Cher Public

Veiled threat

Since the Metropolitan Opera published its ’15-‘16 calendar, Thursday night’s Tosca lost its conductor, tenor and baritone. Who could ever have imagined that the one principal who did show up would be the often elusive Romanian soprano Angela Gheorghiu? Her idiosyncratically alluring, sometimes maddening, always fascinating Floria Tosca inevitably became the evening’s unmissable raison d’être!

Once one of the Met’s biggest stars, Gheorghiu, who recently turned 50, had been absent from its roster for nearly five years when she returned last season for just two performances of La Bohème opposite Michael Fabiano. While those reappearances were mostly well-received, Mimi has been a frequent Met role for her there since her debut in Bohème 22 years ago.

However, the prospect of a Gheorghiu Met Tosca, a portrayal until now seen only in London, Vienna and San Francisco, was a much more enticing prospect for the sizable contingent of diva-watchers who assembled last night curious to discover how the frequently capricious soprano might tackle this most coveted and demanding title role.

Although she had starred in Benoît Jacquot’s effective 2001 film of Puccini’s masterpiece opposite her now ex-husband Roberto Alagna, many doubted she would actually take on the role onstage. Yet five years later she starred in a new production by Jonathan Kent at Covent Garden, captured on DVD at a starry revival there in 2011 conducted by Antonio Pappano with Jonas Kaufmann and Bryn Terfel.

Thursday’s Met Tosca was an altogether bumpier, less glamourous affair. Substituting on the podium for the ailing Placido Domingo, who recently had gall bladder surgery, Paolo Carignani led an often raucous, unsubtle reading that didn’t sound like he was taking any special pains to accommodate his new star. Originally only scheduled to take on Mario Cavaradossi for the final three performances with Liudmyla Monastyrska, Roberto Aronica instead jumped in early for the ailing Massimo Giordano.

Returning to the Met for the first time since 2008, the handsome Italian tenor generally wielded his big burly instrument like a blunt object. While “Recondita armonia” seemed distracted and brusque, the “Vittoria” sequence in the following act sounded huge, its high notes thrilling. His softly introspective “E lucevan le stelle” began promisingly, but he then leapt to his feet and belted out the final phrases as if trying to reach the back rows at the Arena in Verona! I suspect many squillo-queens were in heaven with this loudly unpoetic Mario, but most of us were left wanting more.

Simon Keenlyside’s cancellation of all of his Rigolettos along with Dmitri Hvorostovsky’s partial withdrawal from Il Trovatore caused baritone chaos at the Met this fall. The originally scheduled Scarpia, George Gagnidze, took over Rigoletto, so Zeljko Lucic, having just finished his run as Iago in the new Otello, arrived early. Lacking the ideal snarling force—his “Te Deum” was particularly underpowered—Lucic gave us a Scarpia who was more the ravenous sensualist than the brutal predator. His warmly enveloping baritone and self-amused demeanor suggested that under other circumstances he might have been a real rival to Cavaradossi.

A delicately moving Violetta, like her compatriots Virginia Zeani and Ileana Cotrubas, Gheorghiu might not have seemed a natural match for Tosca. But Thursday she made the role her own: a feminine, vulnerable woman, not the shrewish virago one often sees. From the beginning, Gheorghiu had the audience on her side, something not every Tosca can manage.

Needless to say, she looked ravishing, first in a sleek black gown with red piping and red veil, then in a striking and immensely flattering crimson creation topped with a new and regal tiara. Richard Peduzzi’s bizarrely stark Castel Sant’Angelo set for the third act saw her swoop in, an avenging angel clad all in black with her lustrously glossy hair now tumbling around her shoulders.

This Floria was truly, deeply in love with Mario, ecstatically rapt as he sang the praises of her dark eyes. Initially, her jealousy at the discovery of the Attavanti portrait was playful and coquettish. Crushed at Scarpia’s revelation of the fan, she was unable to comprehend that her lover might have betrayed her. Alone in Scarpia’s lair, Gheorghiu’s frightened, trapped prima donna resorted to murder only when she felt she had no other choice. Her shocked and uncomprehending reaction to her brutal act was extremely powerful.

The playful lover returned to comfort Cavaradossi in the final act, blindly secure that she had succeeded in assuring their future together, blithely ignoring Mario’s urgent doubts. Her girlish delight at his play-acting gave way to fathomless despair when she discovered Scarpia’s scheme. If less heroically flamboyant than some, Tosca’s suicide has never seemed more inevitable, yet so sad.

Most surprising about Gheorghiu’s performance was its avoidance of the usual “diva” theatrics. For all her reputation off-stage as a demanding, sometimes difficult prima donna, her Tosca remained refreshingly down-to-earth and sympathetic although she still kicked her train with a stylish flair to match the best of her predecessors.

