After the Wagnerian concert form preview, conducted by the new Musical Director of Teatro Comunale di Bologna, the Ukrainian conductor Oksana Lyvin, the 2022 opera season was officially inaugurated with Hugo de Ana’s new production of Tosca, conducted by M° Daniel Oren, accompanied by a huge social event in the foyer – photoshoots and the local TV interviews were not missing!
Hugo de Ana‘s production was classical, yet abstract when it comes to sets and costumes, not very inspired, nor very inspiring, since the Argentinian director re-proposed some of his previously used ideas: the whole stage is dominated by the permanent presence of certain elements (two huge doors, the fragments of a colossal statue, an arm and a hand placed in different positions etc.) whose meaning we do not fully understand. The dark atmosphere was created by a black semitransparent curtain, extremely annoying for the human eye, mostly when combined by the stage lights, and by the lighting effects ideated by Valerio Alfieri. The acting suggestions and the significance of certain gestures that De Ana would have liked to highlight in this production are interesting, but there is a gap between those and Oren’s vision upon the score – gap that shows especially in the case of the less experimented performers of the second cast.
M° Daniel Oren has been conducting Tosca for more than forty years, he has taken it everywhere and it is one of the cornerstones of his repertoire and loves the voices. The Israeli maestro focused more on effect than on expressive depth, searching for timbres and colours, on narrative coherence. Often an extraordinary dynamic and expressive variety was achieved by the performers and orchestra, which were, though, intercalated with short moment of imprecision, sloppiness.
So, in this case, the greatest strength of Tosca’s premiere at Teatro Comunale di Bologna are the voices.
Maria Jose Siri is one of the most acclaimed Toscas today, and in the bolognese public welcomed her warmly as she deserves, with prolonged applause at the end of Vissi d’arte, and not only, followed by a bis.
Svetlana Kasyan has the beauty and voice colour of a marvellous feature Floria Tosca, but the lack of experience showed in the most difficult long phrases of the role, which require stronger support of the sound.
Roberto Aronica did his very best as Mario Cavaradossi and enjoyed himself the public appreciation, demonstrated immediately after E lucevan le stelle. Aronica was a bit in doubt at the beginning, but convinced right from the first phrases of the third act.
The Georgian tenor MikheilI Sheshaberidze was not convincing enough to get any reaction from the public after his first aria, which he eventually recuperated after his very passionate E lucevan le stelle. The acting, the relationship between Mario and Tosca resulted fragmented, just as the phrasing, because of the worry of the two performers towards the score, probably due to a lack of experience, as I previously mentioned.
Erwin Schrott was the one who righteously performed the role of Scarpia for the premiere, as the theater initially announced, despite an unexplainable confusion created during the week before in the newspapers and on the social media. Un tal baccano in chiesa and suddenly we recognize the voice and the personality of one of the most sought after opera singer of our times. Sonorous voice, beautiful colour, extraordinary charisma and authoritative stage presence. Unfortunately, during the second act a few notable moments of insecure solfeggio and questionable diction intervened in his interpretation. Despite this, Schrott’s Scarpia, in a way or anther, did not leave anyone indifferent.
Claudio Sgura returns to Italy after his great success at the Royal Opera House in London with his Scarpia, for four of the eight performance of this series of Tosca in Bologna. The imposing stature of the singer definitely helps in the incarnation of such a character, yet it’s amazing how such a sympathetic performer can turn on stage in the cynical and cruel baron Scarpia! Due to his great experience with this character, each and every phrase has the right tension, the right colour, the performer knowing exactly the score’s requirements and not neglecting also De Ana’s suggestions – and the voice effortlessly follows the desire of his master!
Noteworthy is also Nicolò Ceriani and his Sagrestano: the right timbre, impressive volume, healthy technique and, above all, musical intelligence following the sense of the word and the scenic action. Christian Barone was a credible Angelotti, while Bruno Lazzareti portrayed very well his Spoletta, between cynicism and fear
The cast was completed both on the January 29th and February 1st by Tong Liu’s Sciarrone, Raffaele Costantini’s Carceriere, apart from Pastorello which was performed by Francesca Pucci.
There was a fine performance by the Orchestra and Choir of the Teatro Comunale, the latter prepare by Gea Garatti Ansini, and a good performance by the Coro delle Voci Bianche under the direction of Alhambra Superchi.
Tosca will always enchant. For the premiere, the hall of Teatro Comunale was almost sold out. The audience was so enthusiastic to get back to the theater, closer and closer to how it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, except for the face masks. The voices were there, the staging, more than decent, respecting almost completely the libretto, the desire of the audience was at its highest level: results into a successful opening night for the 2022 opera season of Teatro Comunale di Bologna.