Cher Public

Bringing up Bondy

Is it not enough that the more ignorant segments of the public and the critical establishment continue to shout praise to David McVicar‘s torpid Tosca as the greatest triumph of the reactionary since the Bourbon Restoration? Must we also endure the smug smirking of the likes of Justin Davidson, who yet again has leapt at the opportunity to kick the cold corpse of Luc Bondy

Look, everyone at the time notes that the Bondy production had some major technical issues. But unlike the Zeffirelli it succeeded and the faux-Zeffirelli all the marble-and-ormolu fangirls are creaming about currently, the Bondy had some things very few productions of Tosca can claim: a point of view and a connection to the society its public inhabits.

This is what I wrote when the production opened:

For this, the tale of a 19th-century Roman opera diva and the political prisoner who loves her, Bondy downplayed the glamour to evoke the horrors of torture as an interrogation technique.

Instead of the sunny cathedral of Zeffirelli’s set, we saw a dank bricked-up catacomb. Tosca is summoned for questioning to a grimy waiting room, where the police chief has just been serviced by hookers.

Bondy deserves kudos for taking the opera seriously and for guiding Mattila’s harrowing portrait of the woman’s gradual mental breakdown. The showstopper aria, “Vissi d’arte,” was turned from pious prayer into a numb realization that, in her hour of need, Tosca could expect no help from God, while the murder scene, for once, looked like a real act of violence: messy and ugly.

In contrast to Sonya Yoncheva‘s handsomely-sung concert version of Tosca’s prayer, let’s take a look as what Karita Mattila did with the same scene:

And what of the much-derided curtain for the second act, as seen in the photograph above: Tosca reclining on the sofa and slowly fanning herself? Back in 2009, all anyone was talking about was the missing candles. (You know, the ones decreed on the third Sinai Tablet?)

But in 2018 it seems quite clear that what Bondy was getting at in this scene was a depiction of the “freezing” disassociation phenomenon described by victims of sexual violence.

One Tosca was thoughtful; the other is pretty. And by endorsing the McVicar, Peter Gelb has made it perfectly clear what the Met’s priorities are from now on.

Photo: Ken Howard

  • Walraud Riegler

    You are TOTALLY right. I had the chance to see the Bondy production in München four times, always was drawn away from the intense interpretation of misguided force, the revolutionary idea of the painter and the deep love of Tosca. Too “pretty” set design cover the drama. It is the same with McVicars Andrea Chenier in London: a fresh cleaned revolution! It may work with Adriana Lecouvreur, as it is mostly a lovestory.

    • ER

      I don’t think Gelb is de facto favoring pretty over thoughtful. But if we need years of post-mortem analysis and explanation to be able to appreciate a production (and yes I did like it overall) shouldn’t the blame lie on the director rather than La Gelb? Bondy may have had a great concept, but he was unable to transport it across the stage lights. It’s the old Einstein quote: If you can’t explain it simply you probably don’t understand it well enough.

      • Our Own JJ

        The years of post-mortem analysis were by far devoted to how Puccini wrote music to set down candles by and how wonderful it was when Renata ran off stage instead of screaming.

  • southerndoc1

    Thank you.

    I always thought Act 1 was set in a side chapel that was unfinshed, which one still sees today, as opposed to a catacomb. Either way, it was appropriately disturbing.

    Can’t bring myself to be too hard on Gelb. I think he’s choosing his battles, and Tosca is one he was willing to lose.

    It’s hard to imagine any new staging of it that would interest me much at this stage.

    • Yes, why does the first act have to be set in a facsimile St. Peter’s Basilica? I liked the set too.

      • No reason why it should be set in St Peter’s is there?

  • I agree that the Bondy had a real POV and wasn’t dreadful like everyone said. Unfortunately, like many productions, its more lurid aspects got all the attention — Scarpia making love to the statue of the Madonna, the superfluous prostitutes at the beginning of the second act.

