A very solid production of my all-time favourite Puccini opera
I have loved opera and Puccini all my life. Tosca with its dark, tragic and complex story, compelling characters - especially Scarpia- and magnificent music is my favourite of his operas, though La Boheme comes close.
While I prefer the 1976, 1992 and 1985 productions, this production is very solid. The sets are grand with the interiors of Scapria's rooms particularly impressing, and the costumes are great, especially the dress Tosca wears in Act 1. This is helped by some excellent video directing and some inspired staging especially the Te Deum, while the orchestra and conducting are superb.
The performances are also fine. Raina Kabaivanska is an exceptional Tosca. I prefer her in the 1976 production, but she does still look the part of Floria Tosca, is in great voice and her acting is believable. Perhaps she does smile a little too much in the second act, but her chemistry with both Pavarotti and Wixell is to be commended, and her Vissi D'Arte is very moving.
Luciano Pavarotti is a tenor I do like a lot. I adore his soaring unique voice which is in great shape here, he has an infectious personality and in interviews he comes across as very funny and charming. Against all this, and I feel bad for seeing this, as there are a few exceptions(ie. Rodolfo, Duke of Mantua), I do find his acting often basic, with Kabaivanska he's fine as you do feel the connection between them, but while he sings Recondita Armonia, Vittoria and E Lucevan e Le Stelle superbly I find he stands there and sings, so the poignancy and arrogance of Caveradossi doesn't quite come out unfortunately.
Scarpia is a very difficult and powerful role, and probably the most taxing of the Puccini baritone roles with perhaps only Jack Rance and maybe Mechele(Il Tabarro) coming close. Prior to seeing this, I was especially taken with three performers in the role; Tito Gobbi, Ruggero Raimondi and Sherrill Milnes. Also Cornell MacNeil is very impressive. Scarpia has a sometimes charming and human touch, but he also has a very Machiavellian and manipulative streak about him, all these traits come through loud and clear in the tour-De-force that is Act 2. I think Ingvar Wixell, who is a very gifted actor, nails the role. I can understand when people say they are not a fan of his voice, it is very dry-sounding, but while I have also heard it is a small voice(probably compared to the other baritones you hear when you have these YouTube cage matches) I think it is pretty big here.
All in all, a very solid production. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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