Tag Archives: Tosca

God, I love ‘Tosca’! Reason one: the arias

Even the libretto cover is lovely, no?

Even the libretto cover is lovely, no?

Editor’s note: This post marks the first of a Tosca week celebration on Operatoonity.com, in homage to the 114th anniversary of the work.

So, Tuesday the 14th of January marks the premiere of Puccini’s Tosca, written that date in 1900.

I want to shout it from the roof of my modest bilevel home that needs new siding: I LOVE TOSCA!

Why? The music, of course. Whenever I am listening to Opera Music Broadcast during the work day (and I almost always am live streaming it) and an aria from Tosca plays, I stop what I am doing, and take it in-completely–into every pour of my body.

Even though Cavaradossi is nearly drowning in his melancholy thinking of Tosca during the transcendently lovely”E lucevan le stelle,” I am transported to another plane of existence while he sings. Completely alive. Taking every note of the song into every pore.

But it’s not just the music. It’s the sentiment behind the music. The man is unequivocal, unapologetic, and consumed by his love for Tosca. That kind of devotion to a woman seems so unfashionable today, in this era of non-commitment. Perhaps that’s why I find his devotion so arresting and transformative.

Heavenly day, who wouldn’t want to be wholly loved like that! by a man like Cavaradossi!

Not convinced? Listen to Alagna singing the act three aria ‘E lucevan le stella.” Oh, and here is a translation of the lyrics:

“E lucevan le stella”

The stars seemed to shimmer
The sweet scents of the garden,
The creaking gate seemed to whisper,
And a footstep skimmed over the sand.
Then she came in, so fragrant,
And fell into my arms!
Oh! sweet kisses, oh, languorous caresses,
While I, trembling, was searching
For her features, concealed by her mantle.
My dream of love faded away, for good!
Everything’s gone now.
I’m dying hopeless, desperate!
And never before have I loved life like this!
And never before have I loved life like this!
YouTube Preview Image

Comments Off on God, I love ‘Tosca’! Reason one: the arias

Filed under 20th Century Opera, anniversary, Classic Opera, Italian opera, verismo opera

for every season there’s an opera, especially autumn

Fall is my favorite season apart from the glorious month of May. (I’m a sucker for spring flowers. What can I say?) As fall blazes on in the Mid-Atlantic states, my favorite eclectic radio station plays the traditional fall tunes–covers and original songs. Just this morning, they played Eva Cassidy’s version of “Autumn Leaves,” Cheryl Wheeler’s medley, “When Fall Comes to New England/When October Goes,” Ralph McTell’s “A Leaf Must Fall,” and Iris Litchfield’s “Autumn Colours,” to name a few selections.

I’m very susceptible to seasonal influences in food, drink (all Octoberfest beers, for instance), and of course music. So, it occurred to me there may be operas that suit certain seasons better than others.

Autumn operas
Raisa Massuda of Baltimore claims that Purcell’s The Tempest is her absolute fall favorite! Purcell is generally regarded as the greatest English composer before the 20th century. Listen to this air from the Tempest and judge for yourself. There’s an appropriate solemnity to it–fall is the death of living things, after all.

YouTube Preview Image

Tenor Mitchell Sturges suggested Tosca or anything Strauss as perfect operatic fare for fall. He went on to explain that, “Fall brings a gravitas with it that both Puccini and Strauss excel in.”

The story of Tosca is intensely dramatic–relentless tragedy. If like me, you mourn the end of fall because cold, cruel winter is sure to follow, then choosing Puccini’s Tosca, arguably the most Wagnerian of his scores, makes perfect sense.

YouTube Preview Image

Another opera lover I met through Twitter who goes by the username Am Zénon,  lover of all great art and music and literature (Zénon is the fictional physician and philosopher from L’ Oeuvre au Noir by Marguerite Yourcenar),  claimed a favorite fall composer instead of a single opera. “Wagner, definitely Wagner in autumn, with his drama and music, stirring deep into inner life,” makes autumn the best time for appreciating his work. So many choices for listening to Wagner, so I chose a portion of the overture to Tannhäuser, which was first produced in Dresden on October 20, 1845. As I am listening to the work, looking outside my window, seeing red, gold, and orange-leaved trees, made more vibrant in the muted sunlight of late afternoon, it too seems a fitting homage to fall, blending minor and major keys and mournful strains of horns.

YouTube Preview Image

What’s your opinion on the perfect opera for fall? All three pieces are perfectly evocative and make for rich and rewarding fall listening.

Comments Off on for every season there’s an opera, especially autumn

Filed under Audience participation, Classic Opera

happy anniversary, ‘Tosca,’ and an aria to celebrate!