    I’m not at all surprised that the conservative crowd that equates direction with pretty stage picture is cheering McVicar’s production. But are the critics? I’ve only read three reviews (TT, JJ and CC) and all of them talk about this production as a step in the wrong direction.

    • Our Own JJ

      Well, I would not call the prostitutes “superfluous.” I thought their presence helped indicate Scarpia’s association between sex and power, and for that matter suggested he was stimulated by risk-taking behavior.

      • I had not thought of the risk-taking angle, which is interesting.

        I saw them as superfluous because I didn’t think Scarpia would be busy with several prostitutes on a night when he’s expecting (and relishing the thought of) a major sexual conquest. I just felt that I was being hit over the head with the sex theme, especially since that scene comes right after the end of the first act with the Madonna business.

        • Our Own JJ

          I think Bryn Terfel got that bit exactly right. He allowed one of the hookers to blow him, but stopped her before he came. So the point of the hookers was what we call today “edging.”

        • Rosina Leckermaul

          I always thought of Scarpia as an aristocrat, elegant but vicious. He was after the most beautiful, most talented, least available woman, Tosca. The prostitutes were out of character for him. No challenge there. Hated that moment in the Bondy production.

          • I think there’s a good case to be made that Scarpia’s elegance was a veneer and that beneath it, he was a vulgar thug.

            • Susan Brodie

              Well yes, but there wasn’t much veneer in Bondy’s reading. That was probably my biggest objection to the production.

            • Rosina Leckermaul

              Yes, but it’s more dramatically interesting if the veneer stays on for a while and the vulgar thug gets displayed gradually during Act 2.

          • Apulia

            elegant, vicious aristocrats are as into prostitutes as anyone else; “class” doesn’t matter

            • Rosina Leckermaul

              That may be, but on stage it’s vulgar and too obvious to be interesting.

  • Dori Jacobs

    This scene makes me wish I had seen the Bondy production!

  • John Yohalem

    My favorite Tosca was my first, the Otto Schenk at the Met. Very realistic. The Pope walked by in the procession that ended Act I — but you could only see him (under a canopy held by acolytes) through an arch; our attention was on Scarpia, front and center in a side chapel. Zeffirelli overdid it, put Scarpia front and center so that everyone was staring at him as he moodily, pornographically, forgot God. And so on. Everything just a bit too much.

    But the thing both of them presented was, I believe, a great part of Puccini’s, Illica’s, Sardou’s intention in presenting this story: Elegance, suavity, an aristocratic rule that reassures us we live in a sane, ethical society — violated by the actions of each of the characters, especially Scarpia. The guardian of order and principle is in fact unprincipled, violent, murderous, disgusting — and we are jolted out of our daydream of the world by the reality of his behavior, and therefore join Tosca, Cavaradossi, Angelotti as those who have been driven to defy, to wish to overturn that rule for its hypocrisy and cruelty. The scenic contrast is basic to the story they tell. It is like putting Trump in the White House.

    Bondy had a Scarpia jerking off before the Madonna, in mid-procession. Apparently no one in the crowd witnessing this batted an eyelash. So we know we’re in a world without standards or principles. So why be shocked at anything anybody does? Act II was worse: So garish and ugly a set that I never wanted to experience it again (and only went back once, to hear Alagna). And it wasn’t even a room; it was a stairway landing. No locks on the doors. Anyone could have walked through and observed Scarpia in mid-rape or mid-torture. There were no rules here to defy, certainly not the pious hypocrisy of Queen Carolina and her minions or (if we look at this as the world of Bondy’s audience) the myth of a democracy, a free society. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, but Bondy’s Scarpia never thought to pay it. He was being serviced openly before his subordinates — does that in fact happen? Even the smarmiest of dictatorships keep it out of the office. (I am thinking of the Soviets, of Goebbels and Goering, of the Somozas and the Castros and Mussolini and Saddam Hussein. We know Trump TALKS about it in front of servants, reporters, TV audiences — but does he ever actually rape someone in public?) Why is Tosca startled by Scarpia’s behavior? Isn’t it exactly what the set, the staging, the things we’ve all observed demand?

