Puccini's Tosca

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Saturday, December 28, 2013

George Gagnidze as Scarpia in Puccini's 'Tosca.' George Gagnidze as Scarpia in Puccini's "Tosca." (Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera)

Today at 12:30 p.m. the Metropolitan Opera presents its controversial version of Puccini's Tosca. 

When Peter Gelb joined the Met he promised more adventurous productions, and shock he did. Director Luc Bondy's fleshed-out version of Tosca opened the Met season in 2009 and took audiences, accustomed to Franco Zeffirelli's hyper-traditional staging, by surprise. The production exploits the darkest characteristics of the opera: Baron Scarpia is more lecherous and Tosca harder edged; the stage is sparsely set. 

This is the production's second run this season with Elisabete Matos and Sondra Radvanovsky sharing the title role. Marco Armiliato conducts the Met orchestra for this dramatic performance.


Conductor: Marco Armiliato
Tosca: Sondra Radvanovsky
Cavaradossi: Marcello Giordani
Scarpia: George Gagnidze
Sacristan: John Del Carlo


Comments [16]

Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Mr. Lane, you have an impressive resume. While you list some impressive performers of the past we are blessed today with many fine Opera performers. Under present Metropolitan Management many of the best artists are not in their repertoire.
Some have backed out of performances for personal reasons, and some are just not on the "A" list of Mr. Gelb who apparently lets his "unique" personality dictate who he signs. With Mr. Levine having a diminishing role at The Met. Gelb has filled the void and is a disaster.
It seems you are correct that today's top Met management is more interested in signing "big names" than big voices, this is evident in their choices of many of this seasons "leading tenors".
Ms. Radvanosky in Norma which I saw in New York was excellent, and she was equally impressive in Tosca, as was most all of the Soprano and Mezzo cast of Falstaff. I will travel back to New York to see Ms. Fleming in Rusalka, my first Sat. Matinee performance in four years in a nearly sold out house should be exciting and I hope Prince Igor will live up to my expectations.
Most casting choices are made years in advance, so I do not hold out much hope for major improvements until after the Gelb era.
The choice of some of the directors hired by Mr. Gelb are also open to question many have produced pure trash.
I have witnessed such a decline in The Washington National Opera over the past decade, the result was their their near bankruptcy and eventual takeover by The Kennedy Center.
One can only hope that the major donors to The Metropolitan Opera and their Board Members will agree that it is time for a change. According to "slipped disc" and other box office tracking agencies and some "off the record" statements in print from Met Box Office personnel the Met is averaging only 65% occupancy this season. That begs the question of just how much emphasis is being put on the HD productions to counter the Box Office losses, and just how long will people flock to movie theatres to watch big screen opera which is apparently bailing out Mr. Gelb in the short term.
Until the Met top management focuses on THE STAGE, and the VOICE rather than movie houses this decline will continue.
I recall as a young man in the early 1960's the wonderful experiences I had in Family Circle watching the greats of Opera, and how in 1972 I asked my wife to marry me at the plaza fountain after a performance of Madame Butterfly.
Today when Bobbi and I walk past that fountain to see current performances we are unsure that we will be seeing first class opera.
I hope that before we are too old to make four or five trips a year to the Met. we will once again be sure we will be seeing top talent, as in many past decades under Mr. Bing and Mr. Volpe.
Your posts are excellent and I would love to listen to your recordings, please let me know how I can purchase your CD collection. Keep up your excellent comments and the best in your upcoming performances. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 29 2013 04:32 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Musicv Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

Credentials are in order to verify my earlier comments. So here they are. I have sung four three-hour-long solo concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium of Carnegie Hall including programming the Wagner "Wesendonck Lieder" and the Mahler "Lieder eines fahrende Gesellen" song cycles. I am an opera composer ["Shakespeare" and "The Political Shakespeare"], a Wagnerian romantischer heldentenor and the director at the Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute of Boonton, NJ. where I teach voice and train artists in all the Wagner and Shakespeare roles. One may download, free, my singing at CARNEGIE HALL by going to Recorded Selections on my websites www.WagnerOpera.com, www.ShakespeareOpera.com and www.RichardWagnerMusicDramaInstitute.com
www.wagneropera.com and www.shakespeareopera.com

