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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera

    Tosca, opera in three acts, sung in Italian
    Music by Giacomo Puccini
    Libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, on Victorien Sardou's 1887 French-language dramatic play, La Tosca
    Premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900

    This review is of the 958th performance of Tosca at the Metropolitan Opera, attended in person on 1/23/2018

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Emmanuel Villaume
    The Metropolitan Opera Chorus - chorus master Donald Palumbo

    A new production by Sir David McVicar
    Set and costume designer - John Macfarlane
    Lighting designer - David Finn
    Movement director - Leah Hausman

    Cast

    Cesare Angelott - Christian Zaremba
    A sacristan - Patrick Carfizzi
    Mario Cavaradossi - Vittorio Grigolo
    Floria Tosca - Sonya Yoncheva
    Baron Scarpia - Opera Lively interviewee Željko Lučić [read his interview (here)]
    Spoletta - Brenton Ryan
    Sciarrone - Christopher Job
    A shepherd boy - A. Jesse Schopflocher
    A jailer - Richard Bernstein

    -------------------

    This new production of Tosca by Sir David McVicar is a triumph, and the Met put together a cast that matched the excellence of the sets. This show is a way of demonstrating once more that traditional productions can be as compelling as the Regie kind, when they are tastefully and beautifully done. These are really, really handsome sets. The production pictures below, gently authorized by the Met Press Department, will give our readers an idea of the visual impact we are talking about.

    All three environments - the Sant'Andrea della Valle church for Act I, Scarpia's chambers at Palazzo Farnese for act II, and the top platform of the Castel Sant'Angelo for act III - were ultra-realistic and nicely done, complete with a giant and menacing sculpture of an angel. Every detail was well-cared for, including the realistic objects on Scarpia's table and the live fireplace.

    Costumes were equally compelling, with Sonya Yoncheva looking devastatingly beautiful in a white gown in act I, and phenomenal in act II with her dark sparkling gown. Military uniforms, the Te Deum processional; everything looked great.

    The vast Met stage was well utilized by the three sets, allowing for rather precise blocking at all times. So, in summary, the physical production was stunning and rather perfect. Sometimes we say that the sets "worked" or "didn't distract from the opera." These sets were way more than this: they contributed to the pleasure of the evening in no small way.

    Overall score for the physical production, a full-blown A++, no hesitation.

    Musically, maestro Emmanuel Villaume was the perfect choice to replace Levine. He fit right in with the orchestra, which performed at the customary level of excellence. The sounds from the pit were thrilling, vivacious, with seamless transitions, exact dynamics, and accurate synchrony. The Met chorus was also at its best. A++ for both chorus and the orchestra, and for the conductor.

    The comprimarios were a bit uneven. For example, Zaremba and especially Carfizzi did well, while Ryan, not so much. B+.

    Now, for the three principal singers.

    Željko Lučić was a formidable Scarpia. We had the pleasure of visiting the singer backstage in his dressing room, and chatted about his performance. We noticed that he sung the role with refined elegance. Instead of the declamation that we see from some Scarpias, he worked some more defined musical phrasing into his parlando lines. Once we expressed this remark to him, he confirmed it, saying "not all that I do is written in the vocal score, but we are allowed to embellish a bit and make of him a true singing role; I don't like Scarpias who yell a lot; my Scarpia is more elegant; he is a killer with white gloves." Great quote, Mr. Lučić! The singer has the physique du rôle (all three principal singers do, by the way) with the menacing presence we expect from Scarpia, and the voice to sing it. Another indisputable A++!

    Vittorio Grigolo looked dashing and impacted sufficient passion into his singing. I was a bit less impressed with his acting, and while I thought that "Recondita armonia" was exquisitely done, he seems to have made the artistic choice of singing "E lucevan le stelle" with the sort of weak and broken voice one would expect from a dehydrated, exhausted, tortured prisoner, and while this choice is valid and dramatically sound, musically it was a bit less thrilling than some other versions out there. Don't read me wrong, he was great throughout the whole evening, but I'll call it A+ instead of A++, as a matter of personal preference for how I like to listen to "E lucevan le stelle."

