One may think that Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca has too high a rate of verismo vulgarity, containing plenty of brutalities, murder, assault and suicide. Nonetheless, its amazing story and emotional music makes it one of the most beloved operas by audiences all over the world. This San Carlo Tosca (a revival of a Teatro Massimo di Palermo production) suppressed any residual doubts about the greatness of work. Director Mario Pontiggia set it in fine, traditional style. He did not undervalue the melodrama, but allowed the plot to unfold in all its dramatic potential.

Brian Jagde (Cavaradossi) and Ainhoa Arteta (Tosca) © Luciano Romano
Brian Jagde (Cavaradossi) and Ainhoa Arteta (Tosca)
© Luciano Romano

Thus, after a plethora of directors’ eccentric stagings, we could see a Tosca whose setting complies with the time (June 1800, the day after the Battle of Marengo) and the places in Rome as described in the play by Victorien Sardou and in the libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa. Francesco Zito’s gorgeous sets were inspired by the original locations, and Giusi Giustino’s period costumes were as elegant as usual, especially Tosca's fine gowns.

Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta did not display a voice that could fill the San Carlo house. Hers is not a naturally big soprano and her sound was suave but not always even; nonetheless, she displayed convincingly intense passion. In the second act, she delivered “Vissi d’arte” with a burningly heartfelt sound, allowing more timbre and colour to her voice.

The <i>Te Deum</i> © Luciano Romano
The Te Deum
© Luciano Romano

Brian Jagde is an American tenor with a well-focused voice and strong top register, only a bit less clear in his lower one. The impression was that he and Ms Arteta weren’t well-matched, as his tone was too naturally loud compared to hers. Jagde gave it his all as the heroic Cavaradossi. His arias “Recondita armonia” and “E lucevan le stelle” resonated effortlessly in the house, especially when he was permitted to sing full voice. Roberto Frontali’s performance as Scarpia was the finest of the leading trio, singing an arrogant, mischievous Scarpia with a firm and full baritone. His voice was steady and sure and he showed a good grasp on the role.

Roberto Frontali (Scarpia) and Ainhoa Arteta (Tosca) © Luciano Romano
Roberto Frontali (Scarpia) and Ainhoa Arteta (Tosca)
© Luciano Romano

In the supporting roles, Carlo Cigni sang the fugitive Angelotti with less confident passion in his voice although all the acting skills that one would expect, while Roberto Abbondanza depicted the suspicious, clumsy sacristan with the usual comic clichés. Nicola Pamio was an uncaring Spoletta and Pina Acierno the shepherd boy in Act 3.

Juraj Valčuha’s conducting was not not passionate enough, but he was able to highlight the most important scenes of the opera. He brought his typical symphonic, surgical precision to the score especially at the beginning of each act, and was occasionally supportive to the singers' attempts to widen some of their key moments.

The San Carlo Chorus and Orchestra distinguished themselves, especially in the majestic Te Deum, with a soaring, glowing performance.

***11