Tosca

 

Puccini Tosca opera to libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Directed 2011 by Duncan Macfarland at the Royal Opera House in a revival of the 2006 Jonathan Kent production. Stars Angela Gheorghiu (Floria Tosca), Jonas Kaufmann (Mario Cavaradossi), Bryn Terfel (Baron Scarpia), Lukas Jakobski (Cesare Angelotti), Jeremy White (Sacristan), Hubert Francis (Spoletta), ZhengZhong Zhou (Sciarrone), William Payne (Shepherd Boy), and John Morrissey (Gaoler). Antonio Pappano conducts the Royal Opera House Orchestra (Concert Master Vasko Vassilev) and Chorus (Chorus Director Renato Balsadonna). Designs by Paul Brown; lighting design by Mark Henderson; TV direction by Jonathan Haswell; music production by David Groves. Released 2012, Blu-ray disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

This disc jumped quickly to the top of the Blu-ray Best Seller list at MDT (a leading UK vendor of classical music recordings). All the stars are among the best opera singers in the world, and they all turn in fine singing performances. Angela Gheorghiu is beautiful and slender. She is also the right age for the role because, as she points out in an extra feature, she is playing herself, an opera diva.  Kaufmann is handsome enough to easily be the love interest of a celebrity.

Overweight and odd-looking Terfel doesn't fit the stereotype for Scarpia, which is, I think, that of a lean and debonair adventurer. Terfel in this role reminds me of Lavrentiy Beria, a "toad" of a man who is said to have became history's most dangerous sexual psychopath during his rise to power as the head of State Security in Russia under Joseph Stalin.

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The acting of the stars is highly professional. Terfel's depiction of Scarpia's pursuit of Tosca is convincing.

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Gheorghiu has a tendency to make perky faces which is hard for her to control. But she is limber enough to get pretty physical in the stabbing scene.

The sets and costumes are sumptuous. Alas, there is a serious lapse in judgment by director Macfarland when he gives us two policemen who look like monsters you might find in a haunted house at a theme park for children.

The execution scene is dramatic.

Most viewers would probably consider this title to be the best Tosca we now have. But the Arthaus version from the Teatro Carlo Felice (made on a much smaller budget) is still competitive: it's less impressive than the Royal Opera House show, but has an element of Italian passion that is missing in chilly London.

I originally gave this recording the grade of "A." But the OperaDou Jury gave it "A+." So I adjusted the grade up to the verdict of "A+."

Here are a couple of clips from the Royal Opera:

Update on 2013-05-12 by Henry McFadyen Jr.

In the January, 2013 Opera News (page 59) this Tosca was praised as a "2012 Best of the Year."