    Sonya Yoncheva was simply unbelievable! This was only the second time I listened to her live, in person in the opera house, and both times she was at the Met. The first time I wasn't exactly thrilled and she gave me the impression of having a relatively small voice with not the most powerful projection. Then, I remember reviewing some broadcasts of her work for European opera companies that perform in smaller theaters, and I said "now I understand why the public in Europe goes berserk about Ms. Yoncheva while at the Met I wasn't that impressed; maybe it's a matter of the size of the house, because in these more intimate theaters she does very well, indeed." OK, so, tonight I thought I would be equally disappointed. Well, not at all. All reservations I had regarding Ms. Yoncheva got blown to smithereens. Most likely the one performance I attended with her at the Met in the past, coincided with a day when maybe she was fighting off some sort of upper respiratory virus. Because oh boy, the lady can project just fine! Her voice filled all the nooks of the vast auditorium with clarity and potency; her timbre is to die for; pitch control and accuracy can't be any better, and her range is excellent: not only the top is easily reached, but the low notes when she has just murdered Scarpia showed no volume loss whatsoever. What a singer!

    Here, the Met did make available her "Vissi d'art" in this production:



    On top of her great voice, Ms. Yoncheva acted the role very convincingly. She seemed to incarnate perfectly well the fiery diva. We could almost see sparks flying from her all over the stage. What a sublime Tosca! Ms. Yoncheva did full justice to the fact that her role is the title one, because she stole the show, something not so easy to do when the other components are also this good. We don't have an A+++ grade, so she earns A++... But believe me, dear readers; it was one of those special performances that stay forever in the memory of an opera lover.

    While we were doing some housekeeping one of these days, cleaning up some old broken links, I bumped into one of our old exclusive Opera Lively interviews, with maestro Marco Armiliato. Years ago, he told me that he was very happy to have discovered a new, young opera singer who was truly excellent. He had heard her in some performance in Monte Carlo. Her name? Sonya Yoncheva. Well, maestro Armiliato was right. She is something!

    The last day of this run will be this Saturday, and it will be the Met Live in HD broadcast. Today they already filmed it, for back-up. The live show is on the 27th, and whoever hasn't seen it in person at the Met, absolutely cannot miss the broadcast. I sincerely hope that this memorable performance will find its way into a blu-ray disc. I would love to see it again a few more times. With that, it is easy to understand that the overall score is A++; what else? Don't miss it this Saturday. You'll really regret it if you do.

    All production pictures below are credited to the Metropolitan Opera House and Ken Howard, used with authorization.

    Read this Opera Lively exclusive interview with our Scarpia talking about his role: [click here]
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 31st, 2018 at 03:28 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Name:  TOS17_0075a-X2.jpg
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    Grigolo and Yoncheva - photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    Yoncheva and Grigolo, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    Lučić and Yoncheva, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    Sonya Yoncheva, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 24th, 2018 at 05:46 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Name:  TOS17_1107a-X2.jpg
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    Yoncheva and Lučić, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    Yoncheva and Lučić, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    The final scene when Tosca jumps, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    An act II scene - photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    The sets for act I - photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 24th, 2018 at 05:43 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Name:  TOS17_2975a-X2.jpg
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    Željko Lučić, photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    The sets for act II - photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    The sets for act III - Photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard

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    A promotional picture with Sonya Yoncheva - photo Metropolitan Opera / Ken Howard
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 24th, 2018 at 05:50 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Looks like quite a wonderful production and quite traditional. Thanks for posting the photos.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I think Sir David is just about my favorite director in opera these days. He pays such close attention to the drama and the interrelationships of the characters that his stagings are always very credible and filled with little, telling details. His productions prove that traditional doesn't have to mean static and boring.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Even the curtain panel in this production is beautiful:

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    Photo taken by Opera Lively in less than ideal conditions
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    We had dinner at Daniel, the Michelan-starred restaurant by Daniel Boulud, and this dessert is called "The Opéra"

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    A couple of other outstanding dishes from the restaurant:

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    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Interesting how times and people change: McVicar has become Franco Zeffirelli. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I've always associated Zeffirelli with lavish productions. To me, McVicar goes beyond that; he's more focused on characterization than impressive visuals.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I've always associated Zeffirelli with lavish productions. To me, McVicar goes beyond that; he's more focused on characterization than impressive visuals.
    True enough. I was thinking more in terms of traditional vs. Regie approaches. McVicar used to be something of an enfant terrible, but has gradually grown more conservative in his concepts. And as Michael Cooper of The New York Times says, "the new Tosca was meant to appeal to operagoers still lamenting the loss, nine years ago, of a beloved Franco Zeffirelli extravaganza"--not to mention smoothing over the controversy stirred up by the widely hated Luc Bondy production of 2009.

