Opera Reviews
19 July 2024
Untitled Document

Serafin and Kaufmann make this a revival to be proud of

by Moore Parker
Puccini: Tosca
Vienna State Opera
8 May 2017

It is quite remarkable to consider the succession of artists who have graced this Margarethe Wallmann production - now in it’s 6th decade, and still filling the house.

For this broadcast performance, Vienna’s Martina Serafin replaced Angela Gheorghiu in the title role - with both sopranos familiar to the production, and the former having suffered the misfortune of fracturing her leg in Tosca’s dramatic Act 3 leap in December 2015. 

A true singing actress, Serafin has, over the years, further deepened her interpretation of this role and here embodied a flesh and blood character who was not only truly credible in scenes that risk appearing trite or ridiculous - but furthermore one who unfailingly captured the spectator’s attention and sympathy. Vocally, the Viennese soprano possesses ample resources in dynamics and technical know-how for the role to compliment her artistic imagination and play with words - culminating in a deserved reception to match that of her “star” tenor partner.

As Cavaradossi, Jonas Kaufmann delivered a perfectly slick and carefully-paced performance to compare with any finely-tuned German automobile engine - absolutely reliable and considered with meticulous care and finesse. On this evening, his timbre appeared almost darker than in the past - indeed, on a par with Angelotti or the Jailer in their shared moments - but rising to easy heights and offering seamless dynamic variation within a spectrum which only occasionally fell foul to the sweep of the orchestra. 

Charmingly boyish and a touch introvert, this “latino Artist” is the antithesis of the visceral laissez faire and tonal brilliance of a Corelli, di Stefano, or the young Domingo. As in Kaufmann’s earlier showings here, "E lucevan le stelle" received a carbon-copy encore of immaculate precision, to the unbounded joy of an adoring audience.

Also returning to the production, Marco Vratogna, whose Scarpia is a notch more bullish than some, darkly menacing in tone, and risking being under-pitch at times for the sake of effect - while unquestionably cutting a figure to be reckoned with, right from his opening entrance. Act 2’s unfolding drama seemed anything but hackneyed, with both soprano and baritone coiled like two hairsprings which eventually escape their collets and unravel into a wonderfully-timed murder scene and finale in which Tosca (unlike some who disintegrate in hysteria) regains her composure and hurls her "E avante a lui tremava tutta Roma" with venom at her victim’s corpse.

Paolo Rumetz was luxuriously cast as an imposing, but highly appealing Sagrestano, with additional solid support from Wolfram Igor Derntl (Spoletta) and Clemens Unterreiner (Angelotti).

Eivind Gullberg Jensen was discernibly considerate of his soloists in terms of tempi (rather “fluid” at times on certain showcase notes) without becoming too indulgent - but with occasional moments a touch out of sync between pit, stage, and backstage.

All-in-all a 594th revival performance of this perennial warhorse for the house to be proud of.

Text © Moore Parker
Photo © Wiener Staatsoper / Michael Pöhn
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