Radvanovsky’s Performance as Tosca Is the Highlight of the Deutsche Oper’s Vintage Production

11/12/2018

Puccini, Tosca: Deutsche Oper Chorus, Kinderchor and Orchestra / Ivan Repušić (conductor), Deutsche Oper Berlin, 9.12.2018. (JMI)

Deutsche Oper’s Tosca © B. Stöss

Production:

Director – Boleslaw Barlog
Revival director – Gerlinde Pelkowski
Sets and Costumes – Filippo Sanjust

Cast:

Tosca – Sondra Radvanovsky
Cavaradossi – Massimo Giordano
Scarpia – Ivan Inverardi
Sacristan – Noel Bouley
Angelotti –Samuel Dale Johnson
Spoletta – Andrew Dickinson
Sciarrone – Paull-Anthony Keightley
Jailer – Byung Gil Kim
Shepherd – Lola Violetta Haberstock

My Berlin trip has come to an end with a performance of Tosca in the 1969 production by Boleslaw Barlog. This marks the 395th time that the Deutsche Oper has performed the Barlog staging – an amazing number – and one might recall that at its premiere the role of Tosca was sung by the celebrated soprano Pilar Lorengar.

The production seems rather old-fashioned by today’s standards: the sets are realistic and the costumes date from the early nineteenth century when the drama takes place. Nothing mentioned in the opera is missing from the Filippo Sanjust sets: the Madonna and the chapel in the first act, or the crucifix and chandeliers from Act II. Finally, in Act III, there is the terrace and the view of St. Peter’s and the Vatican in the distance. The Sanjust costumes for Floria Tosca were updated when Anja Harteros made her debut in the role some six years ago, but otherwise they are the same as earlier. It is a classic production for fans of nostalgia, but it does not have the brightness of Franco Zeffirelli’s legendary sets.

The musical direction was once again in the hands of Ivan Repušić, whose reading has been much in line with my previous experiences with him in this theater. In general, it was an effective though sometimes superficial reading, and one was bothered by excessive sound on more than one occasion. The best part came in the third act. Both the orchestra and the chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin were impressive.

If for no other reason, it was a performance worth attending just to hear Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role. She is undoubtedly one of the best interpreters of the character to be found today. In the past I had heard her sing the part of Tosca in both Madrid and Barcelona, and once again her performance was the highlight of the evening. She has a powerful voice with an attractive dark color and exhibits no difficulties in the upper part of the tessitura. She truly shone in the always much awaited ‘Vissi d’arte’.

Once again, Massimo Giordano sang the role of Cavaradossi, and he was correct but not much more. His performance was not particularly convincing, although his voice can be appealing. Ivan Inverardi also repeated as Scarpia, and he was somewhat disappointing in the part. His voice has amplitude but is not particularly attractive, and he is less elegant than is called for in the role of Baron Scarpia.

Noel Bouley did not overwhelm one as the Sacristan, nor did Samuel Dale Johnson in the role of Angelotti. Andrew Dickinson was a satisfactory Spoletta, as was Paull-Anthony Keightley as Sciarrone. Byung Gil Kim was a sonorous Jailer, and soprano Lola Violetta Haberstock was well-suited to the part of the Shepherd.

José M. Irurzun

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