Vocally, matters were altogether rockier; those who prefer their Puccini opulent and stentorian would have been very disappointed. Gheorghiu’s voice has always had a touching fragility that made it a perfect vehicle for the composer’s Mimi, Liù and Magda. In addition, with age, the middle has dried out becoming more hollow-sounding, though her top remains remarkably shining and vibrant. To her credit, in Tosca’s dramatic and demanding music she never pushed, never screamed or sounded ugly.

To all those who have complained for years about her “inaudiblity,” I would say that since my first exposure to her—as Mimi the night of Alagna’s Met debut in 1996—I have never had a problem hearing her. Yes, there have certainly been moments where one wanted more voice than one got; her 2011 Adriana at Carnegie Hall in particular was often frustratingly under-sung.

One occasionally felt on Thursday that she was in over her head when she was buried under Puccini’s dense orchestration, but those moments were relatively few. Her “baby chest” voice sometimes failed to deliver the expected frisson, but her vibrant upper voice blazed.

One always expects “Vissi d’arte” to be a high point of any Tosca, but hers was genuinely special, a simple, hushed prayer delivered with exquisite shading and remarkable control. Her falling to one knee at the climax seemed both utterly in character and the perfect “diva” moment to solicit the riotous ovation that ensued.

A lack of rehearsal seemed evident in a number of musical mistakes and miscalculations. However, the improvisational nature of the performance may have also contributed to a palpable dramatic spontaneity that made her confrontation with Scarpia particularly exciting. More often than not, she eschewed Luc Bondy’s much-reviled staging and the ever-game Lucic was right there with her. Her complete restaging of the final moments of the second act were the most effective I have seen in this production, much of which otherwise remains as ugly and awkward as it has since its premiere in 2009.

While those weaned on Zinka Milanov or Renata Tebaldi (to say nothing of Maria Callas) would likely denounce Gheorghiu as a girl struggling to do a woman’s job, I was happy to have experienced her smaller-scaled, yet remarkably fresh and touching Tosca. Sadly just one opportunity remains to experience it next Monday before her polar opposite—Maria Guleghina—returns to the Met to offer up yet again her Roman diva.

Photos by Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera.

  • armerjacquino

    a portrayal until now seen only in London and Vienna

    And people who saw those productions have been saying for about a decade that it was a fine, perfectly audible performance, and people who didn’t have been saying for about a decade ‘no way can she sing Tosca, nobody would hear her’.

    Perhaps now she’s done it in New York we don’t need to have that conversation any more.

    • EarlyRomantic

      Yes, but was she miked? Also, she must have crammed the text in despair since no music scores are allowed on the Met stage during opera performances. Look at so many of her concert videos on YouTube where her nose and interpretation are typically buried in the music stand.

      • armerjacquino

        By bringing up miking *and* ignoring the fact that this is a part she has performed on stage many times, you win a much-coveted Double Yawn.

        • Krunoslav

          I have been at a tiny handful of Met performances over the years at which I thought some miking was employed--usually in reference to awkward set placement, as when a certain soubrette suddenly sounded like Lorengar as Eurydice followed Orfeo up the incline-- and once for a key aria at an anniversary gala performance for a veteran artist.

          However, whatever my mixed reaction to Gheorghiu;’s performance last night, I had absolutely *no* sense, from a very good mid-orchestra seat, that she was being miked, save of course in the offstage cantata with its flat C).

        • EarlyRomantic

          Gheorghiu frequently sings in concert or recital stuck to the score, of music she has performed and recorded. That’s what I call showing up unprepared. That’s also what I call projecting interpretations that are neither here nor there. A vacuum. The yawns are on us.

    • PCally

      I find the criticism of singers being inaudible bizarre. With the exception of my first Behrens experience, I’ve never to my knowledge had trouble hearing as singer. In Gheorghiu’s case it’s a common criticism but Corwin summed it up perfectly: there are times when you can tell she’s not singing full out and is wanting in volume but she’s always audible. And based on her mimi last season she seems to have preserved her voice quite well.

      • steveac10

        I don’t know about that. I remember sitting in a rather bad spot in the Orchestra for Ariadne back in the 80’s where Battle was inaudible to me unless she was above the staff. My earlier experiences with the Met at the barn they sang in in Minneapolis was loaded with inaudible singers. In particular I remember hearing approximately a third of the title characters’ vocal lines in Hansel & Gretel -- but that’s a problematic opera on that front without a master conductor (which it rarely receives).

        • The Met is a very inconsistent house acoustically. If you sit in a dead spot in the overhang you can’t hear anyone well. If you sit in a hot spot like the balcony boxes/balcony/family circle you hear everyone.

