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on 7 April 2011
I won't waste much time discussing this quite problematic stage production seen in the Zürich Opera House. Robert Carsen is well known by now for his "original" ideas. He is not always wrong and in some instances, even in this Tosca, illuminates aspects of the story as never before. But his vision of a kind of theatrical Tosca within a Tosca pretty soon descends into sheer silliness. We have a prosceniun arch on the stage most of the times -gone are the church, Palazzo Farnese and Castel Sant'Angelo- and everything seems to go around a grand diva of the theatre, a kind of glamorous celebrity only worried about her own persona. One could argue that in many ways that is the Tosca envisioned by Puccini. But nobody without a previous knowledge of the story, having seen another more "conventional" staging, would have a clue about what's going on here. This is a Tosca that is elevated towards heaven in her own Te Deum and a Tosca that commits suicide throwing herself to the orchestral pit imagined at the back of the stage. Go figure. Thank God we have Jonas Kaufmann, a true wonder, the greatest Cavaradossi I have ever encountered, live or on record, with the ringing healhy tone of a Corelli and a tender mezzavoce and piano phrasing that brings memories of the best Carreras and only by himself could save the occasion and make this night truly unforgettable. He is also a great actor, someone that seems to live each role he takes. The result in this instance is almost miraculous. Thomas Hampson creates a suave and elegant Scarpia, perhaps more terrifying because of that than the usual truculent fiend, and is quite believable as a character. I don't think it challenges Tito Gobbi vocally, but his is nevertheless a substantial interpretation. I didn't know American soprano Emily Magee, but I should have. She exhibits a good voice and is dramatically involved, creating in her first attempt a serviceable Tosca, without being truly memorable. Unfortunately, and although this probably wasn't a problem in the opera house, to the unforgiving scrutiny of the video camera she doesn't look nearly as attractive as her very handsome Cavaradossi or her refined Scarpia. She is a good-looking mature woman and I would hate to sound unkind, but she does not fit the bill for Carsen's vision of Tosca as the ultimate glamorous goddess, a sort of Ava Gardner of the stage. And to my mind this in not a minor quibble in a production in which even the bishops kneel in front of her. Garignani conducts without bringing much attention to the orchestra. But this is the tenor's hour. You have to have it just because of Kaufmann's Cavaradossi. Now, I need to see him in an unoriginal staging, one in which I am not continually distracted from his moving rendering by production's whims.
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on 8 May 2011
Tosca has to be my favourite Opera of all so I am always keen to see any new production. For me it epitomises high drama with music. Of course the high drama and music were there but I think, even aside from the update to the 1950's, the production by Robert Carsen took far too many liberties. Several things just dont ring true. The constant reference to Napoleon are ,for me, important to the pacing of the story. Almost a century and a half later would intelligence forces be so poorly informed about political shifts? Would cannons be fired from battlements? Would prisoners still be housed in an ageing castle and still shot at dawn by a firing squad. To make this all plausible you would have to re write the complete story which could be possible. Think about what Bernstein did with West Side Story. Returning to the Opera on the whole. The tremendously powerful finale to Act 1 lost all its religous pomp and ceremony and was reduced to some kind of press conference that just didnt work. The whole concept of Tosca the diva was centred around the famous divas who portrayed the character in such brilliance throughout the 50's and 60's so you get the idea that Tosca is only acting and none of it actually takes place. I am still mystified what was supposed to happen at the end? The music stands alone in showing us Toscas suicide. There was a novelty element that the designer wanted to make a statement and tribute to Callas but at the opera goers expense. Within these bounds the acting and singing were superb. For once both the male characters were portrayed as vibrant and virile characters with the bad guy possibly being more attractive than the good guy - Hampson was superb as Scarpia and actually very believable as a maffia boss. Kaufmann as Cavaradossi was a little to wide eyed and far to easily dominated by Scarpia not showing enough determined fight. I particularly enjoyed the lead up to the assasination of Scarpia with the removal of the gown and Tosca waiting in her under garments but would she really have lay on the floor and not on something more provocative. I was also confused about the paintings in the first and second acts.How did Cavaradossi manage to repiant and finish it? I suppose we have to accept that to hardened opera goers productions must come up with something new and interesting. Sadly this one lost the plot!!!