    It was a shabby little shocker without shocks, totally aside from the mis-timed leap from the Castello (which never did — and never could — have worked right, so that I doubted Bondy’s skill in coming up with it).

    The best thing about the new staging is that, if the stage directors can be persuaded to leave it alone (as they did with the Schenk), any new Tosca, Scarpia and Cavaradossi who stroll in from the international circuit, can play their role as s/he thinks suitable, and anything at all will fit. Or would if they’d clear out all the unnecessary furniture cluttering Act II.

    • Walraud Riegler

      ….and it will work for 60 years like in Vienna? There every cast plays its own Tosca in that decoration from 1958. Is that the way of opera we want to see?

      • Rosina Leckermaul

        The Met was like that in the 50s. Sometimes six Tosca in a season. IT was fun to compare.

        • Bill

          Walraud -- actually yes -- in an opera such as Tosca it would be a bit dull to see each and every Tosca unable to bring her own interpretation of the role with at least some dramatic variation just as there is also some dramatic variation. At the Met it was indeed
          thrilling to witness Magda Oliveiro present her ‘own’ version of Tosca -- very old school but
          absolutely compelling even with a voice that was not as fresh as it must have been earlier in her career. Rosina is correct -- in earlier
          decades one could hear a number of compelling Toscas in the same season and no two were identical in their movements (no one kicked her train around with the flare and vehemence that Milanov did. And no two
          Toscas that Rysanek sang even in the same fortnight were acted out in identical fashion.
          Whatever she did (even if it was sometimes over the top, seemed spontaneous and was in character with the Tosca she was trying to present --

          • ER

            Unfortunately my operatic excursions started too late and missed seeing all these wonderful artists.

          • Rosina Leckermaul

            Yes, but this brings up an important question. In those days with six Tosca in a season, each brought her own Tosca (and her own costumes — Milanov’s first act pink was particularly bizarre). The director was a traffic cop. The diva decided what Tosca would do-- or not. The more distinctive the better.

    • Our Own JJ

      “Bondy had a Scarpia jerking off before the Madonna, in mid-procession.”

      That didn’t happen. Maybe you are thinking of the production NYCO did in the early 2000s?

    • Rosina Leckermaul

      Totally agree

  • PCally

    I’m glad we are at the point where we can also admit that Mattila wasn’t THAT bad in the part, just miscast. And while her interpretation may have been a bit misguided I thought it was a pretty riveting interpretation never the less (as CC wrote, the woman couldn’t be boring even if she wanted to be). I thought part of the problem was that she was more or less tasked with carrying the evening and it showed. The production was I thought kind of terrible and very sloppy when it premiered but the tweaks made when the second cast came in made a whirl of difference and the Munich run with Mattila was a significant upgrade.

    • Walraud Riegler

      Thanks to the Tenor?

      • PCally

        Probably. Alvarez didn’t do much of anything with the part, although I guess he was in the best voice of the three leads at the time.

    • ER

      Whoever said Mattila was that bad?
      May be not quite stylistically Italian, but as a full package she was first rate.

      I don’t think I’ve actually heard a bad Tosca in the Bondy’s lifetime: Dyka, Racette, Mattila, Guleghina, Gheorghiu all had something special to offer.

      • PCally

        I remember some pretty bitchy things said about Mattila’s performance, particularly opening night where she was apparently in rough shape up top. I don’t think anyone said she was the worst thing about the night, but I heard plenty of people saying that both as sung and as interpreted it was mediocre.

    • I saw a TV broadcast of the same production with Mattila and Kaufmann. It was an improvement over the Met with Alvarez. No, she wasn’t an ideal fit for Tosca but she was still interesting and engaging.

