In its first decade or so, Wolf Trap offered a full bill of operas each season at its Filene Center, with regular visits from the Met and the New York City Opera in addition to its own productions by the fledgling Wolf Trap Opera. Today the Wolf Trap Opera is a thriving, admirable company, showcasing many talented young singers at the smaller Barns venue. But the Filene Center’s entire opera season began and ended Friday with a single performance of Puccini’s “Tosca.” I hope management will remember the full house (for the Wolf Trap Opera company’s cast of unknowns) and the standing, cheering ovation when it plans future seasons; the dearth of opera in one of the country’s premiere summer venues is shameful.
Not that this is the ideal way to experience the art form. The National Symphony Orchestra was onstage but largely invisible behind the elaborate set. Conductor Grant Gershon was thus doubly hobbled. Communication with the singers was confined to TV monitors, so shaping and in-performance correction were catch-as-catch-can. Musically, the performance tiptoed rather than surged. And in the cavernous open-air hall, everything had to go through a sound system; thus, instead of the conductor setting balances between musicians and singers, a sound engineer in the back of the hall did the honors.
And he/she certainly favored soprano Alexandra Loutsion (in the title role) over everyone and everything else. This was not only unfortunate, it was unnecessary; even with the artificiality of amplification, her voice was clearly the most polished and powerful of the cast, needing the least help. Mackenzie Gotcher (Cavaradossi) had warmth and color in the middle range, but with a sob he’ll need to tame up at the top. Kihun Yoon (Scarpia) seemed to grow as the evening went on, the voice gaining force all the way to the death scene. His Italian, though, is still a work in progress; Scarpia’s menace is expressed most potently through rolled R’s, and there were none here. The smaller roles were all done with professionalism and flair.
Erhards Rom’s sets were traditional (except for Act III, which was inexplicably bare) and imposing; but for an errant rolling candle, cast and props navigated the steeply raked stage impressively. All told, the durability and commercial viability of the art form proved itself again. Shouldn’t we have more of it?