The Met’s Production of Puccini’s Tosca Airs Sunday; New Production of Verdi’s Falstaff on April 10
By: Ellis Nassour
"No one tampers with the traditions of the Metropolitan Opera and emerges unscathed," wrote one critic. Swiss director Luc Bondy can verify that. This Sunday, opera lovers will be able to judge for themselves about Bondy’s hyper-realistic "stark, gritty, spare and somewhat smarmy…blasting" [NYTimes] Metropolitan Opera production of Puccini’s immaculately crafted and enduring favorite, Tosca, composed in 1900, with libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa.
It airs Sunday at 8 P.M. on PBS/Thirteen’s Great Performances at the Met, hosted by soprano Renée Fleming. For the Met, Matthew Diamond directs the telecast. Noted record producer David Saks is music producer.
Bondy’s vision, replacing Franco Zeffirelli’s much swooned-over epic scaled production, was heavily slammed; but since its raucous premiere, some heavily criticized performance elements have been toned down.
It’s classic drama on a megaoperatic scale with some of opera’s most passionate arias. Celebrated American soprano Patricia Racette is noble in one of opera’s greatest roles, the ultimate diva, Floria Tosca. She brings the house down with her spectacular "Vissi d’Arte," displaying amazing breath control. Acclaimed French tenor Roberto Alagna, who knows how to rhapsodize an audience, is her dashing lover, the rebel painter Cavaradossi. He mesmerizes with his extended vocal range on one of opera’s most famous arias, the Act Three "E lucevan le stelle (And the stars were shining)," sung while he awaits for his execution on the roof of Castel Sant’Angelo.
Renowned Georgian baritone George Gagnidze is one of opera’s vilest villains, the snaky, corrupt, brutal police commissioner Scarpia, who lusts after Tosca. His "Va, Tosca," at the end of the first act, is one of opera’s most chilling moments as you can almost see the venom dripping from his lips and running down his chin.
Italian maestro Riccardo Frizza, a newcomer to the production whom, wrote Times critic James Oestreich, "allowed the orchestra to ride over the singers in the first act," conducts the sweeping tale of murder, lust, and political intrigue.
Tune in Thursday, April 10 at 9 P.M. to PBS/Thirteen for Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff, directed by Canada’s Robert Carsen, in its first new Met production in 50 years. Fleming will again host. Baritone Ambrogio Maestri fits comfortably into a role he’s known for: the iconic basso buffo role of Sir John Falstaff, the boorish, blustery character from Shakespeare’s Henry IV and The Merry Wives of Windsor. The beautiful Angela Meade, winner of the Met’s 2012 Beverly Sills Artist Award and the 2011 Richard Tucker Award, is outstanding as Alice Ford, one of the many objects of Sir John’s lusting. Stephanie Blythe has the role of Mistress Quickly. James Levine, returning after a two year absence, conducts.
Support for Great Performances at the Met is provided by Toll Brothers builders, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Irene Diamond Fund, the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Arts Fund, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, The Agnes Varis Trust, and viewers like you.
Visit Great Performances online at www.pbs.org/gperf for additional information.