  • ER

    One thing that I have observed in my Tosca going lifetime (starting 1990s) is that it’s relatively voice proof. As long as the characterization is sincere and not an endless series diva or coquette poses), I get so engrossed that I find myself tolerant of shrill or off pitch singing in ways that I probably wouldn’t for a Butterfly or Turandot.

    It’s such a great opera!

  • grimoaldo2

    Gelb says, apparently:
    “Met audiences like their classic operas wrapped in “beautiful scenery.”
    Maybe they do (I already asked which operas qualify as “classic” other than Tosca.)
    I don’t think it’s just the Met though, it is US audiences in general. There have been two Washington National Opera productions this season, Aida and Alcina, I didn’t like either one, Aida because they dropped a curtain twice while the music was still playing, making the audience applaud, and Alcina because it was boring.
    However every single person I spoke to either at the opera house or later disliked Aida because it wasn’t set in Ancient Egypt and Alcina because it was “modern”.
    We may deplore such attitudes but as far as I can tell they are almost universal in the US.

    • DonCarloFanatic

      I disliked the Aida because:

      1. No chemistry between tenor and soprano.
      2. Schmatte costume for soprano allowed her less dignity than her voice deserved.
      3. Conductor cheated soprano out of deserved applause by not stopping music at the usual places. In one instance the director did the same by having her leave the stage before the music ended and people might logically applaud. If I were this soprano, it would be a cold day in hell before I worked with any of these guys again.

      I had no problem with the vaguely modern setting, but the production--or rather, the way it unfolded--came across as below par.

  • Ivy Lin

    I’m trying to be respectful of everyone’s POV here but I saw the Bondy production about three or four times and here is what I remember:
    1) ENDLESS intermissions. 40-45 minutes each. I got out of an 8 pm show at midnight.
    2) the vast majority of the action taking place on far stage left so depending on where you were sitting you often couldn’t see the action (Tosca’s final jump being one of them).
    3) Ridiculous lapses in logic like Angelotti climbing into the church with a rope and no one bothering to remove it when the authorities searched for him.
    4) The Mussolini-like maps and the Madonna being placed in an area of the stage where again, if you weren’t sitting in the right spot in the auditorium you couldn’t see it.
    5) Singers eventually just doing their own thing with the show. The Bondy blocking that existed with the Mattila video was gone quick, and you had people like Bryn Terfel, Sondra Radvanovsky, Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna and Jonas Kaufmann just doing whatever they wanted.

    so really, IMO, the production sucked. And I haven’t seen the McVicar one (that’s tomorrow night) but I can’t imagine it being worse.

    • ER

      Ivy you are right- the action was very asymmetric on the stage.
      The intermission length however- were they a particular function of this production? It’s not Turandot sets.

      • Ivy Lin

        Yes it was. The huge heavy set of Act 1 had to be completely dismantled and that took 45 minutes. Then the set of Act 2 (also huge) also had to be dismantled. It was misery.

        • ER

          ah I stand corrected.
          Enjoy Tosca tomorrow night ! look forward to your review. And stay warm!!!!

    • Porgy Amor

      I had hated the Reagan-era Zeffirelli production, which was (IMO) the point at which Zeffirelli completely sold out to repeating himself on an elephantine scale, “displaying” operas rather than dramatizing them. What there was of actual direction was illogical, and even undermined the opera (e.g., everyone dropping to the ground in terror at Scarpia’s entrance; the pretty-boy supers lolling around during the shepherd’s song, with Cavaradossi finally appearing via stage elevator).

      I knew Bondy’s prior work, admired it (Don Carlos, The Turn of the Screw), and respected him. The same goes for his set designer, Richard Peduzzi. I certainly do not need Tosca to be “beautiful,” and if people are walking out of a Tosca talking only about how beautiful was, I wonder either about the effectiveness of the production or about their own engagement with the piece.