Dec. 29 2013 02:43 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane, Lake Hiawatha, NJ from Richard Wagner Music Drama Institute, Boonton, NJ

It is difficult for me to state to a reading public my utter frustration with some of the performers, let alone the set and costume designers at the MET OPERA nowadays, who are either past their prime or seeking sensationalist means to bolster their name recognition and financial gains. Today's TOSCA had one element in the broadcast that was amazingly good vocally and dramatically, the title role's protagonist SONDRA RADVANOVSKY. As a boy at age 15, I would go standing room at the FAMILY CIRCLE of the old MET OPERA. After performances I was a regular known "quantity" conversing with the singers regarding vocal technique, with stage directors regarding dramaturgy decisions and with conductors regarding tempi, balances, etc. They often anticipated my questions and reveled in anecdotal references. That was the era of BJOERLING, WARREN, MERRILL, FAUSTO CLEVA, MITROUPOULOS, PEERCE, TUCKER, DEL MONACO, CORELLI, CALLAS, BERNSTEIN, LEINSDORF, MELCHIOR, FLAGSTAD, TRAUBEL, VARNAY, HINES and LONDON, etc. Many more might be listed but you get the "drift.' What a bad year for the passing of icons in the cultural realm. RISE STEVENS, more than any other singer currently was identifiable by her savvy in her performances as CARMEN and her other mezzo roles and her dramaturgical igniting her scenes with sensual creditable emotion. PATRICE CHEREAU accomplished more by his "capitalizing" on GEORGE BERNARD SHAW's "THE PERFECT WAGNERITE" view that the "RING" truly fit nicely into the schemata scenario of CAPITALISM with all its degenerate "dog eat dog" operating philosophy. Whatever one's own personal view of economics, Wagner himself had to contend with royalty to pay for the mounting of his music dramas and depend on Jewish merchants to finance what royalty did not. VLADIMIR JUROVSKI's conducting passion and skills top my most memorable operatic occasions this year. HE IS A HOLLYWOOD DREAM come true for what the ideal opera conductor should be !!! The passing of singers RISE STEVENS, MARTA EGGERTH, REGINA RESNIK, EVELYN LEAR and DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU and composer MARVIN HAMLISCH and conductor WOLFGANG SAWALLISCH and director PATRICE CHEREAU deserves considerable tributes to their own special talents and accomplishments. My own background with famous MET OPERA opera singer teachers [ FRIEDRICH SCHORR, ALEXANDER KIPNIS, MARGARETE MATZENAUER, FRIEDA HEMPEL, JOHN BROWNLEE, MACK HARRELL and MARTIAL SINGHER ] and acting teachers [ LEE STRASBERG and PHILIP BURTON ] and conductors [LASZLO HALASZ, FAUSTO CLEVA, GEORGE SCHICK and EDWIN MC ARTHUR ] and ] will sing the four song cycles that are most often performed in their orchestral garb: Wagner's "Wesendonck Lieder," Mahler's "Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen," Mahler's "Das Lied von der Erde" and Schoenberg's "Gurre-Lieder" at the New Life Expo at the Hotel Pennsylvania in NYC on Saturday March 22nd at 6 PM.

