks like Fascist Italy. Act II took the most liberties with the text. Scarpia has 3 whores lounging around his office. Tosca stabs him closer to the groin than the heart. There's no crucifix or candles. Instead Tosca retrieves the Attavanti fan then languidly reclines on a sofa. We never see her leave the room. I think the idea is to expunge the religiosity of the story. But talk of God & the Modonna is all over the place, & the libretto makes a clear contrast between Tosca's piety & Cavaradossi's atheism, so I think the approach is incorrect.

There are surprises at the end of each of each act, however, & the magic-show ending, with Tosca seen frozen at the top of her fall, elicited a genuine gasp from the audience. But what really kept me focused during the evening were the performances of all 3 principals & the gorgeous playing of the Met orchestra. Karita Matilla's voice & stage presence are thrilling. There's a physicality & strength to everything she does, & she seems able to sing in any position, even when Scarpia looks like he's bending her over enough to break her back. Her Vissi d'arte is more disbelieving & angry than traditionally sorrowful & pathetic. She also does great stage gasps, screams & breakdowns.

Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi had dependable high notes that were strong & bright, & he was convincingly fearless in Act II. His E lucevan le stelle was plaintive & low-key rather than brilliant. George Gagnidze was appropriately menacing & heavy as Scarpia. Scarpias in 18th century garb sometimes come across as foppish. Not so this thoroughly modern version.

TV cameras were quite visible all over the auditorium, especially one on a crane extending from a box. It was probably a rehearsal for an up-coming broadcast. Poor Spoletta tripped on stairs in both Act II & Act III. I hope he recovers his footing for the actual broadcast.

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