      So no one was better primed than I to embrace the Bondy/Peduzzi as an improvement, but (like Ivy) I cannot go along with calling it a good, misunderstood production. It was clumsily executed and listless. I had the sinking feeling ten minutes in that this opera was not one that had inspired Bondy, and it only deepened as one dreary scene gave way to another. I also thought Mattila was poor in the title role—the wrong voice, dramatically at sea with silly gestures and expressions, essentially Behrens II (if easier on the ears). I remember her saying that she loved working with Bondy because he let singers find their way, or words to that effect. She and Álvarez both looked as though they had found their own way. Unfortunately, in her case this resulted in Tosca as daffy matron, and in his, Cavaradossi as a tenor wanting the audience to love him.

      So, people of demonstrated gifts, but the wrong vehicle. I have not seen the new one yet, but nothing can make me miss that one (or its predecessor).

      • Ivy Lin

        I think one hallmark of a good or great production is how much singers still respect the original blocking long after the premiere. For instance I saw 6 different ladies tackle the little red dress in the Decker Traviata. None of them changed the blocking significantly. That production could tolerate cast changes remarkably well because each cast brought something different while remaining true to the original directions.

        The best performances I saw of the Bondy production were the singers who flat out ignored the directions. Angela Gheorghiu, shrunken voice and all, managed to capture the essence of Tosca to her performance. She acted as if the production did not exist and did her own thing. Ditto Bryn Terfel. Whatever worked (or didn’t work) for Mattila did not carry over to revivals.

        • CKurwenal

          Somebody needs to tell the singers what the original blocking was though, if they are to respect it in a revival. If another soprano was doing something different from Mattila and Bondy hadn’t worked on the revival, it’s surely the fault of the revival director and not Bondy or the singer if it doesn’t much resemble what was going on when the production was completely new.

          • Good point. Since the production was deemed a failure, I wonder how much effort the Met put into reviving it faithfully.

            • southerndoc1

              I think Bondy came back for the revival with Sondra Rad?

            • I’m not sure. I know that was not a high-point in Rad’s career. She was having big pitch issues around then.

            • Ivy Lin

              Bondy did come back to direct Rad but it wasn’t the same as the original production with Mattila. It’s as if he sort of gave up on his own production.

            • Also, while Rad can be a good actor with the right direction, she and Matilla could not be more different as actors.

            • Ivy Lin

              Yes I think of Mattila as one of the few opera singers who are really protean talents and not just singers have a specific skill set which they hone and fine-tune through the years. Certain productions just are not the same without her. Jenufa is one — whether she was Jenufa or Kostelnicka she added her own kind of realism to that work. Salome was another.

            • Camille

              Which exumation of the Bondy Tosca would that be? —as there were TWO separate instances of Radvanovsky singinging in it: the first one was in January 2011 and the second was December 2013, just a couple months after her first signal success with Norma.

              The first set of performances I did not see or hear but the second set, I did, and she certainly had no real or glaring pitch problems and was further, a most effective, believable Tosca, something I’d frankly wondered she’d be capable of. She most certainly was! That night was also memorable for a most glorious sounding “Vittoria, vittoria!” from Mr Giordani, just stupendous, but who otherwise floundered about.

              So far as following the Bondy indications, that I would not know, but there was the ban on candlelabras and the fanning finale, all of which she made work very convincingly for herself. I was very pleasantly surprised and gratified by her performance.

              On the other hand, the much vaunted Floria Tosca of Racette, as seen later only on TV, came off as very junior league variety. That surprised me as well, as I’d always regarded her as a most convincing actress, albeit based on my limited viewing experience of her. But it did not remotely suggest the character.

              Go figure & FWIW2U.

            • Camille: The first Rad Tosca was the bad one. By the second time, she had figured her pitch problems out and was at her best (generally speaking — I didn’t hear/see it).

            • Camille

              Aha. Yes, she was at her considerable best, and suspect the big success with Norma had galvanized her into a new freedom and ability to project herself.

