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Subject: Regina Opera's TOSCA: A Review by Nino Pantano
From: George Voorhis <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:George Voorhis <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Mon, 29 Nov 2010 14:23:57 -0500
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Dear List, 

Here's a review that came across my desk by Nino Pantano about a recent 
performance by  Brooklyn’s Regina Opera.   Enjoy!   Please direct any 
comments or questions directly to the author at [log in to unmask]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Regina Opera Opens 41st Season with a Thrilling Tosca
 A Review by Nino Pantano

The performance of Tosca, on Sunday November 21st at Brooklyn’s Regina 
Opera gave the large audience everything one could desire. Tosca is an opera 
in three acts composed by Giacomo Puccini and was first performed in Rome 
on January 14, 1900. The libretto is by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica and is 
based on the play LaTosca by Victorien Sardou. One critic called the opera “A 
shabby little shocker” but the public loved it. The tale of the actress Floria 
Tosca, the lustful chief of Police Baron Scarpia and her political prisoner lover 
Mario Cavaradossi has been catnip for sopranos, baritones and tenors since its 
inception.

In the title role, Christina Rohm was a riveting Tosca. Ms. Rohm’s soprano 
voice is a lovely instrument, with a darkish hue, flexibility and a tremendous 
amount of power on reserve. When she shifts vocal gears, although her vocal 
line is seamless, the results are extraordinary. Ms. Rohm’s fiery jealous 
outbursts in the first act and her vulnerability were all found in the range of 
color in her sumptuous voice. Her confrontations with the evil Baron Scarpia 
were bone chilling and her portrayal breathed both ice and fire. Ms. Rohm’s 
singing in Act Two’s “Vissi d’arte” was among the most dramatic and poignant 
in memory. Her portamento, descents and floating tones made this prayer and 
plea to the almighty one of the great theatrical and vocal feasts in memory. 
Ms. Rohm’s stabbing of Scarpia (three times if I remember) was unforgettable 
as were her gut wrenching cries of “Muori” and her reciting the line “Avanti lui 
tremava tutta Roma” (And to think before him all Rome Trembled) at Scarpia’s 
corpse  was the essence of opera. Her exit after placing two candles on each 
side of Scarpia’s body and the dropping of the crucifix on his chest had us on 
the edge of our seats. Her looking in the mirror after stabbing the loathsome 
Scarpia was an interesting bit of stagecraft. Tosca’s screams in the final act 
as she caresses her beloved Mario’s body was heartbreaking and her leap to 
her death (via a side door) was stunning. This was a sublime portrayal that 
belongs in all the world’s great opera houses!

Mario Cavaradossi, lover to Tosca was brilliantly sung by tenor Benjamin 
Sloman. His first act aria “Recondita armonia” indicated a first rate tenor with 
a golden sound. His duet with Tosca (Christina Rohm) in the duet “Qual occhio 
al mondo” was sung with beauty and abandon. In the second act his screams 
were chilling and his cries of “Vittoria, Vittoria” filled Regina Hall like a lightning 
bolt of sound. His defiance toward Scarpia and his lackeys was inspiring. 
Sloman’s masterful, desperate and dreamy singing of “E lucevan le stelle” in 
the final act and his dramatic heartbreaking sob at the climax “E non ho amato 
mai tanto la vita” (I die hopeless and never have I loved life so much!”) was 
received with a thunderous ovation. Cavaradossi’s final duet with Tosca 
(Rohm) “O dolci mani” was once again a glorious blend. Benjamin Sloman has 
an ingratiating and manly stage presence and one worries sometimes that in 
the midst of his portrayal, he might be giving too much, which occasionally 
pinches the top. I am certain that this will be altered because from what I see 
and hear, he simply gets better and better. His voice is exceptionately 
beautiful with superb breath control and a unique sense of phrasing. I see a 
very bright future for this promising tenor.

Charles Sanford was a strong Baron Scarpia. While searching for Angelotti, an 
escaped fugitive, Scarpia’s entrance, midst the merriment in the church of 
Sant Andrea della Valle singing “Un tai baccano in chiesa” with his orchestral 
theme in the background, indicates not only the ruthlessness of Scarpia but 
the genius of Puccini. Mr. Sanford has a fine baritone voice of moderate size 
which he uses very well. His insinuating tone and vocal color made a very 
compelling portrayal of this heinous and sadistic hypocrite. Never more obvious 
is this religious hypocrisy, than by his wonderful singing in the “Te Deum” in 
which he proclaims that he would renounce God to possess Tosca, while 
kneeling in front of the Cardinal and crossing himself. “Iago had his 
handkerchief and I have a fan” he also proclaimed, to himself using the 
Marchese Attavanti’s fan as a lure to trap the jealous Tosca. 

