Though it's hard to understand why anyone would want to memorialise
Jonathan Kent's drearily conventional staging, the two performances with
this trio are being recorded for cinema presentation in the autumn and
presumably for a subsequent DVD. All three singers have appeared in the
show's various manifestations over the last five years – Gheorghiu and
Terfel were part of the cast when it was brand new – but never together
until now. Any idea that such big names would spontaneously combust when
finally together on stage proved slightly wide of the mark. The performance
contained some memorable moments, but never quite enough to transcend the
deadening effect of the production; it was left to Antonio Pappano's
conducting to provide a consistent dramatic pulse. Puccini brings out
the best in him.
Even if his first appearance makes him look like one of the baddies from
Pirates of the Caribbean, Terfel's Scarpia was the pick – a scary mix of
casual cruelty and insidious charm, investing every word with menace.
Kaufmann's slightly self-regarding Cavaradossi made me listen to
every phrase for the astonishing range of colour he produced: if Recondita
Armonia in the first act sounded subfusc, his brief moment of exultation in
the second was gloriously full voiced, and E Lucevan le Stelle ran through a
wondrous spectrum of tints and inflections. By contrast, Gheorghiu
was anything but compelling, her tone parched, her acting semaphoric. There
was no convincing raison d'etre for her Vissi d'Arte, and so no emotional
core for her performance.