Sunday, 9 October 2011

A solid Tosca from Toulouse

On a recent visit to Toulouse, Classicalify didn't miss out on a chance to catch some opera at the Théâtre du Capitole, bien sûr. Toulouse is justifiably proud of it's opera, given the high level of quality on offer in this house. Classicalify saw the old war horse Tosca in a production shared with the Maggio Musicale in Florence. What met the eye was a more or less standard old fashioned stage production, with no particular idea or insightful view from the director of this often played piece. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, though, when it comes to Tosca.

In the pit was music director Tugan Sokhiev, serving up a dramatic reading of the score. The orchestra played well, if not with the perfect blend and polish you expect from a world class ensemble. If something was missing from Mr Sokhiev it was a certain Puccinian flow, of drawing out some melodies and of giving more presence to inner voices in this luscious score.

On the vocal side, Tosca herself, sung by Catherine Naglestad, ruled the evening. This is a well schooled voice, well placed and with a solid technique. The timbre in itself is warm and round and it has true spinto qualities. Add the fact that Mrs Naglestad can scale down her voice to a true pianissimo, and yet anchor solid top notes and you have a pretty good Tosca voice. Her Tosca is not on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but a normal woman driven to acts that are completely alien to her. On the minus side is an Italian pronunciation that sounds distinctly American, and maybe a lack of the last degree of beauty in the timbre. Also a certain blandness sometimes creeps in, both in the vocal delivery and the sharpness of characterization.

The night's Cavardossi was Vladimir Galouzine, probably a bigger name than Mrs Naglestad on the international opera circuit. This is a big voice, no doubt. And for some roles, it probably is a major voice. But for Puccini and Cavaradossi, Mr Galouzine could use some of the varied dynamics that his Tosca so masterfully mastered. This is consistently loud and monotonous singing. The timbre in itself is not what you would describe as melting, but distinctly slavic in tone. The voice really blooms and develops overtones in the highest register, though. The most memorable moment was not surprisingly a heroic and glass shattering Vittoria outburst.

Scarpia was sung by Frank Ferrari and if the evening's Cavaradossi showed off some huge high notes, Ferrari's Scarpia often completely disappeared when the vocal line went upwards. This was not caused by the orchestra drowning Mr Ferrari, but probably by a faulty vocal production. Otherwise it was a rather civil Scarpia that harassed our Tosca, with some nice vocal underlinings. What was lacking was the raw power and lust that for example Bryn Terfel brings to this role.

In all a solid night at the opera, if not something for the record books.

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