          Certain parts of the stage also have dead spots and there are hot spots as well. Experienced performers know to snake their way to the left of the prompter’s box for their big moments.

          • armerjacquino

            Ivy makes a really important point. Every acoustic has its idiosyncrasies, both in stage and audience terms. The Coliseum, for example, has a dead patch which hangs over the audience like the Death Star- you’ll hear more from the gallery than from some stalls seats. Then you have the onstage stuff. The Olivier famously has a sweet spot, named the Michael Bryant spot after a veteran actor who always made sure he was standing in it. I was sceptical but it’s unmistakable when you walk through it; it’s as if you’re suddenly talking into a megaphone.

            • Operngasse

              The Met is very uneven. For instance, in the Orchestra, seat R3, you can usually hear the prompter.

        • Bill

          For some reason Battle never seemed to able to project her voice as successfully as Grist or Streich, similar light sopranos -- in many cases of singers with smaller voices it is a matter of
          projection . But at the Met and I have been going there since it opened in 1966 I do not recall any singers who were completely inaudible -- in some cases a singer might
          be drowned out for a few notes by an orchestra led by a conductor who is not sympathetic to a singer’s limitations and there have been singers such as Battle singing Susanna where her voice was not really large enough to override the numerous ensembles as Susanna
          must do or the blending in the ensembles is not
          quite right ( an example in Vienna Christa Ludwig
          as Octavian was a bit too loud at times for Rita Streich but that did not happen when Jurinac or Seefried was the
          Octavian as they simply did not have the vocal volume that Ludwig had to offer -- it was not that one could not hear Streich with Ludwig but the vocal balance was not perfectly aligned when they were singing together).
          The Met does have some seats or spots, particularly
          in the orchestra, where the sound overall seems to be deadened and the acoustics less than ideal.

          • PCally

            It’s interesting how size sometimes doesn’t have much to do with it. One of the first things I ever saw at the met was Fidelio with Anne Evans. Not a huge voice but pretty big and there were moments where the voice just didn’t seen to be projecting all that much. Helen Donath was twice as loud as she was.

            • armerjacquino

              Consonants have a lot to do with it, and the ability to focus the sound.

            • messa di voce

              “It’s interesting how size sometimes doesn’t have much to do with it.”

              Speak for yourself.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              Text is important as ArmerJ says, but also Evans was always very physically tense which locked up her voice -- it’s no wonder it didn’t carry particularly impressively. Contrast this with a great lyric soprano who is free of pressure and whose shoulders stay where they should through the course of a phrase, and, especially, during the in-breath -- eg Te Kanawa, Vaness, Freni -- and you get a long list of singers who could never have dreamt of singing Brunnhilde, Isolde or Fidelio but who had effortlessly house-filling sounds.

        • PCally

          I usually sit up high in the fam

          • PCally

            *family circle so I tend not to have any issues. I’ve also never seen Battle.

    • Operngasse

      The full list of prior performances in this review is “the prospect of a Gheorghiu Met Tosca, a portrayal until now seen only in London, Vienna and San Francisco,:.

      That is not completely true. I attended her first SF Opera performance in 2012 and got to hear her sing Act 1. It seemed strangely underpowered, and during the following intermission we had the announcement that she was indisposed and being replaced by Melody Moore, who had never sung a staged Tosca performed. The intermission lasted roughly 45 minutes, and then Ms. Moore started Act II, facing Vissi d’arte. She acquited herself quite well in the circumstances.

      The next it was reported that Ms. Gheorghiu was suffering from the flu, and an ambulance had taken her to the hospital suffering from dehydration. So I guess this counts as a 2/3rd’s cancellation.

      • Lady Abbado

        Re: San Francisco: she was hired for a run of 6 Toscas, she cancelled the last, she withdrew/was taken to the hospital after the first act of the first performance, but she did the other 4 performances in full.

  • Lady Abbado

    Thanks for a beautiful review -- glad to hear she’s not yet a thing of the past! I look forward to the Sirius broadcast of her Monday (November 2nd) performance.

    By the way, she sang Tosca in London, Vienna, AND San Francisco (the latter in Nov-Dec 2012).

    I wonder what she will be singing at the Tucker Gala this Sunday: there are so many performers that I assume it will be only one aria -- Vissi d’arte or what?

    Her success as Tosca gives some plausibility to the MET Wiki listing her as a future MET Manon Lescaut, although I doubt it will be next year; my guess is she would first try the role in Vienna. So what’s left for her next MET appearance? My bet? Charlotte. Time will tell.