In the second act, Scarpia sings “Ha piu forte sapore” in which he wishes to 
bend Tosca to his will. His knocking Spoletta to the ground and then punching 
Sciarrone indicated his rage at any bad news or error. The torture of 
Cavaradossi and his proposition to Tosca were blood curdling right up 
to “Finalmente mio” just before he gets his” comeuppance” by Tosca who has 
bargained with him for a “mock” execution.” Of course she must first yield to 
him. Sanford, by clever use of his resources, sang with passion and power and 
was truly a Scarpia who deserved his fate at Tosca’s hand. 

The character parts were all well done. Resonant bass Gennady Vysotsky, was 
a strong, almost crazed Angelotti who seeks refuge in the church from 
Scarpia.s forces.

The Sacristan was nicely sung by Steven Fasano, whose fine bass voice and 
fearful countenance played him a bit too serious rather than the buffo 
character we are used to.

Spoletta, Scarpia’s agent was powerfully portrayed by tenor Anthony Tolve. 
Tolve is a great character actor and he got right down to the core of what 
makes Spoletta the perfect lackey. When Spoletta failed to capture Angelotti, 
Scarpia threw wine in his face and hurled him to the floor. Spoletta in the 
hands of Tolve, seemed willing to take abuse from his master and jumped to 
the snap of Scarpia’s finger. He seemed to take joy in the pain of Scarpia’s 
victims and reveled in the plight of Tosca. At the finale, with Scarpia gone and 
Napoleon’s forces triumphant, what was Spoletta to do? All of these quandries 
were brilliantly essayed by the gifted Italian American Brooklynite Anthony 
Tolve.

Austin Larusson was a strong Sciarrone, with a fine baritone voice actually 
taking a few stomach punches from the enraged Scarpia. He was also the 
jailer in the last act.

The offstage role of the Shepard boy at the beginning of Act Three was sung 
in a beautiful clear soprano by veteran chorister Catherine Greco.

Scarpia’s agents were truly frightening and James Groff and Jason Muscari 
deserve plaudits. Muscari also impressed as the Cardinal in the Te Deum, 
James Groff as both the Sergeant-at-Arms and Roberti, Wayne Olsen as a 
Judge and Ricky Chang as a Scribe did their chores with aplomb. The Regina 
Chorus was excellent and made the Te Deum particularly dramatic.


The stage direction by Linda Lehr was superb. The procession of monks, nuns, 
laity and priests with the Te deum in Act One started from the rear of the 
church and went down the aisle to the stage in majestic splendor. Ms. Lehr 
also served as set designer. Richard Paratley was the magnificent set artist. 
The back ground set of St. Peter’s dome and Rome at dawn with its pink and 
blue hues was unforgettable. The Palazzo Farnese was luxurious with its plush 
reddish hues and noble furniture. Andrea Calabrese was the make up artist and 
Scarpia was truly a foppish noble and a sadist under the finery.

The costumes by Julia Cornely and Francine Garber-Cohen were breathtaking, 
from Cavaradossi’s smock, to Tosca’s red gown. Scarpia’s white wig and 
traditional vestments made one think of a classic portrait of Scarpia featuring 
the legendary Metropolitan Opera baritone Antonio Scotti. It was wonderful to 
see a traditionalist Scarpia as the composer wanted and to see the candles 
placed next to his body by Tosca and a large crucifix placed on his chest. To 
do the traditional is today considered anathema! To me to do the traditional 
truly defies the times and is really avant garde. Brava Linda Lehr! A standing 
ovation and many cheers and bravos followed the performance. The subtitles 
above the stage greatly assisted those who were newcomers to opera, thanks 
to Linda Cantoni.

The Regina Orchestra of 32 splendid musicians had many magical moments 
under the guiding baton of Maestro Scott Jackson Wiley. Maestro Wiley’s 
communication  with the singers was excellent. There were times when the 
heights attained by the musicians under his leadership were like an extra gear 
on a luxury Ferrari automobile. Maestro Wiley took us all on a journey that was 
heaven bound as did this glorious Tosca from Brooklyn’s own Regina Opera. 
Hats off to foundling mother Marie Cantoni, Fran Garber-Cohen and all at the 
Regina Opera. 

For further info: www.reginaopera.org

 

 

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