Vittorio Grigolo’s performance of ‘E Lucevan le Stelle’ as Cavaradossi moved me to tears as never before in this production of Tosca on Thursday the 30th May. The score and libretto were heart-wrenchingly piercing in ‘E non ho amato mai tanto la vita, Tanto la vita!’ (And I never before loved life so much, loved life so much!). The raw emotions projected by this man awaiting a firing squad, knowing he will be forever deprived of everything he loved about life, were passionate and stirring. The intensity of the impact was generated by a message I received during the second interval, namely that my brother died a few minutes earlier. Puccini’s music, transporting the audience from fleetingly bright and optimistic pastoral sounds in the prelude of Act III to a gradual darkening of the mood with the realization of certain death, is overwhelming. Puccini’s score and the librettists’ lines blend to encapsulate the scenic and dramatic moment brilliantly.
Time and location are clear – Rome, June 1800. Baron Scarpia, the Chief of Police, is set to catch Angelotti, a political prisoner. Cavaradossi, entrusted to paint the Madonna in the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, finds himself helping the escaped prisoner. Tosca, Rome’s stellar opera singer, is jealously in love with Cavaradossi, fearing and suspecting him of having another woman when painting the beautiful Madonna. Scarpia, with executioner’s skills, knows how to exploit her jealousy to trace the escapee. His objective is also to have the woman he so lusts for – Tosca.
Bryn Terfel’s Baron Scarpia is insidiously manipulative and cruel. From the moments he appears at the door of the church, he casts a long shadow waiting for the chase. He is the man before whom all Rome trembles. The Welsh bass-baritone deftly projects his character’s capacity for sadistic manipulation as a man who knows his power. Terfel’s height, broad build, natural charm and acting skills make him a superb Scarpia who takes as much pleasure in drinking and eating as in torturing opponents.
Kristine Opolais’s Tosca is romantic and passionate. She caresses her lover Cavaradossi with her words and powerfully clashes with Scarpia.
Her desperation to save Cavaradossi reaches its peak with her passionate and desperate ‘Vissi D’arte’. Opalais has the looks and the lyric-spinto soprano voice required for the part and she exploits both to offer a believable Tosca. Yet there seems to be a mismatch in the last Act between her and Grigolo’s Cavaradossi. He divorces himself from her, concentrating utterly on his aria. Grigolo is a lyrical tenor with a robust and bright middle range. His acting is good, yet he fails to engage convincingly with other players onstage. The young bass Michael Mofidian’s Angelotti is good. His brief appearance in Act I is the cog that sets the unfolding dramatic narrative ablaze with tonal colours and fast yet subtle textural changes.
Due to the extraordinary and unfortunate circumstances for me, the music transcended to a new realm.
- Music by Giacomo Puccini
- Libretto Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
- Conductor Alexander Joel
- Director Jonathan Kent and Revival Director Andrew Sinclair
- Chorus Director Mark Henderson
- Cast includes: Nichael Mofidian, Vittorio Grigolo, Krisitne Opolais, Bryn Terfel
- Royal Opera House
- Until 20 June 2019
- Time:19:30 (The performance lasts about 3 hours, including two intervals)