Sunday, April 23, 2006

Tosca: I Would Have Jumped, Too

As last night's 50% opera, 50% intermission presentation of TOSCA drew to a close, the duality of the experience became apparent:

Floria Tosca's only escape from potential torture or execution at the hands of Scarpia's devotees is to take her life into her own hands and throw herself off the parapet of the Castel Sant'Angelo. Curtain.

Similarly, Deborah Voigt's only escape from three hours of singing with one of the most disappointing assemblages of male singers in recent memory was to take the evening into her own hands and throw herself off Zeffirelli's monstrous recreation of said Castel.

I am inclined to be nice about it, as word on the street is that Franco Farina is a really nice guy. I would, though, like to encourage the Met administration to send him a nice fruit basket, or a gift certiificate to Outback Steakhouse or something, accompanied by a note informing him his services are no longer needed. YIKES. His Cavaradossi truly bordered on unlistenable. I found myself very easily counting the pulses in the vibrato of his upper registers--that is, when there was something there to discern other than an out and out scream. Seriously, every time he was on stage was a genuine source of frustration.

Much less egregious, but still questionable was James Morris' Scarpia. Morris is obviously a celebrated baritone who has enjoyed a long and distinguished career. It is OK, though, near the end of such careers, to realize that the goods are not 100% there anymore. His Scarpia was OK-ish, but lacked a crucial imposing quality (purely vocally speaking) and the bordering-on-violence-virility one truly wants from this role. As a result, the second act, which should always feel like the pinnacle of overblown Italian oepratic drama, felt a tad unbalanced and unenergized.

Voigt made impressive use of her enviable vocal freedom in this, her NY premiere of the role. In fact, her singing was pretty consistently exquisite throughout, with one notable exception. Something seemed to fall apart when it came time for "Vissi d'arte", which is really the evening's centerpiece for a Saturday-night-Zeffirelli- Tosca crowd at the Met. Strangely aggressive rushing on her part at the outset of the aria led to general unsteadiness for the duration, ultimately culminating in an under pitch, faltering ending. Very uncharacteristic for this singer. And, I have decided, not of great concern. The rest of her performance was so spot on; she is allowed her off moment. I am sure many of her other performances will be near perfect.

Can you tell I am a fan?

I won't even touch the production, which just is what it is. As my opera-going companion said: "On a continuum spanning from Carmen to Turandot, this production is pretty much right in the middle." Though perhaps it is worth it to pop in and say goodbye to it--looks like a new one is making an appearance in a couple years, starring the Finnish Goddess of Awesomeness.

PS--Alex, Maury, and I are considering a trip to the Millo performance on May 16th. Because I *do* love a circus.


JSU said...

You may not want to write off Morris just yet -- I was ready to do so after a painful Dutchman some years back, but he was, surprisingly, infinitely better as Sachs.

We'll see next year.

Jonathan said...

He was not painful by any means on Saturday--just disappointing. And I am of course willing to accept that singers truly have their "on" and "off" nights.

I will keep an open mind :)

Anonymous said...

you would have to be a fan to like Voigts Tosca. My god was that hideous. Her fans don;t even know what to do when she is in an opera out of her depth. and then to have one snip that later Maury who never likes anyone great is going to take in the authentic Tosca of Millo and oyu dare call it a circus. Idiots. German voices in Italian opera. Whatever. I loved the Tosca with Millo.