Sex, violence, and beautiful music filled the Wolf Trap stage Thursday night, as the New York City Opera continued its summer visit with Puccini's "Tosca." It was a solid, often exciting performance by an attractive couple of principals and a superb supporting cast.
Stephanie Sundine sang the tempetuous diva Floria Tosca. Her voice is new to theres ears, and it is certainly good news. It is an evenly produced, large lyric instrument, so even in fact that her chest voice seemed an appended surprise to the voice when it appeared in Act II. It is also a beautiful voice, housed in an equally beautiful woman. Here was a Tosca who looked and sounded every inch the toast of Rome. Her singing could become too forward in parlando passages, and her broad acting style was of the type usually associated with older, larger sopranos. But here is an exciting new singer, and it is no small joy to watch at this time and what will undoubtedly became a memorable portrayal someday.
As Tosca's lover, the patriotic painter Mario Cavaradossi, Jacque Trussel left little to be desired. Here was an unmistakably youthful Mario, dashing and impetuous. His demi-heroic voice is always smaller in the theater then his timbre might suggest, but the sound is distinctive and his musicality unfailing. The ardor of "Recondita armonia" made one overlook the temporary tightness in the upper part of his voice, and the introspective anguish of his "E lucevan le stelle" was what verismo is all about.
His vocal blend with Sundine was thrilling, and the audience at Wolf Trap was in there rooting for these two lovers. So much, in fact, that in an unusual fit of participatory rudness people actaully clapped and cheered during Tosca's murder of Scarpia, drowning out all the music.
The Scarpia for the evening was Richard Fredericks, a familiar and dependable house baritone. Unfortunately those are not the qualities of a great Scarpia. Fredericks sang well, but he was neither profane in the church nor sadistic in the chamber, and the impression he left was not strong.
Richard McKee sang the Sacristan in the slapstick manner, but
Richard McKee sang the Sacristan in the slapstick manner, but Ralph Bassett and John Lankston were excellent as Angelotti and Spoletta. Golbert Hemsley's lighting did wonders for this production, even if Act III is still closer to the Alamo than to the Castle Sant'angelo. The conductor was Imre Pallo.