Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The diva

Tosca - Metropolitan Opera, 12/17/2013
Radvanovsky, Tamura, Gagnidze / Armiliato

I know she's been working on them in parallel, with performances of this part around the world since the last Met run, but it's near-impossible at this point to view Sondra Radvanovsky's current run as Tosca separately from her triumph this fall as Norma. Those Normas made her stardom quite, quite visible, and so the backstory to her character here now needs no explanation -- Tosca appears, she's the diva, and that's that. But Radvanovsky has improved the active part of her performance, too, and quite thoroughly. The shapes, colors, and vocal stresses of Puccini's music, seemingly still new to her three years back, now sound from her throat as naturally and idiomatically as Verdi always has.

It's a tremendous whole: she's become the great Tosca her sound and character suggested from the first. Almost as satisfying, though, is how Radvanovsky continues to work and improve well into her international career. The full-grown dramatic sense she showed in Norma (and again in this), the continued sharpening of her vocal control, the comfort outside her bel canto roots here... what a welcome contrast to others who've audibly regressed as their fame has grown.

Opposite her Tosca on this night only was the Cavaradossi of new Brazilian tenor Ricardo Tamura. Tamura has actually covered at the Met before, but this was his first actual performance. His bio shows him having spent much of the past five years singing Otello, which given his rather short big-house resume had me concerned. But in fact his voice showed no real signs of early blow-out, and it turns out that -- perhaps due to his voice type and/or an early career change from natural science -- he's actually about the right age to be singing that stuff.

In any case, it seems an awful waste --- both to have had him sing so much of his career in small European houses and to have so much of this run (including this Saturday's matinee broadcast) sung by Marcelo Giordani. For Tamura has a naturally spacious voice that blossoms in the cavern of the Met, along with a fluidity of sound and production that Giordani hasn't shown since before he was a house regular (I really liked his sound in those early years, though). It took Tamura much of the first act to settle down in this debut, but he did pretty well going full blast cheek-to-cheek with Radvanovsky... and one can't say that about most. I'm not suggesting Kaufmann and Yonghoon Lee should fear for their bookings (and I'm as thrilled as anyone at the prospect of a Radvanovsky/Lee Ballo next season), but instead of covering the Met's utility Italian tenor, Tamura should at least be that guy. But I'd also really like to hear his Bacchus.

George Gagnidze's Scarpia was similar in its virtues to the one with which he opened this production. That lizard coat seems to have disappeared along with the floozies' more risque miming, though. Marco Armiliato is, as ever, solid and good with shape and singers.

Those who read the previous post about Strauss and Hofmannsthal's Emperor may note that the proto-modernist foregrounding of compulsion in Tosca (and Puccini generally, though it's a comic sideline in Boheme) makes the "bad guy" Scarpia more the central/action-carrying male figure here...

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.