<< -- 3 -- Roderic Dunnett Cosseted by Robespierre
The voice has lost some of its sheen : the two overwhelming differences
are that it now emphasises a slight edge, which seemed wholly consonant
with the drama to come; and that phrases he now achieves in one burst seem
shorter than he would have essayed twenty, or even ten, years ago. It's
not quite shortness of breath, but it comes across as that.
Thus Act I's 'Qual'occhio' flowed less than it might have (the links
being supplied by an on-form Covent Garden orchestra under the Spaniard
Jésus López-Cobos). Nor, in marked contrast to Pavarotti,
was Vaness with the conductor -- in Tosca's Act I recitatives -- contrast
her marked precision in Act III. Within the orchestra, the flute had already
emerged as the evening's hero : a striking entry for Tosca (with strings)
was followed by those wonderful, low Debussian flute touches (plus oboe
and strings) prefacing Cavaradossi's aria with atmospheric open fifths,
which Puccini invokes at key moments. The shimmering orchestral patterns
which precede the firing of the gun announcing Angelotti's escape are just
one of countless moments of inspired genius in Tosca.
When Scarpia arrives, he dominates, artfully lit like a David or a Delacroix
by lighting director John B Read. His upstage entry, like that of both the
other principals downstage, is so weak as (presumably) to have been planned.
With a couple of cronies and bodyguards, Scarpia simply turns up. Suddenly,
unexpectedly, there he is. Leiferkus's wooing, once he accosts Tosca, is
not sinuous, but rather galant. Yet we learn what kind of a man Scarpia
is from a key remark : 'We shouldn't have fired that gun. It tipped him
off.' Scarpia is subtle, a classic top secret agent : he works by anticipating
the other side's thinking. Being wooed by him ('I will see those blue eyes
melt') is a bit like being cosseted by Robespierre.
Copyright © 17 January 2002
Roderic Dunnett, Coventry, UK
LONDON'S ROYAL OPERA HOUSE WEBSITE
& Vision home
Russian UK premières >>