Sondra Radvanovsky in Tosca

Sondra as Tosca in the Metropolitan Opera production

Today marks the anniversary of a beloved, and I do mean a beloved, opera–Tosca, which premiered in on January 14, 1900in Rome, Italy. One stunning aria after another. A bad guy who is so utterly evil he makes your blood run cold. A flawed but valiant heroine who lives and dies for love.

It is my favorite Puccini opera–bar none.

Two years ago this month, I saw Tosca at the Met, and it was a life-changing performance for me. (You can read my Bachtrack review here. )

While some of the “regie” directorial choices were clearly questionable, the performances were nothing short of stunning. I fell in love with Marcelo Álvarez as Cavaradossi. German baritone Falk Struckmann gave a chilling performance as the villain Scarpia, one of the best I’ve ever seen on stage in the U.S.

But it was American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky who would seal my fate as a Tosca devotee for the rest of my life.

As it turned out, I was lucky to escape that performance with my life intact. See, during her second art aria, “Vissi d’arte,” which was absolutely breathtaking, Sondra hit that high note around 3:11 on the video below, and it took my breath away–literally. I gulped in air and began coughing.

Just my luck, that gorgeous high note at 3:11 resolves sotto voce in the next few measures. I thought the people sitting around me were going to kill me. Because the end of the song is so quiet, I couldn’t scrounge around in the my purse for a lozenge to stop the coughing. I almost died trying to hold my breath until the end of the song.

But death would have been a noble end if Sondra’s voice were the last thing I’d heard before expiring.

Thank you, Sondra Radvanovsky, for your peerless artistry, and for teaching me a lesson. Never sit through a live performance of opera without a lozenge clenched in your fist.

Here is Sondra’s stellar, gorgeous, captivating aria, for you to enjoy, too:

YouTube Preview Image

 

Comments Off on happy anniversary, ‘Tosca,’ and an aria to celebrate!

Filed under anniversary, Performers, sopranos

Tosca premiered today and where would we be without it?

Today in 1900, Giacomo Puccini‘s Tosca premiered in Rome, Italy. And aren’t we glad that it did?

Why is Tosca so loved? It combines beauty and savagery. Both the evocative parts and the savage parts loom more powerfully juxtaposed against the other.

So it’s important to those presenting the opera not diminish the potential for beauty in it or else we don’t experience the inhumanity of it to the depth that operagoers are expecting and deserve.

I suppose that was chiefly my issue with the Metropolitan Opera’s production in 2011, which featured Sondra RadvanovskyMarcelo Álvarez, and Falk Struckmann, which I reviewed for Bachtrack. I won’t launch into another review here, but I will say in retrospect that restraint exercised in stage direction as in writing can be more powerful than succumbing to one’s impulses to add, expand, and heighten, the chief example for me being the director (Bondy) choosing to throw three scantily clad (we’re talking pasties, here) prostitutes into Scarpia’s chambers.

I have no objection to beautiful bodies or their use on stage, but if Tosca is Scarpia’s source of weakness and Scarpia can get sex he wants anytime he wants it however he wants it, his need to have Tosca is sorely and sadly diminished–the power and the aftereffects of that scene are diminished rather than enhanced by adding more sex.

Does that mean I wouldn’t see the Met production again? I’d see it in a heartbeat. Falk Struckmann’s performance as Baron Scarpia was my favorite of the season, despite the over-the-top things Bondy incorporated into his part. Seeing both Radvanovsky and Álvarez in one show added a notch to my opera belt. Of course, I probably wouldn’t have a chance to see this cast again, so I will recreate portions of my experience for you here.

Here then are my two favorite moments from The Met’s Tosca, breathtaking moments, literally. In “Vissi d’arte,” right around 3:12 in the video below, I gasped, so completely engrossed in Radvanovsky’s climatic note. Then of course the aria becomes tender and quiet. Unfortunately, since I’d lost my breath, I began coughing at that point. I’m sure people sitting around me wanted to choke me. Then I began digging in my purse for a cough drop to silence my coughing. Rattle, rattle, rattle. I’m very sorry to those around me for disturbing their enjoyment of this aria:

YouTube Preview Image

And the other favorite moment I can share with you from the Met production is “E lucevan le stelle.”

YouTube Preview Image

Viva, Tosca! You will live forever in our hearts.

Comments Off on Tosca premiered today and where would we be without it?

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, Classical Composers, Uncategorized, Video

Comments Off on

Filed under 21st Century Opera, Classic Opera, North American Opera, opera news