NY Times Tosca Review

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lennygoran
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NY Times Tosca Review

Post by lennygoran » Mon Jan 01, 2018 5:25 pm

There he goes again-I don't accept Tommasini's view for one second:

"Mr. Gelb eventually gave in, calling the production “one of the blunders of my tenure.” In a recent interview he was even more abject. "I’ve learned my lesson,” he said. “When it comes to a classic piece of repertoire, beauty counts — and that’s what the audience wants.”But Mr. Gelb has learned the wrong lesson." Regards, Len

Anyway here's the review.

Review: The Met Opera’s ‘Tosca’ Overcomes Months of Chaos

By ANTHONY TOMMASINI JAN. 1, 2018


The stakes could not have been higher. The chaos could not have been wilder. It’s fair to say that no production in the Metropolitan Opera’s history has been more vexed than the new staging of Puccini’s “Tosca” that opened on New Year’s Eve.

First, months ago, its star tenor pulled out. Then its star soprano. Then her husband, who was slated to conduct.

His replacement, James Levine, a fixture at the company for four decades, was suspended from the Met last month over accusations of sexual misconduct. And a few weeks ago, for good measure, the opera’s villain canceled too.

It speaks to the Met’s resourcefulness that it was able to field such an impressive premiere cast — the rising stars Sonya Yoncheva and Vittorio Grigolo and the stalwart Zeljko Lucic — on such relatively short notice. But even with some exciting singing, this “Tosca” could point the company in the wrong direction.


The production was already, before all the withdrawals, a kind of referendum on Peter Gelb, the company’s general manager. Early in his tenure, in 2009, Mr. Gelb replaced Franco Zeffirelli’s lavish 1985 “Tosca” with a grim, irreverent staging by Luc Bondy. The boos were loud; some patrons and most (though not all) critics rebelled. The Bondy “Tosca” became a proxy war in the battles that rage in opera between tradition and innovation.

Mr. Gelb eventually gave in, calling the production “one of the blunders of my tenure.” In a recent interview he was even more abject.


“I’ve learned my lesson,” he said. “When it comes to a classic piece of repertoire, beauty counts — and that’s what the audience wants.”

But Mr. Gelb has learned the wrong lesson. The discouraging implication of the new “Tosca,” directed by David McVicar, is that when it comes to staging standard repertory works, modern is bad.


That’s simply not true. Look at the critical and popular success that has greeted the Met’s highly stylized version of “La Traviata”; or its surreal, ominous “Hansel and Gretel,” onstage through Jan. 6; or its post-apocalyptic “Parsifal,” set to return next month. Mr. Bondy’s “Tosca” was unsuccessful because it was messily conceptualized and gratuitously sordid, not because a gritty, dark take on this work is an impossibility.

If beauty is going to be his criterion, Mr. Gelb should be careful to ensure that his definition of that word remains expansive, encompassing more than just Mr. McVicar’s traditional-looking, scrupulously inoffensive “Tosca.”

Almost admitting that he has nothing particularly new to say about the work, Mr. McVicar fills his staging with dozens of details, actorly touches that help the performers bring freshness and subtlety to characters every opera fan knows intimately. This was a retro night at the opera, aimed at the Met’s conservative core.

When the lights went up on Act I, the gilded interior of the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in the Rome of 1800, the Met audience broke into applause, just as it always did with Zeffirelli spectacles. The creative team (sets and costumes are by John Macfarlane) didn’t even try to mask echoes of Zeffirelli throughout. But, with Mr. Macfarlane’s painterly designs and sharply raked floors, the sets were an improvement over the 1985 staging, less garishly opulent, more attractive.

Jumping in for Kristine Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann, who canceled, Ms. Yoncheva and Mr. Grigolo were both singing their roles for the first time, and they looked wonderfully youthful as Puccini’s lovers, the opera diva Floria Tosca and the painter Mario Cavaradossi. They saved the day and gave compelling performances, but their greenness came through, in different ways.

Ms. Yoncheva is coquettish and passionate, fragile and fretful. Prima donna airs do not come naturally to her refined, thoughtful Tosca. Her sound, though not creamy, is richly textured and shimmering. It was fascinating to hear Tosca’s anguished Act II aria, “Vissi d’arte,” delivered as a true reflection, almost pensively. Still, for all the elegance and ardor of her singing, she did not seem like someone who had just endured her lover’s torture and condemnation to death. Tosca’s bursts of fury and jealousy seemed forced.


Coltish, feral and passionately in love, Mr. Grigolo’s Mario is a true hothead. This singer has drawn criticism for what some find to be almost animalistic singing and acting. I’ll take the trade-off of some vocal rawness and overly impulsive moments for the virile excitement he brings, complete with thrilling top notes. And you can’t say a tenor who so tenderly shaped the dulcet phrases Mario sings to Tosca after he learns she has murdered Scarpia, the malignant police chief, lacks lyrical grace.

Mr. Lucic (stepping in for Bryn Terfel) is better at conveying the suavely aristocratic ways that Scarpia manipulates those he tries to control than he is at tapping into the character’s warped malevolence. Still, the legato elegance and vocal weightiness of his singing have their own rewards. In Act II, trying to persuade a seated Tosca to reveal a convict’s whereabouts, he is creepily intimate, leaning on an armrest and looming over her.

Emmanuel Villaume, the last conductor standing at the end of the train of withdrawals, does not go for the obvious in his conducting of Puccini’s volatile music. He brings shape, nuance and pliancy to the score. There were a few out of sync moments. But following the impetuous Mr. Grigolo cannot be easy.



https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/01/arts ... front&_r=0

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