A brilliant doctor on a quest for revenge buys a young woman and trains her to be the ultimate assassin, implanting gun parts in her body that she must later assemble and use to kill her target before she bleeds to death.
When a protective father meets a murderous ex-con, both need to deviate from the path they are on as they soon find themselves entangled in a downwards spiral of lies and violence while having to confront their own inner psyche.
That is not to say this 2000 Tosca is a bad one. It is better than the 2009 Met production with Mattila, Alvarez and Godnidze and the production with Patane, Cura and Bruson, but at the end of the day I just didn't care for it.
Are there good things? Yes, indeed there is. The music is unquestionably brilliant(Tosca as I have said so many times is one of my favourite operas ever), the whole second act is a tour-De-force of music, character and drama, and the duets between Tosca and Cavaradossi and the big arias have the distinctive lyrical beauty of Puccini's melodic writing. The orchestra are wonderfully dramatic, yet play the lyrical parts with sensitivity and nuances as you would expect. Riccardo Muti's conducting is commanding and inspired a vast majority of the time, if a little heavy-handed during the Te Deum.
Support cast are good if more vocally than dramatically, with the best being the oily Spoletta of Ernesto Gavazzi. Sacristan is suitably humble, the little Sherpherd Boy(or shall I say girl here)sings wonderfully and the Angelotti is serviceable if a tad melodramatic. Of the three leads, of which Tosca bases itself around, I can only call one great, which was the Scarpia of Leo Nucci. The whole "you don't have what I want" approach was fascinating, and one of few things on the dramatic front that worked. True, his Scarpia is not the evil-incarnate, complex quality I have seen in other performances, more the cold and icy kind, but dramatically Nucci is great. His voice has seen better days with some pushing and dry tone, but it is still compelling to listen to.
Maria Guleghina on paper had the potential to be a performer perfect for the role of Tosca. And actually she's not bad, she gives whatever intensity and passion she's got and the voice is beautiful and forceful if not quite interesting on a vocal-colour front. The problem is the performance doesn't seem like a subtle one, and the problem lies with director Luca Ronconi, who makes Tosca too much of a Prima Donna, making the more intimate moments and the "impassioned woman in love" angle of the role less convincing. Salvatore Licitra vocally is wonderful, with lots of beautiful and ringing tone, and he is ardent as well. But he is not a very exciting actor, he is often too stolid, making little attempt to give the poignancy and arrogance needed for Cavaradossi. He and Guleghina's chemistry together is also unconvincing, with Licitra spending more time watching the Prompter's box.
But it was the sets and staging that were the most irksome assets of the production. The sets are unimaginative and annoying, with Act 3 little more than a rubble, and the angles at which they are distorted into made me look as though I was watching a fun-house mirror-like set. I understand that they were mirroring the characters and their motivations(ie. Scarpia and his corruption), but this would have been more effective if any of the characters on stage had any similar thought to them. Even worse, the sets actually manage to elude the singers, rather than the singers enhancing the production. Of the many Toscas I've seen, the 1976, 1985 and 1992 productions were the most convincing visually. The staging is not as inept and offensive as the 2009 production, but alongside the Patane/Cura/Bruson production, it is the dullest staging-wise. Little is done to make the singers do anything interesting, a lot of it is just blundering around. The duets between Tosca and Cavaradossi have no electricity whatsoever really, and the Te Deum is literally shopworn, I just didn't feel Scarpia's evil in this scene like I did with Gobbi, Raimondi, Milnes, MacNeil and London.
The technical values of the DVD are acceptable, the picture quality is good and the sound likewise. The video directing is alright, but nothing mind blowing, I had seen productions that had so much emotional impact for Scarpia and Tosca's deaths because of the way the video/camera was used, the most thrilling being 1992 with Malfitano, Domingo and Raimondi, but the video directing is on the basic side, so other than musically those two scenes were a little lacking. The subtitles are another story, not the worst I've seen, but there are parts where they come across as stilted and anachronistic. Scarpia's "spill the beans" was particularly perplexing. In conclusion, promised much but didn't deliver anywhere near as much. 5/10 for mainly the musical values and Nucci. Bethany Cox
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