A Passionless Tosca

GermanyGermany Puccini: Tosca, Deutsche Oper Orchestra and Chorus, Matthias Foremny (conductor), Berlin Deutsche Oper, 22.1.2014 (JMI)

Floria Tosca: Tatjana Serjan
Mario Cavaradossi: Marcello Giordani
Baron Scarpia: Sergey Murzaev
Angelotti: Ben Wager
Sacristán: Seth Carico
Spoletta: Jörg Schörner
Sciarrone: Andrew Harris
Production: Berlin Deutsche Oper
Direction: Boleslaw Barlog
Sets and Costumes: Filippo Sanjust

A year ago I saw this production of Tosca and Anja Harteros’s debut in the role. We have now moved from a special occasion to a mostly routine performance that held little interest.

The Deutsche Oper again offered the stage production by Boleslaw Barlog that has had 365 performances in this house. It turns 45 next April –  a true marvel of longevity. It’s a production that is out of fashion nowadays, with realistic sets, costumes from the period when the drama unfolds and not even the slightest provocation. The sets lack nothing: the Madonna in a column as the libretto states, together with the stack and the chapel in the first act. And, of course, there are the crucifix and candlesticks in the second act, and the terrace, the angel and the view in the distance of St. Peter’s  in the last act. It is a production to be recommended to nostalgic opera goers.

Last year Donald Runnicles was in the pit; this time it was Matthias Foremny and the difference is important. His reading was too slow in  the first act, improved afterwards, but never moved beyond routine. Mr. Foremny’s reading was 12 minutes slower than Mr Runnicles’s last year, and the orchestra disappointed. A Tosca without passion is not acceptable to this reviewer.

Russian soprano Tatjana Serjan was a rather modest Tosca. Listening to her, one does not understand how she has become Riccardo Muti’s Verdi soprano of choice. Her voice is not too attractive in timbre and rather short of harmonics. She is a good interpreter on stage and offered a strong “Vissi d’arte,” but it was far from what Anja Harteros gave us a year ago.

Marcello Giordani was Cavaradossi, and his performance was unconvincing. His tenor has never been very bright in the middle range, and his vocal evolution has been fairly negative in recent years. As I said, the center was never his strength but today it is much duller than before, and his low notes are almost  nonexistent to the point of being inaudible. The top notes are still there, but more insecure than before, particularly at the passage area. He went unnoticed at “Recondita armonia” but sang “È Lucevan le stelle” with gusto, although he had problems at some piani.

Baritone Thomas Hampson canceled as Scarpia and was replaced by Sergey Murzaev, who gave a recital of decibels and bad taste. There was not the slightest hint of nuances in his performance.

Ben Wager was Angelotti and his voice was poorly projected. Seth Carico was good as the Sacristan, but his voice sounds  too young for the character. Jörg Schörne (Spoletta) and Andrew Harris (Sciarrone) were well suited to their roles.

José Mª. Irurzun