The Times, May 14, 2008
Hilary Finch
Puccini: Tosca, London, ROH, 12 May 2008
Tosca at Covent Garden
There's a new and strange harmony - a Recondita armonia - between art and life, between the Madonna and the beloved on stage here: Cavaradossi's first outpouring hasn't seemed so resonant for a long time at the Royal Opera, in this second revival of Jonathan Kent's 2006 Tosca.

The new Cavaradossi is the German tenor Jonas Kaufmann, and not for some time have I heard such a musically intelligent and vocally assured performance. Puccini's virile and tender music comes fresh from the score, cleansed of cliché. Kaufmann's tenor is in its prime, and voice and body are lithe and purposeful. His sudden outbursts of revolutionary fervour are as thrilling as his powerful shift from dream to reality in his final E lucevan le stelle.

Kent's boldly designed production is wearing well, and Stephen Barlow has re-energised this revival. Detail is compelling, from every nervous movement of Enrico Fissore's Sacristan, to the serpentine servility of Hubert Francis's Spoletta. And this is a deeply Italian Tosca: Puccini's musical language courses passionately through the blood of Antonio Pappano, whose taut conducting embodies the political unrest within the score, and also emphasises its fierce modernism. We flinch from its dissonances, just as we are drawn into the horror of Paolo Gavanelli's Scarpia.

No caricature of embittered evil here. This Scarpia is a lumbering brute, padding across the stage. His voice has a chillingly gentle underside which he can suddenly heat and recharge into a snarl in a change of rhythm or inflection. Gavanelli's Scarpia has a lot of the Iago in him too: his tormenting of Tosca strikes vibrant chords with his counterpart in Verdi's Otello.

And an Italian Tosca, too. Micaela Carosi, making her Royal Opera debut, may lack a certain vulnerability within her burnished soprano. But this is a noble, full-hearted diva of considerable power. No hint of any Callas-like subconscious attraction to Scarpia here: the integrity of this Tosca brings out the dark, resinous tints in Carosi's voice, and contributes powerfully to the stature of this revival.

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