Riccardo Massi


Tosca (Royal Opera House) – The guardian

Tosca (Royal Opera House) on The guardian - 11.01.2016

Tosca review – an exceptionally intelligent evening

The latest Royal Opera revival of Jonathan Kent’s staging of Puccini’s Tosca marks the return of Angela Gheorghiu to the title role, which she sang when the production was first seen in 2006. It’s an exceptionally intelligent evening, and much of what Gheorghiu does takes you by surprise. With a grand diva playing a grand diva, I half expected self-dramatisation or melodrama, but in fact she’s remarkably subtle and restrained.

Her voice has lost some of its lustre and weight of late, though her high Cs still have a heft that pins you to your seat. Her characterisation, however, is appealingly vulnerable. She’s skittish, even witty in her opening duet with Riccardo Massi’s Cavaradossi, rather than indulging in flamboyant displays of jealousy. Her revulsion when Samuel Youn’s Scarpia sexually blackmails her is palpable, while his murder – very much an act of self-defence here – results in deep psychological trauma.

That the rest of it is, for the most part, comparably fine, is due in no small measure to Emmanuel Villaume’s conducting – intense, passionate and detailed, yet always considerate of the singers, who are never swamped by the orchestra. Massi, handsome-sounding, sings with understated ease, integrating his high notes into the phrases rather than clinging on to them for dear life. Youn occasionally goes in for grand gestures, but can also be horribly pervy – he steals one of Tosca’s hair ribbons in the church scene and sniffs it through the Te Deum. His voice, huge and sonorous, is superb. Kent’s staging, meanwhile, has been carefully revived by Andrew Sinclair: the murder scene, with Gheorghiu and Youn grappling on a tabletop, has overtones of Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder, and is all the better for it.

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