Tosca, Royal Opera, July 2009


Tosca, Royal Opera, July 2009. The main reason I bought tickets for this revival was to see Deborah Voigt as Tosca, with Marcello Giordani as Cavaradossi. Unfortunately Ms. Voigt cancelled due to acute colitis, and is being replaced by two other ladies: Angela Gheorghiu and Nelly Miricioiu. Ms. Gheorghiu sang on the first night, and I saw the second night on July 11 with Ms. Miricioiu. Bryn Terfel was Scarpia, and the conductor was Jacques Lacombe. Last year this same production by Jonathan Kent was superbly conducted by Antonio Pappano, and this time around Jacques Lacombe also did an excellent job, reminding me of his wonderful Ariadne auf Naxos in Berlin five months ago.

As Tosca, Nelly Miricioiu gave a fine performance, and though her singing lacked perfection her acting was superb. For my money she was far preferable to Micaela Carosi last year, who lost her pitch on some of the sustained notes and lacked the pathos essential to this role. Nelly Miricioiu had the pathos and never went over the top — she is a wonderful singing actress. I’m not sure the interaction with Marcello Giordani worked as well as it might, because he started off very strongly in Act I, but seemed to flag towards the end. I was slightly reminded of his performance opposite Karita Mattila as Manon in the Metropolitan Opera broadcast of Manon Lescaut of February 2008, though as Sharpless in the Metropolitan Opera simulcast of Butterfly in March 2009 he sang like a god.

What really made this evening terrific was the riveting performance of Bryn Terfel, who gave a strong and nuanced interpretation of Scarpia, showing him to be manipulative and incorrigible rather than purely evil. He exuded a smouldering sexual power, and in Act I of this production, where Scarpia stands at a lower level than the main floor of the church, Terfel’s powerful stage presence provided a fitting close to the end of the act. In that act, Kostas Smoriginas was a sympathetic Angelotti, and Jeremy White a convincingly foolish Sacristan. With Martyn Hill doing a fine job as Spoletta, this was an excellent cast, well-rehearsed by Stephen Barlow, who was the revival director. In fact there were significant improvements from last year, and the activities of the soldiers in Act III did not distract from the music in the way they did before.

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