    Again, this isn't necessarily a criticism, particularly when such an old-school approach is realized as well as this one appears to be. And since this new Tosca has had the most tumultuous birth of any production in Met history--losing all three principals and not one but two conductors--it may well be for the best that McVicar combines his skill at directing performers with a reassuring, traditional staging.
    Last edited by Amfortas; January 26th, 2018 at 04:41 PM.

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amfortas View Post
    True enough. I was thinking more in terms of traditional vs. Regie approaches. McVicar used to be something of an enfant terrible, but has gradually grown more conservative in his concepts. And as Michael Cooper of The New York Times says, "the new Tosca was meant to appeal to operagoers still lamenting the loss, nine years ago, of a beloved Franco Zeffirelli extravaganza"--not to mention smoothing over the controversy stirred up by the widely hated Luc Bondy production of 2009.

    Again, this isn't necessarily a criticism, particularly when such an old-school approach is realized as well as this one appears to be. And since this new Tosca has had the most tumultuous birth of any production in Met history--losing all three principals and not one but two conductors--it may well be for the best that McVicar combines his skill at directing performers with a reassuring, traditional staging.
    Yes, it is nice to see that David McVicar can put together traditional productions that are not boring.

    OK, so, we were supposed to have Opolais, Kaufmann, and Terfel.

    Opolais would probably be a great Tosca, but Yoncheva did well too. Kaufmann is a great Cavaradossi, no doubt. But then, Grigolo's youthful and impetuous version was not bad either. Terfel, I actually think is in vocal decline, and I won't exclude that Lucic is better, these days.

    Maestro Villaume was excellent. Who was supposed to be the conductor before Levine, Opolais' husband Andris Nelsons? Again, I'm not sure he'd have been better than Villaume.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 26th, 2018 at 10:19 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I saw a performance of the slightly toned-down Bondy production with its second cast of Racette, Kaufmann, and Terfel, and enjoyed it very much. My only objection to Bondy's concept was his treatment of Scarpia. I could certainly understand the Baron being entertained by ladies of the night in his private rooms, but there's no way this man would have engaged in bawdy behavior in the church. He's careful to maintain a public facade of moral rectitude -- the first words out of his mouth are a reprimand to the choirboys for their rambunctious romping in the church. But at least Bondy left events within the intended time period. I have trouble when this opera is updated to a different date and we have people in the 20th century getting spun up over Napoleon. Really?

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Amfortas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Opolais would probably be a great Tosca, but Yoncheva did well too. Kaufmann is a great Cavaradossi, no doubt. But then, Grigolo's youthful and impetuous version was not bad either. Terfel, I actually think is in vocal decline, and I won't exclude that Lucic is better, these days.

    Maestro Villaume was excellent. Who was supposed to be the conductor before Levine, Opolais' husband Andris Nelsons? Again, I'm not sure he'd have been better than Villaume.
    Yes, "tumultuous" doesn't necessarily mean the results were bad. Just that it was a wild ride getting there.

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    Opera Lively Staff Member Top Contributor Member Hoffmann's Avatar
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    Hmmm.

    The only McVicar production I've seen was his Die Meistersinger, and I wasn't particularly impressed.

    It was, of course, expensive looking and Act III quite flashy. But, at least in Chicago, the singing (what with James Morris' fading bass-baritone gamely trying to carry Hans Sachs) totally dampened whatever effect McVicar's sets might otherwise have provided. Can't blame that on McVicar, of course, but it shows that no matter the vision behind a production - if the voices aren't up to snuff, it won't show well.

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