  • Patrick Mack

    Excellent review Mr. Corwin. I’ve had a love/hate/love relationship with the wavering Romanian ever since I saw herself and the ex- in a wretched Boheme here in LA. It amounted to more of a guest appearance by the two of them than an actual performance. Ms. Gheorghiu couldn’t be bothered to do any characterization in the first two acts and pretty much waived to the audience and mugged. Then Mr. Alagna seriously lost his way in the 3rd Act(?) to the point where the Misses was throwing him words and pitches. The whole thing was a horror. I think her Tosca is good but, you’re right, painted in miniature.

    • manou

      The veiled, wayward, wilful, whimsical and wavering Romanian waived her duty to act and waved vaguely to the viewers.

  • Great review, Chris. I also made one of my rare weekday excursions to the Met.

  • Chanterelle

    Glad to hear La Gheorghiu acquitted herself, and thank goodness she had the sense (of self-preservation?) to ditch the silly business with the fan at the end of Act II.

    Thanks for the blow-by-blow details.

  • Lady Abbado

    And a funny review of Tosca through the eyes of kids:

  • Krunoslav

    Maybe predictably, I was less impressed-- with her pitch, her volume ( measured out by the millimeter, like all of her effects) and, as (almost) ever, her playing not a character but displaying poses of camera-ready Diva Angela. Zero emotional truth, never moving for a moment-- and certainly less gifted vocalists such as Sylvie Valayre have moved me in this ultra-familiar part. Certainly for her age and experience the voice is in pretty good shape, and she’s a canny professional. I don’t think she needs to retire- but this role or Manon Lescaut would work much better in, say, Zurich.

    • julie

      You were probably outside the opera house if you say things like “never moving for a moment” or “zero emotional truth” …or maybe you have hearing loss/vision problems..You are clearly not a fan of Gheorghiu (and never will be).and that’s ok!..but don’t need to be delusive! And btw the opera house in Zurich is wonderful :)

      • Krunoslav

        Eternal AG fangirl Julie, your response is juvenile.

        I have been to the Zurich opera house many times and I was referring to its scale, far more suitable than the Met for this not bad assumption.

        The presence of Gheorghiu may have moved *you* to ecstasy and tears; I found her performance utterly calculated and “as if”. I was seated in row R of the orchestra from which she was-- in the main- audible, and she did a professional job, accentuating what she can do rather than what she can’t. But it remained a “cameo Tosca”. and to me more of a celebrity Appearance than an actual assumption of a role.

        She has moved me in the theater as Mimi and on video as Violetta. But not last night.

        • julie

          After reading your first comment, all your statements are highly questionable (to me). I am not an “eternal fangirl” as you think I am and don’t even have a favourite soprano/tenor/singer etc…but I do appreciate Gheorghiu’s Tosca as one of the finest today especially after watching it last night and comparing it to the other ones I saw. I’m not going to force-feed my opinion to others, its all a matter of taste in the end. If you dig it, awesome. If you don’t, awesome. I replyed to your first comment because I really think you are delusive, but won’t bother in the future as we don’t see eye to eye.and that’s fine! To each his own.

          • Krunoslav

            Since you have -and well before today--attempted to mute and cast doubt on any and all criticism of AG, I think you present yourself as a fangirl.

            It happens. Honi soit qui mal y pense.

  • Milady DeWinter

    Yes, thank you to both Mr. Corwin and Poison Ivy for the vivid reviews. Sounds like a true diva night. I’m happy that Gheorghiu elected to 1) show up and 2) forgo some of the silly staging directions. Can either of you tell us what kind of business she did do after the murder?
    I would be delighted to hear that in addition to her own couture, she brought along a handy crucifix and a candelabrum or two.

    • redbear

      Still looking for a translation of cliché into English… anyone?

      • manou

        Lieu commun?

    • Gualtier M

      Cliché or lieu commun -- or tired old trope or bromide, etc. -- the business with the crucifix and candles I believe comes from the Sardou play. There is music that specifically illustrates it in Puccini’s score. That standard business also illustrates something about Tosca’s character after she has murdered her tormentor.

      However, if a creative director can come up with business that is equally effective and fits that orchestral interlude then I have no problem. However, Luc Bondy is not that director and the business he came up with for that moment is ineffective and pointless.

      • I agree with you that the candle business is extremely effective -- or let’s say was extremely effective, because the element of surprise has long since dissipated. One singer might do the staging a little differently from another, but surely 9 times out of 10 it’s the same old same old.

        I would not say the music in the score “specifically illustrates it.” What Puccini wrote was three soft repetitions of the “Scarpia” the third varied the final time with a sudden change of dynamics to forte and the addition of an offstage drumroll. All that the music “says,” in my opinion, is that something is happening twice, and then a third time with a difference.

        If someone could come up with an interestingly original way to do the candles/crucifix business, I would be the first to applaud. Until then, I expect a director of Tosca to find something new for that spot. Just staging it the way it’s always been staged is as dull and unimaginative as a singer’s doing an imitation of an earlier artist’s phrasing.

