Opera houses all over the world are still faltering as the healthcare and the subsequent economic crises persist, but the main music institutions are still alive and well, as we could see in Naples, where the stakes were especially high. San Carlo's top management has been renewed in March, and this was their first occasion to showcase their potentials. And we can say that the first game was won.

Yusif Eyvazov (Cavaradossi) and Anna Netrebko (Tosca)
© Mario Wurzburger

Stéphane Lissner kept the promise he made during his first press conference in June when he launched some special initiatives to celebrate the end of the Covid-19 emergency, with a truly all-star programme. Two operas and a symphonic concert were planned to be held in the scenic square a few metres from the San Carlo Opera House. The operas, in concert versions, would feature some of the biggest stars on the Italian and international scene.

The first opera in the playbill was Puccini's ever-popular Tosca, with superdiva Anna Netrebko, Yusif Eyvazov and Ludovic Tézier. The “rebirth” programme will continue with Verdi's Aida, and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

In Tosca, the voices of the three protagonists were perfectly up to the task. Netrebko showed a voice whose size could have filled the square without amplification. Her soprano is natural, with a sound which is always suave and even; moreover, she displayed with dramatic flair the intense passion required for the role.

In the second act, while trying to reject Scarpia’s advances, the soprano delivered her “Vissi d’arte” with a heartfelt timbre and colour in her voice, deserving the ovation she received by the audience.

Ludovic Tézier (Scarpia) and Anna Netrebko (Tosca)
© Mario Wurzburger

Yusif Eyvazov’s Cavaradossi has nothing to envy to the great interpreters. His technique has become better in the last years and he can sing with precision and impressive legato phrasing. Even if his timbre can sound a bit thin, his instrument is large enough to tackle this repertoire with ease.

His “Recondita armonia” and “E lucevan le stelle”, sung in full voice, diffused in the wide square all his despair for his fate, seemingly without effort.

Ludovic Tézier interpreted Scarpia with the ruthless gravity of the predator craving for sex and power, with a firm and full baritone. His arrogant and mischievous Head of Police was of great class.

Riccardo Fassi's Angelotti was full of confidence and passion, and good acting skills, while Sergio Vitale depicted the suspicious, awkward sacristan, cleverly avoiding to push on the usual comic clichés.

Francesco Pittari as Spoletta, Domenico Colaianni as Sciarrone and Rosario Natale as the jailer did very well in their roles. The Shepherd Boy in Act 3 was sung pleasantly by Lorenzo Narcisi.

Anna Netrebko (Tosca)
© Mario Wurzburger

Conductor Juraj Valčuha, showed a great self-confidence with a score permeated with mystery and drama. He is passionate and caring without being heavy, capable to highlight the most important passages of the opera with his distinctive “symphonic” exactness, never letting the dramatic tension decrease or the music sound without a direction.

The first act is the more spectacular and impressive of the three, especially in the final “Te Deum”; in this case, even without the possibility of a procession, the San Carlo Chorus and Orchestra stood out with a radiant performance. In the second act, in the confrontation between Tosca and Scarpia the two singers disclosed many subtleties hidden in the score, both on the sexual and the dialogical level.

In the third, as the story ends in a heart-breaking and epic way, Netrebko, with her desperate cry, sacrifices herself in the name of love and death, and wins the heart of the Neapolitans once and for all.