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Actually, this was a very graphic Tosca all around: when Scarpia gropes Tosca, his hands are all over her in all the wrong places, and he really gropes her, does not merely imitate, which is clearly visible, via binocular or bare eye, depending on where you are sitting. When she stabs him, for the second time, the knife goes you-know-where. When Cavaradossi is dragged, post-torture, from behind the prison wall to be dropped at Tosca's feet, the make-up artist has really done his job: he is all smashed up, very badly so, gorily bloody, with cuts and bruises all over him. And then, there is the mass-execution scene to underline Scarpia's brutality: a bunch of prisoners is marched into an underground cage, the door is shut, the executioners take position outside the door and 'bang bang bang' go the guns until all the defenceless people inside the cage are dead.
Zoran Todorovich as Cavaradossi and Nadja Michael in the title role of Puccini's 'Tosca' at the Bregenz Festival. Photo © 2007 Karl Forster
So much for the visual part, which is, as word-of-mouth already has it, nothing short of sensational, creating breathtaking beauty on one hand, and total horror on the other in an atmosphere of what soon builds to become unbearable tension -- so, chances are, you have never seen a Tosca quite like it, no matter how many times you might have seen it before.
Gidon Saks as Scarpia. Photo © 2007 Philip Crebbin
Now to the singing: Todorovich, predictably, is the star, and rightly so. From the moment he comes on stage, he dominates it, and when he is not on stage, the audience pines for his return. You can see it in their faces, how their attention wanders, during non-Todorovich scenes, over the lake at times, or to the subtitles displayed on screens to the right and left of the stage. But when he is on stage, nobody is looking at the lake or the subtitles anymore, all eyes are on him. What makes the tenor, who is currently being celebrated as one of the big new stars on the tenor sky, so spellbinding that someone of the likes of Edita Gruberova insisted he sing alongside her in Bellini's Norma at the Bavarian State Opera? The voice, of course, which hits the heights impeccably without ever engaging in even the slightest trace of a squeak or typical tenor screaming, the fact that, due to his changing from lyric to dramatic tenor, he has a unique ability to mix and match the two elements at will.
Zoran Todorovich as Cavaradossi sings 'E lucevan le stelle'. Photo © 2007 Philip Crebbin
In a trademark aria like 'E lucevan le stelle' written in B minor, with words by Puccini himself because the composer wanted to make sure that the dramatics of a prisoner desperately clinging to life in the final moments of his execution were brought across in the right way, where precisely these two elements are required in combination, lyric with dramatic, Todovorich is, of course, at his very best. While he is now well and truly a powerful dramatic tenor, he remains capable of displaying both exquisite lyric beauty and intense dramatic fervor in his voice. Throughout his entire range, he is well placed on the breath, with impeccable technique, particularly brilliant in the upper register while evoking powerful sound and rich colors in the lower. One gets the feeling that, as a tenor, there is nothing he couldn't do. The intense tragedy he brings to 'E lucevan le stelle', especially in its final L'ora è fuggita, e muoio disperato! E non ho amato mai tanto la vita! ('The moment has passed, and I die in despair! And I never have loved life so much') probably can only be realized in this manner by someone like Todovorich who is at home in both the lyric and the dramatic tenor range. As a singer, he is also rather pleasing to the eye, and his stage presence is enormous, making this an all-round excellent performance that, quite rightly, they are all raving about. He has now been booked to sing the same role later this year at the Bavarian State Opera, and one can understand why.
Copyright © 11 August 2007
Tess Crebbin, Munich, Germany