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San Francisco Opera
Jagde and Racette in SFO's Tosca
© Cory Weaver 2013
Three Floria Toscas — one more than originally planned — took the stage in San Francisco Opera's fall run of the Puccini opera. First came Angela Gheorghiu. On opening night (Nov. 15), in the first of two alternating casts, the Romanian soprano introduced a Tosca of touching, girlish fragility; her lyric instrument sounded fresh and delicately colored, and she established the character with charming, coquettish demeanor. Unfortunately, Gheorghiu made it through Act I only; at the first intermission, general director David Gockley announced that she was indisposed and could not continue the performance. Gheorghiu's cover, Melody Moore, stepped in, making her (partial) role debut and acquitting herself capably. Moore's gleaming chest tones, intelligent phrasing and alert dramatic focus suggested that Puccini's protagonist will be an excellent fit for her as her career progresses.
Gheorghiu returned to Tosca for her second scheduled performance, on November 18, but not before Patricia Racette had sung her first San Francisco Tosca, on November 16, overshadowing all others in recent memory. Racette fully inhabited the role: by turns haughty, vulnerable and impassioned, she made the character's jealousy dark and potent, her anguish penetratingly real. Her tone was vibrant and lustrous, never turning harsh or edgy; "Vissi d'arte," delivered with the passion of the truly devout, was pure and affecting. This was a magnificent assumption, by an artist at the peak of her powers.
Racette's Cavaradossi, Brian Jagde, took top honors among the alternating casts. The artist's large, well-placed tenor sounded supple in "Recondita armonia," virile in "Vittoria!" and tender in "E lucevan le stelle." Baritone Mark Delavan also made a strong partner for Racette as a Scarpia of vocal heft and suave malevolence. The first-night cast was less satisfactory. Massimo Giordano was a lackluster Cavaradossi; the tenor's voice projected inconsistently, and his awkward leaps in the role's upper range were disconcerting. Roberto Frontali supplied an indifferent Scarpia — unctuous of manner but lacking in venomous bite. Both casts benefited from Christian Van Horn's vigorous Angelotti, Dale Travis's robust Sacristan, Joel Sorensen's reptilian Spoletta and Ao Li's resonant Sciarrone. Etienne Valdez and Ryan Nelson-Flack, both sweet-voiced, alternated as the Shepherd. The chorus shone throughout, with particular potency in the Te Deum.
Thierry Bosquet's production, attractively lit by Christopher Maravich, has been unobtrusively refurbished and remains serviceable. Jose Maria Condemi directed without incident. In his drive to push the orchestra to dramatic heights, music director Nicola Luisotti occasionally covered his singers. Yet, with artists — particularly Racette — who were capable of riding the waves, Luisotti's approach yielded riveting results.
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