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This is, in my opinion, the choice Tosca on blu ray. Kaufmann is great, of course, a bad actor nonetheless but vocally unbeatible, master of the mezzo voce. This Tosca is much better than his version with Angela Georghiu, largely because Emily Magee,is all Georghiu has never and will never be: a great actress with a truly, natural voice of impressive range and nuance. Still, Olivero's Tosca will never be surpassed, needless to say, but Magee's is arguably the best Tosca nowadays. Hampson's voice is a bit too light for Scarpia, but even so he's fantastic, really disturbing. This is a production by Robert Carsen shot in Zurich, smart and beautiful as most of his, although not among his very best. Do not expect a traditional one, of course, and, if you are a fan of old-fashioned cardboard productions, you will probably think that "not even Robert Carsen can spoiil this Tosca". For me, his production is smart, an unexpected perspective on the stage,, beautiful in its simplicity, and has some surprising,, very intelligent little twists that really add to the story.
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on 1 May 2011
With the cast asembled for this production, Jonas Kaufmann as Cavadarossi, Emily Magee as Tosca, Thomas Hampson as Scarpia,Valeriy Murga as Angelotti and Guiseppe Scorsin as Sacristan it should have been spectacular. I can't fault the cast their performances were without doubt memorable, the singing absolutely beautiful. Jonas Kaufmann's performance as ever charismatic, Emily Magee a wonderful Tosca and Thomas Hampson an excellent Scarpia. However, Robert Carsen's staging managed to take this production from what should have been a five star event to something far less. Not even the most devoted opera fan could rate this a five, for the most part it is difficult to see the action there is a dark dismal set on opening which is repeated for the most part throughout the three acts, and with minimalist sets. I do question why Carsen felt it necessary to change the essence of Tosca. I am sorry to have to say that I dislike this production but what lifts it from the ordinary is Jonas Kaufmann who as always seems to inahbit the skin of the part he plays, and vocally he is magnificent as Cavadarossi; for this reason alone this DVD is a must have.
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VINE VOICEon 3 August 2011
This is a remarkable treat, and worth it, especially if you like me couldn't get tickets for the ROH's latest Tosca with the star cast Kaufmann's performance finds new depths in Cavaradossi, who can seem brainless if sung less intelligently. He's vocally at the absolute top of his game, and I've never heard the big numbers managed better, but what also stands out is his subtle acting. It's clear that he doesn't think torture will bother him, but that's he's utterly broken by it; it's clear that he doesn't believe Tosca about the sham execution. I'm beginning to think that Kaufmann is not only a star for now, but one of those singers we'll all remember hearing for generations, like Caruso or Hans Hotter. He may not only be the best tenor of now, but one of the best of all time. Emily Magee is great as well, a refulgent stage presence, and vocally completely secure. Nothing wrong with Scarpia, but for once the opera doesn't belong to him. The staging is annoying, but not extremely so, and the fine detail of the direction is excellent. Warmly recommended.
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on 17 May 2011
Despite the title this production's real name should be "Mario Cavaradossi" and not "Tosca". Actually it was focused more on Jonas Kaufmann playing Cavaradossi rather than on Tosca played by Emily Magee. Or is it that the great personality of the german tenor outshone the soprano? The bariton Thomas Hampson has the right sleaziness in portraing the evil Scarpia, but maybe lacks a bit of "volume" compared to the dark and masculin voice of his rival Cavaradossi.
The direction concept is not that imaginative with its moving forward to the 50's, but the costumes are quite appropriate.
Paolo Carignani conducts smoothly , but a little bit more of "elan" would have improved the final result.
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on 20 December 2014
This was a great performance of a great opera. Jonas Kaufmann was a brilliant Cavaradossi and I look forward to watching him on other DVDs. I have seen Thomas Hampson singing a number of different roles but I thought his Scarpia was his best yet. Emily Magee has a lovely voice but her presence did not have quite as much to offer as the other two but that is only a minor quibble
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on 20 September 2014
A joy to hear such good voices from the lead singers in this very good production of Tosca. Emily Magee and Jonas Kaufmann were outstanding as the lead singers and the rest of the cast and conductor help to make this a very fine performance. I was not to sure about the bringing forward of the production setting but it worked ok.
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on 17 September 2015
Far better than ROH. Terfel a nightmare as I predicted. Georghiou past her best. Terfel makes faces like a demented rabbit and rolls his eyes using his hairdo as in Flying Dutchman. Terfel not watchable. Thomas Hanpson more believable but not enough heft. Better Scarpias, apart from Gobbi, are Raimondi and London.
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on 21 October 2016
I love Tosca, but I really wanted to listen to Emily Magee, and was not disappointed. Probably a few issues about interpretation, and the production was dark on the TV. Exceptional cast, super price, and enjoy the singing.
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