              The only opinion I have of the Bondy production was that the blandness of the second act background actually helped to focalize the attention on the protagonist, what with that eyepopper of a scarlet/crimson gown. No chance of not catching every last detail of the protagonist’s action! The title of the opera is TOSCA, after all.

        • Parpignol

          for me the one really memorable night of the Bondy production was Racette, Kaufmann, and Terfel, all of them singing on steroids, and responding to one another brilliantly, an all-time-great night at the opera!

          • I’m sorry that one wasn’t filmed. I’ve heard very good things about it. I saw the HD a couple of years later with Racette and Alagna. That was one of her least successful performances in my view. She utterly lacked grandeur.

            • Parpignol

              hmm, I’m just wondering, does Tosca have to be “grand”? how about intense on the edge of hysterical? maybe more how I remember that very successful night. . .

            • That’s an interesting question. There’s grandeur in how a singer carries herself on stage and there’s vocal grandeur. Vocally, Racette’s singing was small-scaled and un-impactful. I would say that there is a significant amount of writing in the part that requires grandeur to pull off successfully. That doesn’t mean that the overall dramatic approach needs to be grand.

            • Parpignol

              some of the extended vocal lines call for grandeur perhaps, and to be sure we associate some very grand sopranos with the role; but that would never have been Racette who was nevertheless a very satisfying Puccinian for a while; now I’m curious to go listen to Albanese as Tosca. . .

            • That’s why I wish I had seen/heard Racette’s first go at the Bondy production. Whatever was lacking for me in the HD might have been compensated by other qualities.

      • I think Bondy did some good work conceptually but didn’t do well with the nuts and bolts of the opera. I liked Mattila a lot more than you, even while finding her not at her best vocally and un-Italianate. For me the problem in the cast was Alvarez, who was just awful to watch. He’s always been better heard than seen but his Cavaradossi could have taken place in any production (and would have been equally bad).

        Perhaps Bondy gave up on working with him. He’s not a natural actor by any means. But David Alden (Ballo) and David McVicar (Cav/Pag) both got more out of him as an actor.

    • Satisfied

      I ENTIRELY agree with you, PI.

      I had no major issue with the Bondy other than it was boring. It’s conservative and at the same time, qusi-Regie. While I agree with LC that he directed the SHIT out of Matilla (who I thought then and now, gave a wonderful performance), it was ultimately just a banal production. I have the same opinion of Bondy’s Don Carlo at Salzburg: simply dull (albeit exceptionally sung and performed).

      While we may not have gained anything with this new production, we also lost nothing.

      • I quite like Bondy’s DON CARLOS (with Alagna/Matilla/van Dam). It was the reason I was looking forward to the Tosca.

      • Porgy Amor

        Was the generally well-regarded Bondy production of Carlos (with an “s”) ever presented by one of the Salzburg festivals? I know it was seen in Paris, London, and Edinburgh.

        If you’re thinking of the most recent Italian Don Carlo at the Salzburg summer festival, that was Peter Stein’s. The previous one in the 1990s was Herbert Wernicke’s, and before that takes us into the Karajan era.

        • Satisfied

          I stand corrected and acknowledge my mistake! It was Stein’s Don Carlo i was thinking belonged to Bondy. Thank you for the correction!

  • Magpie

    I did not read JJ review until I had seen the clip with Mattila. I had seen the Yoncheva one earlier.
    As soon as I was done with the Mattila, I wanted to know what had happened before, what had happened to her, what awaited her.
    After Yoncheva, I had no curiosity at all. It was pretty but I could care less of her plight.
    So, had we had Mattila in the new pretty production and had she summoned the Tosca I just saw, we all would have thought she was a crazy, hysterical mess. Out of context.
    JJ is totally right, one production made us wonder wether for the good or the bad, the new one is just pretty without content.
    Here I found interesting that someone did not see why a man would get his stick wet with many women immediatly before getting Tosca.. Hey, shouldn’t it be a turn on for Tosca? (great possibility for interpretation.)
    Hell I even read the word edging in here!! Ah! those days..
    I did look at Yoncheva’s choker though.

