Kirill Petrenko and a Trio of Contemporary Opera Greats Deliver a Spectacular Tosca

GermanyGermany Puccini: Tosca, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Kirill Petrenko (conductor), National Theatre, Munich, 1.7.2016 (JMI)

Tosca © W. Hösl.
Tosca © W. Hösl.

Production: Bayerische Staatsoper in coproduction with the Metropolitan Opera and La Scala
Direction: Luc Bondy
Sets: Richard Peduzzi
Costumes: Milena Canonero
Lighting: Michael Bauer

Floria Tosca: Anja Harteros
Mario Cavaradossi: Jonas Kaufmann
Baron Scarpia: Bryn Terfel
Angelotti. Goran Juric
Sacristan: Christoph Stephinger
Spoletta: Kevin Conners
Sciarrone: Christian Rieger
Jailer: Igor Tsarkov

There were two exceptional highpoints of the 2015-2016 opera season: Lohengrin in Dresden in May and this Tosca in Munich. In both cases expectations could not have been higher, and the results were spectacular. They were led by two of the greatest conductors today, Christian Thielemann and Kirill Petrenko, and the casts of each were equal to the best recordings: Beczala, Netrebko and Herlitzius in Dresden; Harteros, Kaufmann and Terfel in Munich.

The Bayesrische Staatsoper is very fortunate to have Kirill Petrenko as musical director, although his appearances in Munich in the future will be more sporadic as he copes with his responsibilities as principal conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic. Petrenko is particularly strong in the Russian and German repertoire, but it’s rarer to see him leading an Italian opera. His conducting of Tosca was remarkable, impressive in musicality and exquisite in delicacy. If one had the impression in Act I that there was excess sound coming from the pit, it had more to do with who was on stage. His reading of Act II was splendid, with an intensity seldom experienced in this masterpiece. And what about the third act? The music in the first part of Act III was simply like a dream from which one does not want to awake. What a great conductor he is!

If someone asked what my ideal cast of Tosca would be, I would say Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel, and this is exactly what we had in Munich.

Anja Harteros, who sang the part of Tosca in Munich a couple of years ago, was superb. She is, in my opinion, the best soprano today, although there are others with more glamour or popularity. Her Tosca was a flurry of dramatic intensity and exquisite and controlled singing, and her talent as an actress has grown. Her Tosca will remain in my memory, as will her impressive “Vissi d’arte.” I am counting the days till she is back on this stage as the Marschallin.

We would have missed Jonas Kaufmann in this dream cast, but his performance was somewhat below those of his colleagues. In Act I his voice was disappointing, and his “Recondita armonia” did not shine. He improved in the duet with Tosca, although I’ve seen better performances than his. Mr. Kaufmann was at his best in Act III: he was outstanding in “Lucevam le stele”; and in “O dolci mani,” he proved he is a Cavaradossi second to none.

The great Bryn Terfel was Baron Scarpia: he didn’t just play the part, he was Scarpia. I had been lucky enough to see Mr. Terfel in this character before, but this time he was phenomenal, with so many nuances and such a variety of colours in his singing. There was not a phrase, not a syllable, that did not have the precise intent, and overall he was better than ever. No baritone can compete with Bryn Terfel in this character.

In the secondary characters, Goran Juric was a sonorous Angelotti, but Christoph Stephinger made a rather modest Sacristan. Kevin Conners was a consummate Spoletta, and Christian Rieger was a suitable Sciarrone.

My opinion of the Luc Bondy staging has not changed from previous times. It is a traditional, not particularly brilliant work:  review 

José M. Irurzun

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