Puccini Tosca, Royal Opera House
Bring together three of the most intuitive talents (and biggest stars) on the planet, meld them under the baton of Antonio Pappano whose command of every caress, swoon, and dramatic impulse of Puccini’s Tosca is not learned but instinctively felt and you have a recipe for the kind of evening that gives the Royal Opera its truly international status.
Not every recipe comes out quite as intended, mind, but as anyone who couldn’t get hold of a ticket will be able to testify at a cinema near them later this year the proof was in the cooking and this Tosca was tasty and then some.
First there was the alchemy of flavours with the most expressive and flexible of all tenor voices right now – Jonas Kaufmann – proving in his first aria and throughout the evening that he is not just a beautiful voice but a consummate artist and a beguiling actor whose ability to find something new to say with each and every phrase brings constant refreshment. His gorgeously dark and inviting middle voice is at the service of melting nuance, tiny hairpin dynamics that lend an intimacy to the grandest of art forms. And there are the thrills - the rafter-rattling top notes that come (apparently) so easily and generate such heat.
There was plenty of that in his first encounter with Angela Gheorghiu’s Tosca. Kaufmann’s ease as an actor raises the Romanian soprano’s game and though her bigger gestures still seem manufactured, the chemistry is unmistakable. Gheorghiu, like Tosca, is a born diva, playful and light on the vocal chords in act one, scornful in act two, and liberated in act three with stonking high Cs and bags of attitude. She doesn’t “chest” (Callas like) but rather colours her more vulnerable lower register turning it into something simpering and breathy for a “Vissi d’arte” that is – in true diva fashion – applause seeking.
It is a nice touch of irony in Jonathan Kent’s staging that Bryn Terfel’s Scarpia offers his own slow handclap of approval after the audience have roared theirs. Gheorghiu doesn’t need to “act” revulsion at Terfel’s sweaty advances. His commanding presence oozes lust and he dispenses it through myriad vocal sneers and chill whispers. How fitting that Paul Brown’s wonderful set here depicts a library devoid of books except those artificially adorning the secret door to the torture chamber. The age of enlightenment may be dead in Scarpia’s domain but this Tosca is very much alive and kicking.
Arts & Ents blogs
Owen Howells is a DJ/producer who grew up in Australia but was born in the UK. He came back to the U...
Fancy seeing a play about serial killers? How about inviting a funeral director into your home for a...
There are a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refl...
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
The Freemasons' Code: Dan Brown reveals the message that told him the door to the lodge is open
Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
Lord of the Sings: Sir Christopher Lee, 91, to release heavy metal album
Film review: The Hangover Part III (15)
- 1 Pope Francis: Being an atheist is alright as long as you do good
- 2 Man and woman arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder victim of Woolwich machete attack, named as Drummer Lee Rigby
- 3 'Sickening, deluded and unforgivable': Horrific attack brings terror to London’s streets
- 4 Archaeologists uncover nearly 5,000 cave paintings in Burgos, Mexico
- 5 Woolwich attack: The EDL will seek to exploit this evil crime for their own evil ends
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Nook is donating eReaders to volunteers at high-need schools and participating in exclusive events throughout the campaign.
Get the latest on The Evening Standard's campaign to get London's children reading.
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.