Tosca, Royal Opera House, review

Oksana Dyka's Tosca is more dumpy washerwoman than diva

It’s fourteen years since Roberto Alagna sang the doomed hero Cavaradossi at Covent Garden, and if his voice has lost some of its original lustre it still rings out with bright clarity as he proclaims his love from the top of his painter’s scaffold.

But in this revival of Jonathan Kent’s production he is very unlucky in his allotted partner, because the Ukrainian soprano Oksana Dyka has no notion of what her part entails.

This Tosca comes on less like the diva we expect than a dumpy washerwoman who has been taught a few stock operatic poses – arms flung wide, fists to temples – with which she rings the changes in a curious kind of semaphore.

She may have sung this role in Rome, Berlin, and Milan, but her sound has a relentlessly hard edge; charm, vulnerability, and pathos are beyond her, as is the subtlety required for the duel of wills in Act Two.

Did the revival director just give up? Oleg Caetani’s heavy-handed conducting didn’t help.

That the production was not completely scuppered was thanks to Alagna, who lifted things with his persuasive presence whenever he got the chance, and to a fine supporting cast led by Marco Vratogna’s sinister Scarpia.

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