I finally went to check out SFO's Tosca Tuesday evening. It
was competently rendered, far from the disaster I expected,
but still completely ordinary and predictable.
At least, Carol Vaness was in much better vocal form than
in her previous assumption of the same role in SF. A slight
nervous tremulation in her tone persists, but she displayed
none of the technical problems which plagued her Norma
of several seasons ago -- her pitch in "Vissi d'arte" was
excellent, in fact.
But her approach to characterization still seems too
narrow to me, it appears that her idea of acting is a
constant state of generalized neurosis. This actually
works well enough sometimes, as in the rabid showdown
with Scarpia in act II. Unfortunately, the soprano choked
a bit in one of Floria's great lines -- "Questo è il
bacio di Tosca!" -- and it didn't quite make it into the
house. But otherwise, Vaness' Tosca is exhausting and
wears out the audience. When she finally jumps off into
the Tiber, you want to breathe a sigh of relief.
Czech tenor Miroslav Dvorsky has one of those penetrating,
constipated tenor voices -- very effective in conveying the
intensity and despair of "E lucevan le stelle," but simply
didn't have enough lyrical luster for the love enraptured
"Recondita armonia." Otherwise, it was a delivery lacking
in great originality, comes into one's ear and goes out the
other. Mark Delavan's big, cavernous voice offered the only
memorable performance of the evening, but a good Scarpia
alone could not elevate this Tosca into a great one.
Runnicles at the pit seemed to be extracting an awful lot
of sound out of the orchestra the night I went. Felt a bit
rushed, but no major complaints otherwise. The direction
was by Sandra Bernhard, a remounting of the Mansouri/Bousquet
production (based on the 1932 Agnini sets). It attempts to
reproduce the Roman settings of Tosca to a high degree of
verisimilitude. The final act at the Castel Sant'Angelo
even shows the cupola of the Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica
in the background.
Salutti a tutti, Ching
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