Dec. 29 2013 01:50 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va

Dear Concetta, I first experienced Sirius when it came with my new SUV back in 2007. It was built into it. I purchased an in home system no larger than a small cell phone and a docking station that is less than three inches by two inches, there is only one wire used to connect it to an in house stereo system, sound bar or surround sound. The tiny antenna attaches easily to any window in the home. If you have it in your car I believe you will not have to pay additional monthly fees for the home unit. If it is a portable system all you need do is unplug it from the car and place it on the docking station. Sirius always has promotions available, I ordered six systems with one year subscriptions for Christmas presents for friends and some family members, each system costing under a hundred dollars plus subscriptions, with in home docking stations and remote control. A very small piece of easily operated equipment for hours and days of vintage and live Opera.
Like you I just received a new laptop for Christmas and a friend downloaded a system (not sure of name) where it is easy to save and catalog Utube performances.
I will certainly save the clips you suggest. Later today I will hook up the new computer to my surround sound and big screen TV in my den so I can enjoy many of the fine Utube vintage performances. I also subscribe to the Met. Video productions, but feel guilty about recording the rented productions since I have an unlimited subscription to them.
I could not agree more with you about the Gelb era, however I believe that Mr. Volpe had a say in hiring Ms. Juntwait in his final year at the Met. It is however Mr. Gelb that is changing the direction of the Met from an Opera house to a movie production company and I understand that during their HD productions many of the performers are wired with voice amplification devices. The Met management says this is only for transmission purposes, however with today's audio technology one would think that strategic placement of microphones onstage would serve the same transmission purposes, although I am no recording engineer.
One would hope that Mr. Levine would never allow voice enhancement at the Met under his leadership, but Mr. Gelb would do anything that he desires to mass market his rapidly dwindling product and a box office reported to be selling only on average 65% of the house this year, even with some sold out performances of Onegin, Norman and Rusalka later this season.
In my mind Gelb is endangering the entire future of The Metropolitan Opera and should be fired for producing pure trash. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 29 2013 10:28 AM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va.

Dear Concetta, I religiously listen to the THREE live Met performances carried by SiriusXM ever week during the Met season. When she first took over the role as Met announcer, Ms. Juntwait was frankly a little difficult to take. However when she is paired with Will Berger (sp?) I find that their comments although sometimes too Freudian can shed an interesting light on the productions.
You have to remember that Ms. Juntwait works at the pleasure of Mr. Gelb who insists that his slant and orientation on Met productions is carried over to the broadcast booth.
If you can get beyond some of the sophomoric banter there are some interesting tidbits to be gained from listening to them, and I find that some of their interviews are excellent. I have noticed a difference in the depth of their banter between the nationally broadcast Saturday afternoon broadcasts and the other three weekly Live From the Met broadcasts they anchor on weeknights, perhaps they are not as scripted during the mid week performances than on Saturdays. If you have SiriusXM I think you will see the difference I am speaking of during their mid week broadcasts. If you do not have it and love Opera as much as you seem to it is a small investment that will return many hours of enjoyment. I have it on virtually 24/7 in my home and my den.
I have also heard some fantastic transmissions from the 1940's and 1950's they broadcast 24/7 on The Metropolitan Opera station. God Speed, and a Happy and Healthy New Year to you and good music to all.

Dec. 28 2013 06:09 PM
Charles Fischbein from Front Royal, Va

I just finished listening to Tosca on Siriusxm live form the Met. I have not seen this production so I cannot say much about it other than the generally poor reviews. However I was totally focused on the voice of Ms.Radvanovsky, she was excellent. I could not believe how bad Giordani sounded, I have heard better voice from mountain wildlife when hunting, or the sounds of a wounded Moose grasping for air when hunting in Alaska six years ago. His upper register was way off and sounded worse than College Opera Companies and summer stock opera productions. Several times I checked my bass, and treble and mix on my surround sound to be sure something was not wrong with it. However it was the voice I heard and I almost turned it off.
At times the orchestra seemed to totally overwhelm the singers and the Met Orchestra seemed to be struggling to cover for Giordani frequently.
If the Met keeps up this poor quality of performance lord only knows where it will end. Mr. Gelb seems more interested in utilizing HD transmission sound alterations than insisting that his conductors and coaches and directors focus on the stage rather than what is needed for high tech HD transmission. Mr. Gelb needs to realize he is in charge of what was once considered the premier opera house in the world, not a movie making company.
With the exception on Ms. Radvanovsky this production from a musical perspective did belong in the trash.
This Tosca sounded nowhere near as good as the Norma I saw this fall and I sincerely hope that for my next trip to the Met. in February to see Butterfly, Prince Igor, and Rusalka the quality picks up.
One of my New Year wishes is that the Gelb era at the Met ends, but that is up to the Board, and the Box Office sales. Hopefully many others will feel the same way about the Gelb tenure at the Met as I do and raise their voices. God Speed, Charles Fischbein

Dec. 28 2013 05:47 PM
Concetta Nardone from Nassau

The music of this glorious opera astounds me after all these years. What has happened to Mr. Eisenberg and his poems. I hope he is well. Would love to read a real snarky poem about Ira and Margaret. Forgive me folks.
Best wishes and Happy New Year to all, even Ira and Margaret.

