Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pieczonka is a great Tosca of our time

Tosca, Deutsche Oper Berlin, May 29, 2010

Pieczonka after Vissi d'arte

Director Boleslaw Barlog 
Conductor Matthias Foremny

Tosca Adrianne Pieczonka
Cavaradossi Roberto Aronica
Scarpia Luccio Gallo
Angelotti Ben Wager
Sacristan Roland Schubert
Spoletta Joerg Schoerner
Sciarrone Hyung-Wook Lee
Turnkey Lucas Harbour

You should renormalize whatever I say about Puccini. I simply don't like the composer, don't like his music, his lacrimosa operas, his tsunami of pathos that borders vulgarity most of the time, ... The only Puccini I used to like was Tosca, which is one of the reasons why I decided to go and see this particular show. OK I probably wouldn't have gone if there wasn't Adrienne Pieczonka singing in it. If I should summarize the evening in one sentence, it would be, "Yes, Pieczonka was SUPERB, but I don't like Tosca any more :(" 

Maybe I'm too tired and it's too soon after I've seen some of the most wonderful opera shows at the Komische Oper, or my bar is still too high for Puccini... I dunno, but the truth is that a nicely performed and very well sung Tosca doesn't work for me.  

I started this entry with a personal view, while objectively this was a very-very fine performance by the leading trio. 

I knew Adrianne Pieczonka would be sensational in this role. I listened to her beautiful Senta, Elisabeth (Tannhauser), Ariadne (Ariadne auf Naxos), Marschallin (Rosenkavalier), and Tosca was perfectly within her grasp. That woman can sing and she sings great: the voice is big and beautiful, her transitions between the upper and lower registers are perfectly audible and never colorless. Particularly refreshing was to see that she wasn't going for any extra moaning and sobbing to interfere with her singing -- which is almost always the case with Tosca. Right now she must be at her lifetime best, so if you get to see/listen to her live, please do. 

Luccio Gallo is a very good Scarpia, and he can outpower the orchestra even when the conductor isn't particularly nice to the singers, which was occasionally the case with Matthias Foremny, although it would be unfair to retain those few moments while overall it was a very fine orchestral performance. 

Roberto Aronica is a very good Roman tenor whom I never heard singing before. Last night he had his moments of brilliance, but the stuff in between sounded kinda tired. He's got good pipes and can sing big (Vittoria, vittoria!), but he uses them only when he decides to ;) E lucevan le stelle was excellent, which is often enough to satisfy the crowd, and -I guess- he knows it. 

I wouldn't have much to say about this ancient production which is very descriptive and classic, but surprisingly not excessivelyt static as it's 40 years old. For what is worth, I think it's 1000 times better than all that Zeffirelli's antitheatrical kitsch. With that being said, a production premiered in 1969 is more than 40 years old and a new touch is in order. 

Berliners like this opera and this production -- the theater was full and the oldies loved it. 

I planned to go and see Tosca in Munich with Kaufmann, Mattila, Uusitalo, but I don't think I will. Tosca is simply not my thing. I leave my place to better fans. ;)

Roberto Aronica and Adrianne Pieczonka

Roberto Aronica, Adrianne Pieczonka, and Luccio Gallo


  1. "his tsunami of pathos"

    Wow, said perfectly. I never could find the right words for Puccini's over-orchestrated, unfocused wankery that no other composer ever annoyed me with.

    I'm glad you liked Pieczonka. She did nothing for me recently as Amelia in Boccanegra, but I'm willing to give another shot.


  2. She was superb. I was lucky with Pieczonka: she was always very good when I listened to her live singing. Last time --before this Tosca in Berlin-- it was in Munich where she was a smashing Ariadne in the Carsen's production of Ariadne auf Naxos with Diana Damrau. That was one of the most memorable shows at every possible level, and Pieczonka was in a glorious form.

  3. "his tsunami of pathos"

    Ditto on that. Finally someone has expressed what I dislike about Puccini - he's the Steven Spielberg of opera!