Spain Puccini: Tosca, Orquesta Sinfónica de Euskadi, Coro Easo, Miguel Ángel Gómez Martínez (conductor), Kursaal, San Sebastian, Spain, 13.8.2015 (JMI)
Floria Tosca: Ainhoa Arteta
Mario Cavaradossi: Teodor Ilincai
Baron Scarpia: Roberto Frontali
Angelotti: David Lagares
Sacristán: Valeriano Lanchas
Spoletta: Francisco Vas
Sciarrone: Rubén Ramada
Jailer: Juan Carlos Rey
Shepherd: Luis Larrañaga
Production: Barcelona’s Liceu in co-production with Seville’s Maestranza
Direction and Sets: Paco Azorín
Costumes: Isidre Prunés
Lighting: Pedro Yagüe
San Sebastian’s Qincena Musical is a must-see event every summer. Despite its name (Fifteen Days), the program in recent years has run through the entire month of August, with appealing concerts and at least one opera. As far as this year is concerned, there is a full performance of Tosca and a concert version of Mendi Mendiyan by Basque composer José María Usandizaga (this year marks the 100th anniversary of his premature death).
I had seen and reviewed this Paco Azorín staging earlier in Barcelona.
The production remains basically the same, but there are some important changes in the last act: the set has been simplified, apparently due to problems at the Kursaal. The original staging took place on the roof of the prison, which has now been replaced by an iron gate and a staircase that takes the action to the front of the stage. In my opinion, this is a positive change ̶ the original set-up was rather problematic for the singers.
Miguel Ángel Gómez Martínez offered effective conducting, but with excessively slow tempi that made his reading somewhat tedious, especially in Act I. Suffice it to say that the pure musical length of the opera was 14 minutes longer than the above-mentioned Barcelona performance. The orchestra did well under his baton, and the same goes for the chorus.
Ainhoa Arteta sang the role of Floria Tosca for the first time in Spain, following her debut in the role in Bologna in March 2014. From my perspective, she was the best singer in the cast with a voice that shines especially in verismo characters. Tosca demands a great performer, and Ainhoa Arteta was at the required level, offering beautiful piani in her aria “Vissi d’arte.”
Romanian tenor Teodor Ilincai as Cavaradossi had a strong voice but was short on feeling. There’s no doubt that in vocal terms he delivered what the character requires: his voice has gained in weight and size in a short time without losing the top notes. But as a singer he leaves something to be desired. As was the case a few months ago with his Alfredo at Teatro Real, he seemed to be looking for decibels instead of focusing on emotions. His two arias passed unnoticed, and he showed . feeling only in “O dolci mani.”
Scarpia is one of the most evil characters in the whole repertoire, and the part demands a dark voice, with much attention paid to nuances. Roberto Frontali is a fine singer, but his is not the voice for Scarpia. There was also some searching for decibels in his performance.
Among the secondary characters, Valeriano Lanchas was a satisfactory Sacristan. Francisco Vas was always the good professional in the part of Spoletta, and David Lagares was serviceable as Angelotti. Finally, the very young Luis Larrañaga made an excellent shepherd.
There was a full house, and the audience was very warm towards the artists at the final bows, particularly with Ainhoa Arteta.
Jose M. Irurzun