        • redbear

          A long time ago I got a ticket to a Zurich gala of Tosca with Caballe and Carreras. She drops to her knee and places a candle, struggles to her feet and has to do it again on the other side! The audience was holding its collective breath. Then she picks up the crucifix, a rather good sized one and, instead of placing it on Norman Mittelmann’s chest simply tosses at him and it lands directly on his crotch. Mittelmann, ever the professional, didn’t even flinch and got particular cheers at the curtain.

  • Thanks for the wonderful review, CC.

  • julie

    In my opinion (!!) this role suits Gheorghiu like a glove. Her beautiful voice and timbre shined throughout the whole evening and is very well preserved, I was impressed. “Vissi d’arte” was very moving and actually brought tears to my eyes..The audience absolutely loved her!! Although not a fan of Luc Bondy’s production, the minor costume and staging changes were very effective! Bravi for everyone and thank you for a wonderful evening! We were in for a treat! Hopefully we can see more of Gheorghiu at The Met in the future

  • Krunoslav

    What did they shine?

  • mercadante

    Anxious to hear her Monday over the radio, though I find Sirius to make singers a bit shrill, anyone else have that experience?

    In the photos she looks absolutely gorgeous! Even more so than Netrebko. Brava Mdm Georghiu!

  • manou

    Mostly interesting for the photograph, which confirms that Tosca has indeed turned Scarpia’s head.

    • Cicciabella

      …and she turned him into Quasimodo.

      Thanks for this link, manou. The reviewer explains exactly what is at play here: that the Met is a house for bigger voices. Smaller ones, however beautiful and special, often struggle to project and lose their sheen. Gheorghiu is too smart to push her voice, so bully for her. I’ve often been mystified by reviews from the Met of singers I’ve heard live: they are dismissed as nothing special, or pushed, or ineffective, when I have experienced the opposite. Probably, these singers compromise the quality of their voice by trying to fit it to the size of Met, although, of course, everyone has bad nights. The truth is, and this reviewer clearly explains why, that some (very talented) singers should never sing at the Met. They should disregard thd (silly) idea that if you never appear at thd Met you haven’t “made” it and be content with “making it” in average-sized opera houses that show off their talent to the best advantage.

      • Something like Bartoli in Zurich?

        • Cicciabella

          Exactly like Bartoli in Zurich.

          • armerjacquino

            But of course Bartoli also spends every whitsun and summer singing on one of the largest stages in the world…

            • Cicciabella

              Salzbug Grosses Festspielhaus capacity: 2,179
              Metropolitan Opera House capacity: 3,900

              Bartoli also gives recitals at La Scala and major concert halls all over Europe, which consistently sell out. She used to be (maybe still is) one of the best-selling recording artists. All this without a major Met career.

              My point is that the Met may be too big for some voices, and that you can have an important or major career, and maybe even a starry one, without triumphing, or even appearing, at the Met. Whether Gheorghiu sings her Tosca at the Met or not, does not change the fact that she has been one of the most important interpreters of the role, even with the much-discussed reservations and idiosyncrasies of her interpretation. It is wonderful that many in the Met audience liked Gheorghiu’s Tosca, but, in terms of its place in the performance history of the opera it changes nothing.

              Off the top of my head singers who are highly to exceptionally talented and do not appear regularly or have never appeared at the Met: Frédéric Antoun, Anna Prohaska, Ann Hallenberg, Sarah Connolly (was successful at the Met, I believe, but has been absent for a while), Stephen Gould, Karina Gauvin, Klaus Florian Vogt, Eleonora Buratto, Ausrine Stundyte, Jessica Pratt, Agneta Eichenholz, Julia Lezhneva. etc.

            • Cicciabella


            • LT

              “she has been one of the most important interpreters of the role”

              Quite an exaggeration. Unless you mean “one of the most famous singers of her time to sing Tosca”. I don’t see her Tosca going down history. Traviata, Micaela more like it. Tosca- doubtful.

            • armerjacquino

              I think we’re at cross purposes, ciccia. I’m fully in agreement that a major career is possible without performing at the Met, or indeed any single one of the major houses, whichever that one might be.

              But stage size is as much a factor in audibility as audience capacity is, especially if the wings aren’t surrounded by flattage, and Bartoli sings on one of the world’s largest twice a year. It felt inaccurate to characterise her as someone who didn’t often venture beyond Zurich-sized houses.

              As far as Gheorghiu’s legacy as Tosca is concerned, she’ll be remembered as a major Tosca because she made a film of it. That’s just the way things are now. That film is on the Arts channel over here once or twice a month.

          • Chanterelle

            And yet I had no trouble nearing Bartoli as Despina and Susanna at the Met, though admittedly I wasn’t in Family Circle. Of course one did hear rumors of stealth amplification.

