LABELS: BBC Opus Arte
ALBUM TITLE: Puccini
WORKS: Tosca (a film by Benoît Jacquot)
PERFORMER: Angela Gheorghiu, Roberto Alagna, Ruggero Raimondi, David Cangelosi, Sorin Coliban, Enrico Fissore, Maurizio Murano, Gwynne Howell, James Savage-Hanford; ROH Chorus & Orchestra/ Antonio Pappano
CATALOGUE NO: OA 0883 D
She has jumped from the Castel Sant’Angelo. Scarpia’s henchmen chase after her as the orchestra, whipped within an inch of their lives by Antonio Pappano, howls her defiance. And then we cut away to Angela Gheorghiu in black and white in the studio at the end of the recording session with eyes wide and an audible sigh. ‘Gheorghiu is Tosca’ is what the shot shouts, ending a DVD as more a marketing opportunity than a version of Puccini’s opera.
Director Benoît Jacquot’s decision to cross-cut between an awkwardly staged Tosca played out on studio sets and the recording sessions for Pappano’s recent recording with Gheorghiu and Alagna may be modishly post-modern, but the end result is crass. The tears and terror that make this opera so splendidly a ‘shabby little shocker’ are entirely theatrical. Mix in documentary realism and it’s less than cardboard and paste.
Alagna is handsome as Cavaradossi – to look at. And Gheorghiu is a red-blooded Tosca, though when she declares in the ‘extra’ interview that the role is ‘like balsam for my voice’, you beg to differ. Her upper register lacks the required grace under pressure. However, it’s Ruggero Raimondi’s Scarpia who’s the greater disappointment. Sung with all the care that you expect from this most intelligent of artists, he is wicked when he should be evil, a crop-headed functionary doing some nasty service to the state. All Rome would never have trembled before this man. Averted their gaze more likely, which is a sensible precedent for this misconceived venture. Christopher Cook