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It was Pavarotti who set the drama in flow : Puccini phases the build-up cannily -- the panicky arrival of the fugitive Cesare Angelotti (Graeme Broadbent), in flight from precisely the anti-republican forces who people Carlos Gomes's Salvator Rosa [read Roderic Dunnett's review], ratchets up tension immediately after the grim, Scarpia-evoking opening chords. The Sacristan (Henry Waddington), with his ready tongue, constant carpings and liability to spill the beans, tweaks the sense of mortal danger by loading it with black comedy. Both were adequate, and Broadbent quite nicely penetrating in an aptly Fidelio-ish way, though neither sang in such a way as to galvanise the house.

Luciano Pavarotti as Cavaradossi in the 2002 Covent Garden production of 'Tosca'. Photo © Bill Cooper

But then Pavarotti enters, sliding almost unnoticed along the church benches past the blue-lit Madonna; takes up his palette; and begins to paint. And one is mesmerised. Three times within the first few minutes he contrives to turn his back fully on the audience (once, singing); each time, it makes one hanker for his next line. A dab here, a ponder there; the gestures are minute, neither artificial nor showy. Pavarotti, given to delivering his set pieces pretty stock-still, is not renowned as an actor. 'Recondita armonia' was an example. But watch him off the ball -- full of touches of sly ingenuity, although (here, certainly) stopping short of stealing from another's performance : loaded with experience -- a Premier League performance.

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Copyright © 17 January 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK





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