            I’ve never been a big fan of Gheorghiu, but I do think it’s one of today’s (yesterday’s?) most beautiful soprano voices, what’s left of it. I thought she did justice to the role in tBenoit Jacquot’s film in 2001, though it was close-miked and mostly shot in solo close-ups so was hardly proof that she could carry it off on stage. In ADRIANA LECOUVREUR last June at Bastille--another diva turn--she most certainly was husbanding her vocal resources, and I have no doubt most of her TOSCA is sung from the sweet spot downstage left.

            • armerjacquino

              ‘Stealth amplification’ is not currently technically possible.

              Yours, a man wearing a battery pack, a wire, and an ear clip.

            • Cocky Kurwenal

              What do you mean ‘what’s left of it’? She has oodles of voice going strong here, from earlier this year:

              I think the letter scene takes a little while to get going and she gets a little bogged down in her middle voice, but the second half and the ‘Va laisse couler mes larmes’ are exceptional.

            • CwbyLA

              I think this performance of Charlotte is wonderful. I had the pleasure of hearing her live at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, the Broad Stage in Los Angeles and the Vienna State Opera. Obviously none of them are as big as the Met but I did not have trouble hearing her. I very much like Angela Gheorghiu. I think she is a very special artist. She uses her voice very effectively and I have never heard her push her voice to make it something that isn’t. Of course, most of my hearing is based on her videos and recordings. Her musicality always shines.

            • Gualtier M

              I found that Bartoli projected better in the soprano range -- i.e. Susanna and Despina. As Cenerentola the lower register would just disappear especially if the orchestration was even just moderate. As Susanna she didn’t sound vocally diminutive next to Terfel.

            • armerjacquino

              I suppose there aren’t many people around who saw Sayao as Susanna but according to Ethan Mordden she used to emit little chirps and giggles in ensembles as Susanna to ensure she could be heard.

            • Krunoslav

              My parents heard Sayao often and liked her but they confirm she did just that. Typically of the deadly prose stylist-- the most convinced of the worth of his every orotund modulation since Kolodin?-- and highly biased Paul Jackson, he cozens every instance of Sayao’s doing this and deplores Blegen’s far less intrusive strategies for projecting her voice as Susanna.

            • Krunoslav

              “As far as Gheorghiu’s legacy as Tosca is concerned, she’ll be remembered as a major Tosca because she made a film of it. ”

              You mean like Major Toscas Catherine Malfitano and Renata Heredia Capnist? :)

            • armerjacquino

              Malfitano’s was a TV event, not a movie- it didn’t play in cinemas.

            • armerjacquino

              And now I google her, so was RHC’s. Mele e arance.

              Was the Kabaivanska film a TV one as well? Pretty sure that the Jacquot was the only ‘movie’ movie (and therefore likelier to be shown on TV)

            • Krunoslav

              OK, then-- is Ying Huang a Major Cio-Cio-San? Richard Troxell a Major Pinkerton?

            • armerjacquino

              No, because they weren’t already JUST ABOUT THE BIGGEST STAR IN THE WORLD when they made the film.

              Look, it’s not something I’m that invested in. I thought that ‘if you make a film of an opera you’ll be associated with the part’ wasn’t that controversial a statement, but you know, be right if you need to.

            • Krunoslav


              Here one thought that was Miss Helen Lawson…

      • The Bastille is problematic for many, not surprisingly.

        • E.g. at Elektra in 2013: “The only question was, could people up on row 382 at the back of the second balcony actually hear the wonderful (and visually glamorous) Waltraud Meier? I was in row 15, and with the aisle (row 15 is great for stretching your legs), the fourteen rows in front plus the gaping orchestra pit between me and the stage, already I found the singers looking and sounding distant any time they moved away from the apron”.

        • redbear

          But she had less volume than all of the others in the cast. I assumed she was on some sort of strike.

  • zinka

    I WANT to love her…but I fear it will be like the Traviata….a perf.that will tell me..NO…it is NOT your hearing, Charlie…You just heard Botha last week!!!!!!

    NO SINGER..good or bad in my short life…was as inaudible thant her Violetta…abd I still wan to LOVE her..she can be smallish..but PROJECTED…as Roberta Peters

    I want to enjoy a talented lady…but I am supposed to be honest with Zeani…I hope I have decent news….

  • LT

    Meanwhile, La Gulag is already rehearsing along with a certain former tenor.