Dec. 28 2013 03:38 PM
suncita from Sacramento

I know it must be a hard moment for many performers, but I think it's time for Mr. Giordani to retire. It hurts to hear him in this role.

Dec. 28 2013 03:33 PM
Ted Cerame from Perris, California

Holiday Greetings and Salutations from all of us to all of you.

While we have all become accustomed to the call for change it has been brought to my attention that we would do well to recall that some things never change. One of those things is the old and the true such as Zeffirelli had brought to classic Italian Opera; the interpretations’ that bring full justice to the intentions of the master’s who created those operas.
Figuratively speaking it is not the bells and whistles of distracting settings that have brought the Master’s to us today. Rather, the magic Puccini launched upon the world in 1900 is the substance of the genius that has carried Tosca over 114 years to today’s new audiences whose love of great opera is the constant driving the immortality of some things that do not change.

Good listening.

Dec. 28 2013 03:33 PM
Ralph Piscitelli from palm coast florida

Compared to the artists of the past that tackled this opera, there is no comparison. However this cast is tolerable, but when you come to the production, this one belongs in the trash, and especially not at the Met.

Dec. 28 2013 02:18 PM
concetta nardone from Nassau

CBC: Christmas was made even lovelier. Sons gifted me with a new computer and I was able to download the beautiful Neapolitan songs that I had thought were lost to me forever. Check out Francesco Albanese singing Voce e Notte on Youtube. You will know what I mean. Also found Hvrorotovsky singing Core N'grato in perfect Neapolitan. Wow. A real treasure trove.
Tante belle cose.

Dec. 28 2013 02:15 PM
AF from Nassau County, Long Island

For me, "THE Tosca" recording is the '53 Callas, DiStefano, Gobbi studio version with de Sabata conducting.

Best on-stage performance I saw was at the Met in early 90's with Guleghina, Domingo, and Milnes (but also loved Morris as Scarpia whenever he sang the role).

I do like Radvanovsky (and used to like Giordani when he was singing better), but never saw her on stage in this role.

Now my "mobility issues" keep me on from getting to the Met for live opera, but considering the new productions there, this difficulty may be a blessing in disguise!

Dec. 28 2013 01:54 PM

CBC I hope you had a great Christmas.I love the blood & guts in Tosca. There's so much in it. I remember opening night in '57 with Del Monaco, Tebaldi & London. Real red meat. But this production - yeeeeech!!

Dec. 28 2013 12:29 PM
RodolfoL from New York

It was controversial the first year this production was introduced, but not anymore. I saw it during the premiere and this year too (with Racette Alagna and Gagnidze) and I must say that it has been softened and now is, visually, a regular opera like many others.

Dec. 28 2013 10:46 AM
Les from Miami, Florida

Listeners will be better off playing C.D.'s of their favorites, but if you feel like playing operatic "Mission Impossible", then by all means listen. I liked the Sacristan and the Shepherd Boy's performances on the opening night broadcast. But be forewarned: The bell written to play an F that sounds before the Sacristan's "Angelus Domini..." doesn't. Two bars after the end of "Vissi D'arte" that include Scarpia's "Risolvi?" and Tosca's reply "Mi vuoi supplice al tuoi piedi?" are cut. Sadly, this is a "traditional" cut in many houses.
The three-bar postlude to "E luchevan le stelle" is also cut; to allow for applause, the aria ends on Cavaradossi singing "...vita" and the music resumes at "Moderato con moto" B major, 6/8.

Dec. 28 2013 09:05 AM
concetta nardone from Nassau

CBC: Hope you are well and that you had a lovely Christmas.
This opera is lurid, melodramatic and WONDERFUL. Who could ever forget Jussi and Zinka in this. Thank God for CDS.
However, this production from the Met is really awful. I do not know where they found Peter Gelb. Maybe he is connected. Let us hope today's artists do honor to this opera.

Dec. 28 2013 07:31 AM

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