NEW YORK — The boos heard 'round the world on opening night were
mostly gone as "Tosca" reappeared at the Metropolitan Opera with a new
cast that turned Puccini's melodrama into a feast of great singing.
for that goes chiefly to German tenor Jonas Kaufmann as the idealistic
painter Mario Cavaradossi, and Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel as the
evil police chief, Baron Scarpia.
Both were making their first appearances at the Met in more than two years on Wednesday night, and both have been sorely missed.
has blossomed from a fine lyric tenor into something more. With his
dark-hued voice and formidable technique he now apparently can sing
Wagner, Verdi, Puccini and French opera with equal flair.
Cavaradossi, he displayed the heroic top notes required to turn his
defiant cry of "Vittoria!" in Act 2 and his Act 3 aria, "E lucevan le
stelle" ("And the stars were shining") into show-stoppers. Equally
impressive was the ravishing tenderness he brought to many soft
phrases, such as "O dolci mani" ("O sweet hands"), when he sings in
wonderment that his beloved Tosca has stabbed Scarpia to death.
murder takes place at the end of Act 2, and until his demise, Terfel
etched a portrayal of tremendous power. The sheer amplitude of his
sound has always been thrilling, riding easily over the orchestra
during moments like the Act 1 "Te deum," where most bass-baritones
struggle to be heard.
But Terfel has so much more to offer. He
can turn the merest whisper into a bloodcurdling threat, or casually
create chills as when he invites Tosca to enjoy a sip of Spanish wine
to calm her nerves before he plans to rape her.
If the title
character herself has been left for last, it's not any fault of
American soprano Patricia Racette. She delivered a fine, forthright
performance, more down-to-earth and less the prima donna than many
Toscas. Aside from a rushed high note and some pitch problems at the
end of her aria, "Vissi d'arte" ("I lived for art"), she sang the part
extremely well. Still, her overall impact paled a bit next to the
high-powered performances of the men.
The production by French
director Luc Bondy has been modified since it opened the season to the
loudest booing in Met memory — a reception that created headlines
worldwide. Scarpia no longer lasciviously embraces the statue of the
Madonna at the end of Act 1. Tosca no longer fans herself while
casually reclining on a sofa after murdering Scarpia.
glitch made it appear another effect had been dropped. At the very end,
Tosca is supposed to leap to her death off the prison battlements where
her lover has just been executed. Bondy has a body double jump from a
parapet and hang by wires over the stage. But the lights went out too
soon, and she jumped in darkness.
There were still a few boos at
the final curtain, but cheers for the singers drowned them out. The
cheers were also loud for conductor Fabio Luisi, who led a sweeping,
tense account of a score that can sound merely melodramatic.