    • Bluebeard

      Well, I last saw Giordani in Tosca in December 2013. While he’s certainly past his prime, he can still sing this role at a reasonable level unlike his Radames last season. With the exception of Monastyrska, It’s not as though they have more appropriate singers in this season’s casts anyway. He was paired well with Radvanovsky, and I have the feeling he’d do well with Guleghina (who was leagues better as Turandot in 2012 than in 2010) in this part. I look forward to seeing them with Lucic next week. It’ll be an old-fashioned performance, but probably entertaining as well. Say what you will about Guleghina, but she’s got guts.

  • Krunoslav

    I agree about Met careers not being germane to an artist’s overall success but find this hard to swallow:

    “Whether Gheorghiu sings her Tosca at the Met or not, does not change the fact that she has been one of the most important interpreters of the role, even with the much-discussed reservations and idiosyncrasies of her interpretation. It is wonderful that many in the Met audience liked Gheorghiu’s Tosca, but, in terms of its place in the performance history of the opera it changes nothing.”

    “One of the most important interpreters of the role”???????

    My candidates for that would include Darclee, Destinn, Jeritza, Muzio, Olivero, Callas, Tebaldi, maybe Price, Farrar and Kabaivanska…

    What particularly do you consider Gheorghiu’s “‘place in the performance history of the opera” to be? Most of what she did the other night was very conventional, and other lyric sopranos have sung the part before-- to name two, Albanese and Zeani, both with considerably more verbal impact.

    Am genuinely wondering what you meant.

    • Lady Abbado

      I remember when I bought tickets for Tosca in Toronto last time around their website described the opera and at some point there was a sentence about “past and current great interpreters of the role such as Maria Callas and Angela Gheorghiu” -- yup, in the same breath.

      So at least some knowledgeable folks outside our cozy Parterre community think Gheorghiu as one of the great interpreters of the role. Since all these supposed leagues/tiers/rankings are not objectively verifiable, but in the eye of the beholder, we can spend an eternity debating the case, but I’m not sure it is worth it.

      • Chanterelle

        Nope, sorry, opera house copy is not by definition authoritative. Met brochures have contained plenty of overly florid, breathless PR speak. It’s a sales pitch, after all. I would bet that whoever wrote that line had not seen either lady in the role. BTW, who *was* the Tosca for that run?

        • Porgy Amor

          La Pieczonka, possibly? I know she did it there in 2012.

          • Yes, ’twas she. And she was much more idiomatic than I would’ve guessed.

    • Cicciabella

      It seems while I was away my Gheorghiu-Tosca comment caused some wonderment. Rereading it, I can see why. I meant one of the most important Tosca interpreters of her generation, not of all time! Whether you like her Tosca or not, when she assumed the role in London, it caused a stir. Armer also pointed out elsewhere that it helps that she made a well-received film of the opera. Myself, I like her Traviata and her Marguerite (of her few stage roles) better than her Tosca. But the Gheorghiu Tosca was a much discussed, publicised, photographed role assumption, and an event in ROH history. I guess if there is a coffee book documenting recent ROH history, Gheorghiu as Tosca would be in it.

  • degan

    Well I heared her twice as Tosca. Once at CG and once in Vienna.
    Considering all my Tosca performances from the end 1990, I must say that she came closest to the perfect Tosca of Maria Callas. Maybe in history there were better ones. But in recent hostory, I don’t see anyone who sang a better Tosca than Angela.
    Radvanovsky and Racette are not among the best, Guleghina might be good in other roles, but let’s see what she will do next week. Opolais was absolutely not good at CG, reports say that the voice is not nice anymore. I also heared Serrafin, Mattila, Ushakova, live. But I wouldn’t count them all to a class of Tosca that should be remembered as a Tosca of the decade, whereas Gheorghiu made e role her own…
    Any suggestions?! ;-)

    • Cocky Kurwenal

      Yeah, I agree Degan. It’s not just that Gheorghiu sings Tosca well, it’s that she has a distinctive approach to the role that is uniquely her own. She also has a once in a generation kind of voice, which helps -- not in terms of size or range or possibilities, but it’s phenomenally beautiful and nothing like anybody else’s. And it doesn’t hurt that she looks the part to a T.

      I don’t know why it surprises people that she is a great Tosca -- she’s chosen all of her (very few) roles very carefully, she is top drawer in all of them and always represents herself at her best.

      • armerjacquino

        If I were to choose who I wanted to see and hear as Tosca at this point (someone who sings it, I mean, otherwise the answer would obviously be Netrebko) I can’t think of anyone I’d rather go for than Gheorghiu, a realisation which somewhat surprised me. I’d take her over Dyka, Serafin, Guleghina, Radvanovsky, Racette, Monastyrska… The only possibility which might make me waver is Pieczonka, but I bet Gheorghiu would make it more exciting.

        As I say, this is a conclusion I’m surprised to reach but I’d love to hear the name of a singer who would change my mind.

