Is De Goya at the Met?

Is Francisco De Goya at the Met? Tosca De Puccini

New York, October 29, 2015. The Metropolitan Opera. Tosca. By Giacomo Puccini. Dieter Sturm, Libreto. Richard Peduzzi, sets. Milena Canonero, costumes. Max Keller, lighting. Paula Williams, stage director. Angela Gheorghiu, Tosca. Roberto Aronica, Cavaradossi. Željko Lučić, Scarpia. Richard Bernstein, Angelotti. John Del Carlo, Sacristan. Tony Stevenson, Spoletta. James Courtney, Sciarrone. Daniel Katzman, Shepherd. Tyler Simpson, Jailer. Paolo Carignani, conductor.

The story is based on the theatrical play “La Tosca” by Victorien Sardou, and takes place in Rome in 1800, with the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, the Palace Farnese and the Castle of Sant’Angelo.  The battle of Marengo is underway until finally, Napoleón Bonaparte emerges victorious.

Tosca is a beautiful woman and a singer. She is in love with Mario Caravadosi, who paints religious images at a church in the city.  Scarpia, the chief of police, accuses Mario of being a spy and intends to torture and kill him.  Tosca wants to save Mario and arranges a meeting with Scarpia. Scarpia tries to seduce her then tries to convince her the shooting of Mario will only be a simulation.  But Tosca murders Scarpia with a knife – “the kiss of Tosca”.

Certainly, the staging of the shooting is so similar to the famous painting of Francisco de Goya, The Shooting of May 2, that I wonder whether Puccini and his librettist were influenced by this theatrical and shocking painting as they prepared this last act? And wasn’t Mario Cavaradosi also a chapel painter, as was Goya in Madrid?  We only have to look at Goya’s marvelous frescosin the church of San Antonio de la Florida in Madrid.

The music of Puccini is considered exemplary of the verismoor “realism” style of Italian opera popular in the 19th century, allowing us to perceive the atmosphere of the city in those times.  It includes short dramatically expressive arias; music presented as experienced, not necessarily as “art” (as in the religious cantata, which is different than the music of the real life); but also incorporating contrasting elements of church art music as driven by the plot including such instrumental and ambient sound elements as bells, organ, and ecclesiastical chorus in canon; use of parlato (talking) to provide a sense of realism and contrast, as in the moment when Tosca asks what is the price to pay for the liberation of Mario (“Quanto? Il prezzo!”).

The set is traditional, with two big doors in a brick arch and windows that give the impression of light as it appears in the interior of a church. The second act, is staged in a brothel with red sofas, yellow and brown colors and prostitutes who dance for Scarpia while he sings a lustful aria.

Angela Gheorghiu as Tosca sings her aria “Vissi d’arte”beautifully. The public shouted bravos at the end of the aria. In the last act, a dark wall and stairs flank the set. The guards move in lines up and down the stairs and to the fore and rear of the stage and from right to left, interweaving in an elaborate pattern. At the end of the prelude, the number of guards is fewer, and the movements tighten up. The guards disappear and reappear. Roberto Aronica in the character of Cavaradossi sings a final aria “E lucevan le stelle”, received enthusiastically by the public.

Puccini composed the arias with light accompaniment, so the soloist can freely express himself or herself through the melodic line. Roberto Aronica shows a dark color, spinto, appropriate for this repertorie. He easily reaches the high notes. The beautiful voice of Željko Lučić carries the character of Scarpia with soft pianos, great legato and well contrasted dynamics. Bravo also to Richard Bernstein as Angelotti and John del Carlo surprises us with his beautiful voice as the Sacristán.  The chorus is very fine in the Te Deum. Bravo to the orchestral conductor Paolo Carignani.

PHOTO 1 — Roberto Aronica como Cavaradossi en Tosca de Puccini. Foto de MARTY SOHL – Metropolitan Opera.

PHOTO 2 — Angela Gheorgiu en el papel principal y Zeljko Lucic como Scarpia en Tosca de Puccini. Foto de KEN HOWARD – Metropolitan Opera

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