A Superb Festival Tosca in Valencia

G.Puccini, Tosca: Soloists, Orquestra de la Comunitat Valenciana, Cor de la Generalitat Valenciana, Escolanía de la Mare de Déu dels Desemparats. Zubin Mehta (conductor). Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts, Valencia.  4. 6.2011 (JMI)

New production Palau de les Arts in coproduction with Fondazione Festival Pucciniano, Opera de Monte-Carlo and Teatro Regio di Torino

Direction: Jean-Louis Grinda
Sets: Isabelle Partiot-Pieri
Costumes:Christian Gasc
Lighting: Roberto Venturi


Tosca: Oksana Dyka
Cavaradossi: Marcelo Álvarez
Scarpia: Bryn Terfel
Sacristán: Fabio Previati
Angelotti: Mika Kares
Spoletta: Emilio Sánchez
Sciarrone: Aldo Heo

Picture courtesy Palau de les Arts © Tato Baeza

In just five years, the Palau de Les Arts in Valencia has become a reference in Spain in terms of quality. In times of serious financial difficulties, no Spanish theatre can compete with Palau de Les Arts in musical terms, and the casting in Valencia does not fall behind any other in the country. If there were any doubts left, the Mediterranean Festival, which runs from late May to late June, offers a Tosca and Fidelio to put those to rest, too. In both operas the conductor is Zubin Mehta. Luxury casting assures the presence of Marcelo Alvarez and Bryn Terfel for Tosca and Peter Seiffert and Jennifer Wilson in Fidelio. On top of this, Jonas Kaufmann  has been announced as the Florestan on June 22nd. For any Spanish opera lover this is excellent news and I only hope this quality will last, despite the enormous difficulties.

The production of this Tosca is Jean-Louis Grinda’s. The stage is minimalist, rather feeble during the first act, with a second act centered around a large table, and a fairly traditional third act. Costumes and lighting are good while a few video projections add little of interest. Sadly the production fails to properly direct the actors. Grinda is no more than a traffic conductor which leaves the efficiently narrated production devoid of  brilliance or originality.

Zubin Mehta, at least, offered an excellent reading of the score. Zubin Mehta’s tempi were slower than what I remember from past occasions, but the drama never sagged. Under his baton the orchestra proved again that is one the leading orchestras in Spain, and perhaps the world. His was a more lyrical and intimate interpretation than is usual, particularly in the first act (admittedly a touch boring), with a second act of increasing dramatic tension and, finally, a magnificent third act. He gave excellent support to the singers, even though the projection of the voices on stage was not as good as on other occasions.

The heroine, Floria Tosca, was Ukrainian soprano Oksana Dyka, whose performance has to be taken in parts. She is a remarkable soprano both in quantity and quality, with an excellent voice projection. In sum a soprano perfectly suited to the demands of the character. What it does not work at same level is her purely vocal interpretation. She was rather short on temperament and long on monotony. Her jealousy of the first act was none too convincing, nor her despair and hatred of Scarpia in the second act. If she gets more thoroughly into the role, she could be a great Tosca.

Argentinian Marcelo Álvarez returned to the Palau de les Arts and this time in the character of Cavaradossi. I need not discuss the quality of Marcelo Alvarez as a singer, but his choice of repertoire is perfectly debatable. His voice is one of the most beautiful today and he uses his lyrical tenor (with not too much volume) with good taste. Not surprisingly, he offered  a very lyrical version of Mario Cavaradossi, away from any dramatic expression. He was at his best in act III, where he  gave an outstanding interpretation of “E lucevan le stelle” and an intimate and beautiful version of “O dolci mani”. As happens 9 out of 10 times, “Recondita Armonia” went unnoticed, followed by a somewhat disappointing duet with Tosca.

The main attraction of this Tosca was the presence of Bryn Terfel as Scarpia. If my information is correct, it was his operatic debut in Spain. No question he is one of the greatest Scarpia in recent years, both in vocal terms and as an interpreter. Although I did enjoy his performance, I felt more than once that his voice did not come with enough clarity to the room a problem either caused or exacerbated by the production and its sets.

In the secondary characters bass Mika Kares was an Angelotti with an appealing voice, but also penalized by the production. Emilio Sanchez (Spoletta) and Aldo Heo (Sciarrone) were excellent complements.

The Palau de les Arts was fully sold out and the audience offered an enthusiastic reception to the three protagonists and maestro Mehta.

José Mª Irurzun

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