Opera

Baltimore Opera's Vivid 'Tosca'

James Morris as Scarpia and Georgina Lukács in the title role in the Baltimore Opera's production of
James Morris as Scarpia and Georgina Lukács in the title role in the Baltimore Opera's production of "Tosca." (By Michael Defilippi)
Monday, May 7, 2007

Ending the season on a high note, the Baltimore Opera's production of "Tosca" was one of the company's best in recent memory. Saturday night's performance at the Lyric Opera House boasted strong, exciting voices and a fine presentation.

Spectacular traditional scenery transported the audience to the expansive, fresco-laden church of Sant'Andrea Della Valle, the lush, candlelit Farnese Palace and the formidable Castel Sant'Angelo. Conductor Andrea Licata focused on the score's drama but also caught the nuances of lighter moments and everyday church music.

Uncomplicated staging by director Bernard Uzan and impassioned singing brought Puccini's great characters to life. Opera singer Floria Tosca, one of the most complex roles in the repertory, possesses "sweet, pure hands" that defy her impulsive nature. Clarion-voiced soprano Georgina Lukács failed to muster vulnerability as the diva, but still was captivating as an especially hotblooded, single-minded Tosca.

As the painter Mario Cavaradossi, tenor Antonello Palombi was enthralling. (When Roberto Alagna exited the La Scala stage last December in response to booing, it was Palombi who stepped in as Radames -- in jeans.) The brilliant, spun-gold quality of his high notes seems to defy the sheer size and depth of his voice; he sounds like no one else. Despite some swallowed notes in the lower range, his "E lucevan le stelle" was heart-rending.

Baltimore native James Morris was a noble, sinister Scarpia. He was in excellent voice, with just the right amount of snarl. As the Sacristan, Peter Strummer expertly provided comic relief.

The performance will be repeated Wednesday at 7:30, Friday at 8:15 and Sunday at 3.

-- Ronni Reich


© 2007 The Washington Post Company