E luceva qualche stella

Tosca at the Canadian Opera Company, seen on January 25, 2012. Conductor Paolo Carignani, director Paul Curran. Tosca: Adrianne Pieczonka, Scarpia: Mark Delavan, Cavaradossi: Carlo Ventre. Full cast & creative, more photos, videos, ticket information HERE.

The narrative in the media and publicity materials of this revival of the 2008 production of Tosca has been revolving around Adrianne Pieczonka and her first performance of the role in her home town, and in this department I can indeed echo the good news. Pieczonka is finally singing a diva-vehicle, non-Wagnerian role in her alma mater opera house. She delivered finely chiselled, graceful, consistently solid singing; her star quality and stage presence grow each year. She looks and sounds gorgeous.

Further good news is that the COC orchestra under conductor Paolo Carignani blew the roof off the FSC by embracing all the excesses and cinematography of Puccini’s score. It worked. It’s the Puccini party and the orchestra will cry and laugh hysterically if it wants to (and at the same time, if it wants to). *

Delavan and Ventre as Tosca’s two main men sung well, but the two roles, as well as the remaining roles and components of this production, were undermined by the extraordinarily lazy and unimaginative sets, costumes and direction. There was very little acting anywhere on stage, and the principals appeared left to their own devices to invent the characters. Pieczonka created Tosca with a twinkle in the eye and bordering on comic, which didn’t help the already gravely depleted suspense and horror of the Act II and weak to non-existent tragic tones of the Act III. Ventre largely focused on singing. There was no chemistry and no tension in Act II between Scarpia and Tosca. The less said of the rolling wall bed which serves as the door to the torture chamber, the better. The brief occurrence of suspense in Act II was actually created by the long train attached to the diva’s dress which almost tripped her in a few key dramatic moments.

However, the production is getting more positive reviews by the Toronto’s maudlin critocrats than the recent intriguing Alden Rigoletto ever stood a chance in hell to – let alone Albery’s outstanding Aida one season ago — so I can understand the reasons for the populist items in the COC season. I understand a little less why Pieczonka seems to be favouring traditional productions with Zeffirellian furniture and long-trained dresses. It’s great to be able to see her annually in a live opera on home turf, but if it’s going to be only in static, furniture-anchored productions devoid of directorial ideas, this pleasure will come diminished.

See this Tosca for Pieczonka’s stardust, Carignani’s conducting and Scarpia’s “Va, Tosca” & Te Deum, which never fail. At the FSC through Feb 25.

*Two days after the performance, I had a chance to interview Paolo Carignani and he had very interesting things to say about Puccini’s excesses. Check this space.

Photo by Michael Cooper. Adrianne Pieczonka as Tosca (foreground) with (l – r, background) Mark Delavan as Scarpia and David Cangelosi as Spoletta in the Canadian Opera Company production of Tosca, 2012. 

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4 thoughts on “E luceva qualche stella

  1. Love this description of a Puccini orchestra!! 🙂 Will also look forward to the report on your conversation with Carignani. I’m glad to hear such good things of Pieczonka, although distressed to hear of such dramatic vacuity elsewhere. And in Tosca! although of course it’s not a problem I’m unfamiliar with (sigh.)

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