  • Delmonaco

    Did anybody see the Tito Gobbi production of 1978? ( it’s on DVD with Pavarotti and Verrett). It seems a bit similar to the Zeffirelli, but more understated. I’m guessing that production stayed in rep at the Met until the Zef replaced it ( or was there another one?). Gobbi’s legacy as a director isn’t talked about much, but he did a lot of productions in Chicago, ROH and elsewhere. His Met Tosca had some really nice moments.

    • Porgy Amor

      Gobbi provided new stage direction to take place on the Heinrich sets, those of the ’68 Schenk production. So, when Met productions of Tosca are listed, that one usually is not counted as “new.”

    • Benedetta Funghi-Trifolati

      There are intermittent passages in Tito Gobbi’s autobiography, “My Life” (ghosted by Ida Cook) in which he discusses many “directorial” aspects of the operas and characters he sang. But his second book, “Tito Gobbi On His World Of Italian Opera” is an in-depth look into his thoughts on many of the operas in his repertoire and is very directorial in nature. He delves into character (all of them, not just his roles), motivations, sets, costuming, blocking, props and much, much more. It is predominantly a “traditional” approach as he was a product of his epoch and his insights and details as singer, director and man are intelligent and cogent, if reflective of his era.

  • fletcher

    (Unrelated to Tosca, but if you think Davidson is wrong about music -- he’s also for unknown reasons the magazine’s architecture critic, and even more smug and clueless in that department.)

    • JR

      Haven’t seen the Tosca, but he nails Grigolo.

      • fletcher

        Maybe, but “briskly professional” is certainly not what I heard from Villaume over the broadcast.

  • FaustinaHasse

    I saw the second incarnation of the Bondy production with Kaufmann.
    I agree with the Gay City News review about the set:

    “Richard Peduzzi’s anti-theatrical sets
    remain a blot, Act One’s oddly Byzantine
    Sant’Andrea delle Valle resembling the
    Ravenna Motorways Bureau storage garage,
    complete with floodlights and
    ball-bearing-based, sub-IKEA furniture, and
    Act Two’s Palazzo Farnese a TV-and-pizza
    lobby in an ’80s state university dorm.”

    There must have been someone in the set design shop who loved to paint brick walls and couldn’t get enough of them, since the Carmen with Kaufmann one week later turned out pretty much as an orgy in brick too.
    There was nothing “modern” about the Tosca production, except if one considers some of the vulgarities as “modern”. It was just a conventional Tosca in an ugly setting. The general dislike displayed by the public had little to do with American Puritanism as implied by many artistic souls, but with being bored by it.

  • Fergus

    I have found on YouTube two rare video excerpts of
    Roberto Alagna’s first performance in Tosca, E lucevan le stelle and
    Vittoria! Have you already watched it? I recommend!
    -- E lucevan le stelle >
    -- Vittoria >

  • Ivy Lin

    I was at tonight’s performance. I enjoyed it way more than other Parterre members:

    • Armerjacquino

      I missed this when you posted it- thanks for such an interesting take on the previous Met production and the new one.

      I’m not sure the scream in Act 3 being on the Mapleson cylinders makes quite the point you ascribe to it, though. It’s not a question of performance tradition so much as logic. The third ‘Mario?’ is clearly addressing someone she hopes is alive, but the next word is ‘Morto’. So if a Tosca screams- and they don’t all do it, but most do- it logically has to be there, because that’s the moment the libretto tells us she finds out he’s dead. It’s like Mimi’s ‘ah’ before ‘Che gelida manina’, or the fact that Angelica needs to drink her poison after ‘e in cielo lo rivedro’ and before ‘ah, son dannata’.