In today’s Washington Post, I profile the soprano Patricia Racette, who’s preparing to do Tosca at WNO (opening night is Saturday).

Racette, in our interview, had some interesting additional observations on singing Tosca in the Luc Bondy production at the Met, which got booed at its premiere in September, 2009 but which was widely acclaimed when it returned in April, 2010 with Racette, Bryn Terfel, and Jonas Kaufmann.Many people felt that the production had been changed considerably by its second iteration. Racette offered a different perspective.

Patricia Racette in her first staged production of Tosca in Houston in January, 2010.

“You know what’s interesting,” Racette said. “We were asked specifically to do what was done in that [original] production, and we did. We really did do that. It’s all in how you do it.”

“I don’t know what Bryn did when he was not on stage with me,” she said, “so I can’t speak for that. But there was literally some stuff, Jonas wanted to change a little bit, [and they said], ‘No, no, we have to do [it the way it was specificied],’ so we didn’t change that... I’ll just say diplomatically, it’s how it is done that can make a huge difference. We were specifically asked not to make changes, but somehow people saw it as being greatly changed. Which I think is very interesting. Very validating,” she added, laughing.

“Opera,” she said, “is such a rich art form. So even changing the ingredients — the singer, the costume — just changing it a little can make a huge difference in the perception of it.”

Since I don't have to be diplomatic, I’ll paraphrase: Better cast = production works better.


On an unrelated note, can we agree that this line from the WNO website ranks among the worst-ever descriptions of an opera? “Puccini’s Tosca is an irresistible combination of passion, tenderness, pathos, and despair that immediately grabs your attention and races to its terrible conclusion.”

It may be brilliant marketing copy, though, since it can be used for virtually every opera in the repertory.

Today’s contest: name an opera, any opera (non-comic, at least), to which this description can NOT be applied.