        • Vergin Vezzosa

          Perhaps Ms. Harteros, should she appear beyond her usual limited venues. I agree with you about Ms. Gheorghiu and am very much looking forward to Tosca in NY on Monday.

          • Feldmarschallin

            Well she has sung Tosca already but more on her schedule. The first ones were in Berlin then came two at the Festspiele with another 3 in September. Two more next Festspiele and then Paris with Kaufmann and Terfel (Bachler had the same idea). She is a careful person and picks and chooses. She didn’t want to risk the Elsas in Paris in January and got sick there once at thought perhaps a bad omen. But when things are right she will jump in for a collegue like she did in Dresden twice now for Arabella.

            • Lohengrin

              Never heard about a Paris Tosca with AH, JK and BT….. When will it take place?

            • Feldmarschallin

              Sept/Oct 2016 Bastille

        • Buster

          The only Tosca I want to see does not sing the part until 2017. At least, if she does not cancel, like she just cancelled her Hamburg Minnies, unfortunately:

        • Krunoslav

          Are Boylan, Echalaz and Rutter then forgotten names? :)

          • armerjacquino

            I’d happily see any of those three, but none would be top of the list. I’m obviously not a proud enough Irish South African Brit.

            • Krunoslav

              But you are “London-based”, the key concept.

              I’d like to hear Latonia Moore as Tosca.

          • la vociaccia

            Orla Boylan’s Female Chorus in the Aldeburgh LUCRETIA is some of the best singing I’ve ever heard in any opera DVD. I’d be happy to hear her in the States over many, many American singers.

            • Baltsamic Vinaigrette

              Órla Boylan was certainly worth the schlep up north to Belfast last night where she debuted her Turandot in the Bieito Nürnberg-Toulouse co-production. [I believe feldmarscahllin has seen this one]. Miriam Murphy sings it tonight, as she did on Friday; the production features as part of this year’s Belfast Festival.

            • lyrebird

              Having heard her Senta, and in earlier days in Britten’s Requiem, Boylan is exactly the one singer I would travel to hear sing Tosca. Thrilling is over used I know, but thrilling she is.

  • LT


    I don’t think an earpiece would be necessary in the opera house. The singer can still hear the orchestra normally. Also, on the HDs the microphones are very hard to notice. At least, I haven’t seen them. So imagine when there’s no cameras around, how much easier it would be to use amplification.

    • armerjacquino

      The ear clip is to attach the microphone, it’s not a transmitter. It’s used for people with short hair or whenever the mic can’t for some reason be put in the hair/wig.

      Of course efforts are made to conceal mics, especially for HD, because of suspension of disbelief. But they don’t always work. In the OTHELLO NT Live there’s a whole close up of me delivering a speech with a loose wire snaking down my neck like a varicose vein. Then there are still photos- how many times have we seen photos here of singers in broadcasts or HD performances and some Sherlock has said ‘Wait! I can see a mic!’. Then of course there are the other people on stage. Perfectly visible from there. Are we expected to believe that not one person- not one wiggie, not one chorus member, not one super or dresser or sound technician- has ever confirmed the practice? That’s a hell of a lot of people keeping quiet over the years.

      Besides, when I say the technology doesn’t exist, I was stating a fact, not an opinion. I asked the Head of Sound at the NT of it would be possible to mic someone invisibly. He said no. I asked if it were possible to do it in a way that was only known to a few people and wouldn’t be noticed by the other people in the show. He said no.

  • degan

    For me the right way to be a perfect Tosca is more a lirico-spinto soprano than a dramatic soprano. Other than for Verdi the soprano has to have the right approach for Puccini, especially when it comes to technique. The best Tosca is always the one with a big performance history in Puccini operas. That said, I don’t think that Wagnerian sopranos are a good fit for any of Puccinis heroines, not even Turandot (for me Callas and Sutherlland were superior to the likes of let’s say Nilsson, same with Fanciulla).
    Mostly a good Mimi (in the beginning of the career) is supposed to get a good Tosca when the voices ages and grows.
    That said, Gheorghiu for me is the perfect Puccini heroine, whatever she sang, b cause of perfect color, vocal line, breath control and much more, whereas she may not be the perfect Verdi soprano. Violetta worked perfect because act 2 and 3 have a lot of similarities to Puccini heroines.
    At the moment I don’t see any soprano who knows her Puccini that good. Net reebok is also a favorite soprano of mien but I don’t see her in Puccini. She is best in Verdi, what she proved in recent years. Racette and Opolias are somehow generic, where Opolais sings Puccini very good but the voice is rather acidic.
    More than any other composer, Puccini needs a beautiful colorful voice(Tebaldi, Freni). The only exception Callas for me that was a big Puccinian without a beautiful voice but with the talent to adapt the voice to every role she sang, even the studio Mimi.