TOSCA IN FLORENCE
review by Fabio Bardelli
Every time I attend a performance of Tosca by Giacomo Puccini I wonder about the reasons of its unbelievable success, which has been lasting since its première in 1900. Truth is that Tosca is a mix of felicitous combinations that are not easy to find in other works: politics in papal Rome with a wicked, lustful Chief of Police and his minions ready to torture, so that Cavaradossi’s ideals seem a yearning of freedom.
But above all there are three characters perfectly depicted in the libretto and the music itself: in addition to the Baron Scarpia, we have a painter and a celebrated opera singer, in love with each other, a typical puccinian theme. Then there are several disturbing secondary characters, particularly those gravitating around Scarpia’s world. There is also a young shepherd boy, saluting dawn with his fresh voice on the background of Rome’s bells (who knows what an impression a singing shepherd would have actually made, when, before the Nineteenth Century, sheeps were pasturing in the Roman Forum). Theatrically it is a highly effective work, and each of its three acts are splendidly concluded both dramatically and musically.
The Teatro Comunale of Florence has once again revived a production presented already twice in the last few years, with sets and costume by Francesco Zito and stage direction by Mario Pontiggia. It is a traditional reassuring likable production. Everything is just like one would expect, from the acting to the sets and costumes. The only liberty that the director took is to show a riot in the Church during the Te Deum: it’s a weird albeit harmless idea.
Considering that the staging was already a known quantity, in theory the most interesting elements were supposed to be the cast and the conductor. Daniel Oren would seem on paper particularly at ease in such a repertoire. He has an innate theatrical sense and is able to highlight the many crucial scenes of this opera. He also provides beautiful symphonic moments without ever indulging towards instrumental refinements for their own sake.
After tenor Fabio Armiliato cancelled because of indisposition, the major point of interest in the cast was Martina Serafin, a Viennese soprano whose last name reveal her italian background. Although still young, Ms. Serafin has already sung for all the european leading opera companies in a wide ranging repertoire. Her bright and expressive voice, her strong stage presence have contributed to create a fascinating and multifaceted Tosca. Sometimes her phrasing was not very personal, but as a whole she was convincing and effective, certainly one of the best Toscas of today, and i believe that in this role she will continue to give us much to admire in the future.
The rest of the cast was not on the same level. After Armiliato’s cancellation, tenor Piero Giuliacci was promoted to opening night’s honours, but a part like Cavaradossi proved to be too much for him, both vocally and scenically. The role is too heavy for his voice, so he must resort to force, but we must also say that he tried to give expressivity to his singing, even trying to lighten his instrument. I would rather pass over his acting and his embarrassing stage presence.
Baritone Alberto Mastromarino does not even have the excuse to have been suddenly moved up to the first cast, because almost all the performances of this florentine Tosca had already been assigned to him. He is simply unacceptable in his current vocal conditions, showing a disjointed vocality and a fragmentary vocal line.
The rest of the cast was modest indeed. The performance was however greeted with a cordial success, with the filled to capacity audience showing enthusiasm for Ms. Serafin and Daniel Oren, while voicing a moderate dissent for the tenor and especially the baritone at their curtain calls.
Review by Fabio Bardelli
translation from italian to english Nicola Lischi
musica di Giacomo Puccini, libretto di Giuseppe Giacosa e Luigi Illica, (da Victorien Sardou)
Florence, Italy, Teatro Comunale, february 21st, 2012
Direttore: Daniel Oren. Regia: Mario Pontiggia. Scene e costumi: Francesco Zito. Luci: Gianni Paolo Mirenda
Floria Tosca Martina Serafin
Mario Cavaradossi Piero Giuliacci
Il Barone Scarpia Alberto Mastromarino
Cesare Angelotti Carlo Striuli
Il Sagrestano Angelo Nardinocchi
Spoletta Mario Bolognesi
Sciarrone Cristiano Palli
Un carceriere Vito Luciano Roberti
Orchestra e Coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Maestro del Coro: Piero Monti
I ragazzi cantori di Firenze diretti da Marisol Carballo