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Subject: Nazi era Tosca revival in Sydney triumph of voice
From: Andrew Byrne <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Andrew Byrne <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 25 Feb 2017 00:55:22 -0500
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Tosca – Sydney Opera House – Friday 17th Feb 2017 


For the first time I can recall the national company has put on an opera 
with four imported artists of international calibre.  And it shows.  This is a 
stunning outing of the John Bell Tosca set in Nazi occupied Rome, 
swastikas, straight-arm salutes, Hitler youth and all.  It is dramatically 
intact and intense.  But most importantly, we are bathed in a tsunami of 
vocalism from start to finish.  

Richard Anderson as Angelotti started proceedings with his booming bass, 
followed by Luke Gabbedy as the adenoidal Sacristan.  Spanish soprano 
Ainhoa Arteta and Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai then gave us a believable 
and at times funny lovers' scene followed by the stentorian Te Deum with 
veteran Italian baritone Lucio Gallo and chorus almost raising the roof.  
This scene with its gradual crescendo and rhythmic beat was so penetrating 
that I hummed it for days.  

The three main roles showed that they were star material in their own 
ways.  Most impressive was after a fine rendition of Tosca’s prayer Vissi 
d’arte the final note on the simple word “cosi”.  This was taken beyond the 
score to a fine diminuendo and then ultimately a plosive bleat with 
devastating effect.  It makes one appreciate that Ms Arteta is doing 
something novel for her money.  Just singing the notes for Cavaradossi is 
enough to earn his fee … yet Mr Ilincai did more than that, looking the part 
and acting well.  Signore Gallo had what it takes, looking more like a 
gentleman than a rapist, but that’s the part he plays in Rome of the day.  

Grand opera is like international sport and without top stars it cannot 
survive with seats costing over $300 each.  Like the Williams sisters, 
Michael Jordan, LeBron James or Michael Phelps, these exemplary singers 
have role models in their field.  The national company seems to have finally 
realised this and we are now hearing top class singers and conductors 
again.  

Mr Badea (the fourth imported artist) kept up the pace with a huge ovation 
before act 3 for his orchestra.  The chorus, comprimario singers and boy 
soprano were all also excellent.  

I make a point of sitting further back than most reviewers, about half way 
to the rear of the hall.  On this occasion even patrons in the most distant 
seats would not have missed one note, such was the sheer power of the 
singing.  Unlike many of this company’s opera reprises this is certainly 
worth a return visit.  

BTW, Nabucco live from the Met was finally shown in Australian cinemas 
last weekend and was a triumph and a pleasure.  Placido Domingo is near 
80 years of age yet is able to portray every emotion and sing the baritone 
socks off the weakened Babylonian king.  Liudmyla Monastyrska played 
Abigaille (the “soprano-killer” role) while Dimtry Belosselskiy sang a 
forceful Rabbi-in-charge.  The staging by John Napier and Elijah Moshinsky 
is simply brilliant.  

Tosca is the final production before the Sydney opera theatre closes for 
major renovations.  The "season" now goes into 'homeless' mode with 
various venues, concert performances but still some phenomenal 
repertoire.  Later in the year we look forward to Thais, Verdi's Manzoni 
Requiem, Parsifal and Madama Butterfly (Capitol).   

Notes by Andrew Byrne .. 

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