Monday, September 21, 2009

Met's Controversial New Tosca

Well, I'll speak for those too frightened to otherwise do so: I LOVED tonight's Tosca - blemishes and all. I found Mattila thrilling in a true visceral "gutsy" way - ever involved in the drama and with good enough vocal chops to sound glamorous in much of her singing. If we're going to count the boo's for the production team, then we HAVE to acknowledge the bravi, cheers and wild applause the singers received.

I felt Levine gave a thrilling reading, doing his thing with bringing out inner voices and colors from the band, particularly with the winds in the first act and the strings in the second and third. There were moments the orchestra was scorching, blistering hot - the strings digging into the wood with this throbbing intensity that gave me shivers (in the good way!). I was fascinated by the manner in which he kept a nice fluidity in the score while really accentuating Puccini's ever shifting rhythms, and some of the syncopation in the score in Act II brought a freshness not often heard in this music these days.

I enjoyed also, the "extra" bits Mattila brought to torture scene, whispers, moans and screams - all had a natural, unforced feel that seemed borne of the script. She did go a bit wild (and both sharp AND flat) in the higher sections while Mario was getting it, but this too (to me) felt perfectly in character given the situation.

Alvarez is not (to my ears) a natural Mario, but he makes (most) of the role work for him and the voice is just so freaking beautiful I didn't mind some of the crooning. He was a bit strained at "Vittoria!" - but the entire thing worked as "musical theatre" and I (again) had goose flesh during the entire scene. The tenor did seem to have some rhythmic problems in "E lucevan le stelle" but ended it beautifully, and the final music with his lady love made for great drama.

The real find for me tonight was Gagnidze - a singer I've heard before, but was not so impressed with. Well, tonight he managed to knock me into next week. There was this rich, juicy baritone-y malevolence wed to an intensity of tone and good - make that GREAT wordplay as (since I couldn't see him) he acted marvelously with the voice. Like Mattila, he gave these little vocal "extras" (e.g., that upward inflection he gave in his response "Quanto?") all made his Scarpia come alive with a rich, juicy malice that I just loved.

It all built to an absolutely thrilling 3rd Act, with Mattila, perhaps in her best voice of the night and showing off a really wonderful chesty bottom with a thrilling over-the-top top, and as ever seemed to be "in the moment."

I truly wish I could've seen the production and just what it was that seemed to get everyone's panties in a twist. That booing was incredible - much more so than last years boofest!

I've loved everything I've seen of Bondy's - and though friends have already told me I'll feel otherwise, I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to enjoy this production when I (finally) get to see it.

All in all, this was a fun, fun night - tempers, boos, cheers, whistles and Puccini . . . an awesome way to spend a chilly September evening! So, grazie, Jimmy, Met, cast and . . . most of all, Signor Puccini!



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