Concerts & Opera

An exciting Tosca with Kaufmann and Gheorghiu

01.07.2016


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Puccini's opera Tosca at Vienna State Opera conducted by Jesus Lopez Cobos

Tosca’s 587th performance under the direction of Margarethe Wallmann at the Vienna State Opera took place on April 16. The number may sound exaggerated a bit, however it is not, since the production of Margarethe Wallmann dates back to the year 1958. The settings, costumes, staging, all go very much along with 19th century period that Puccini and Illica anticipated and is still beautiful and coherent enough to be far superior to that of the producers who are constantly in search of originality.  

The first act which takes place in Sant’Andrea della Valle Church in Rome, the second act which ensues in the headquarters of Scarpia and the third act which ends on the terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo under the angel statue that is the symbol of the castle, these scenes are all very successful and have impressively designed settings and lighting (hence the Opera’s administration seemingly  didn’t go in search of a different production over all these years ; apparently the audience did not require any change either).

The glorious Te Deum scene in Act I was musically and visually impressive. However the main expectation of the audience were the singers, because the Vienna State Opera, which is an assertive institution that always aspires to gather the best opera singers, and never fails at this, gathered three “giant” names, Angela Gheorghiu, Jonas Kaufmann and BrynTerfel for this production; they are the best performers of this work today.

Having secured a special place in the opera world with her Puccini performances, Angela Gheorghiu was outstanding with her sweet, emotional, velvet-like soprano voice in the role of the jealous, passionate singer Floria Tosca. In Act I, she could possibly have been slightly more coquette and convincing during her comments about the painting that was made by her lover Mario Cavaradossi. Through the performance of “Vissi d’arte”, one of the most important arias of the work, we slightly felt lack of harmony between her and the conductor. Also, she could have achieved a more desperate appeal in this aria, it was like she really could not devote herself to it; however, her voice is so sweet and soft and colourful that we have to accept that this way of interpretation is the singer’s choice. Chief of Police of Rome, the cruel Baron Scarpia was performed outstandingly by Bryn Terfel who, we think, is at the top of his art, both in vocal and dramatic performance terms. Having a sweet baritone-bass voice, Terfel played the role perfectly with his voice of a good size; good articulation; mastery in reflecting his greed with in his voice while addressing Tosca softly; an amazing phrasing and voice flexibility, a very good stage presence.  In the role of painter Mario Cavaradossi, as always, Jonas Kaufmann evoked admiration with his control on his voice and the stage; with the glamorous sound of his voice;  the mastery of bringing forward the nuances and musicality. While singing the famous aria “Recondita armonia”, he reflected the power of his voice and inner emotions extremely well. His transitions to piano, pianissimo were all so perfect. His piano start to one of the most beautiful arias of the opera, “E lucevan le stelle” was breath-taking. Jonas Kaufmann kneads his voice, like we knead dough; he has amazing nuances. All the same, we should add that we hear an outstanding voice when he uses to the end his natural voice.  



The experienced conductor Jesus Lopez Cobos substituted conductor Mikko Franck who fell sick before the performance. We watched a great performance under Cobos’ flexible and attentive conducting and orchestra’s perfect performance of the work.  

Let us not end without relating an anecdote to the readers. Kauffmann’s performance of “E lucevan le stelle” exhilarated the audience so much so that the applause didn’t come to an end for almost ten minutes. In response, the famous tenor performed his aria again. Yet, they say Kaufmann doesn’t like to give an encore on stage; he is not wrong, since the drama is interrupted at the most intense moment. Still he probably didn’t think that way that night, so he re-sang his aria. The conductor carried on after the end of the aria and didn’t allow the spectators to applause. At this point, something that is rarely seen in the opera houses happened. Not only Tosca didn’t show up on the meter she should have shown up, but she also didn’t get on the stage for a while. Jonas Kaufmann, who appeared obviously comfortable on stage, looked at the place where Tosca was supposed to show up and sang with the moment’s melody in Italian as: “Oh, we don’t have the soprano!” This situation took a little more while the conductor carried on by stalling the orchestra with tremolos. As for Kaufmann, he apologized sarcastically in German (from what we learned, he mentioned about the difficulty of singing a duet by himself). Finally, Angela Gheorghiu came out to the stage…



There are countless rumours on social media about this incident, which is seen as a scandal by some. Maybe even being at the backstage wouldn’t be enough to learn this incident’s real reason. Some people say it is the clash of the titans. Others mention the soprano’s sensitive and wrathful nature. There are even some people saying that the famous soprano wanted to take vengeance upon the tenor who re-sang his aria. Nevertheless, with the excitement of watching an outstanding performance that was enhanced by a little incident, we hope to set sail to other as good Tosca performances in the future.

Ayşe Öktem
Vienna

Photos: Michael Pöhn and Ayşe Öktem

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