Rousing performance of Puccini’s Tosca at the Stanislavsky this evening.
Aleksey Shishlyayev, the weak-voiced Escamillo I panned last week in my Carmen review, turned into a strong-voiced and energetic Scarpia this week. Probably had something to do with a more sensible staging. The staging also allowed the other characters to sing and act, and we got an excellent performance from a very diminutive tenor (but not with a diminutive voice) as Cavaradossi, Mikhail Vekua. Natalya Muradimova as Tosca also performed well, although a notch off the other two principals.
Wolf Gorelik, who conducted Carmen last week, was on the podium again. He too provided a good musical platform for the singers, and did not have to face down the audience this week (although the audience was a bit too quick to applaud long before the ends of acts, and there were conversations going on during the performance, it was not quite as random as at Carmen last week).
The staging reverted to the more normal suggestive stagings that the Stanislavsky usually puts out, without the director being on drugs as he appeared to have been for Carmen. These stagings do not detract from the performance, and merely provide a foundation if the cast is good (which it generally is at the Stanislavsky). That said, there were curiosities: some of the staging was inexplicably Japanese-inspired (furniture, paper lanterns, some costumes of random characters), although most was not. Most bizarre though was the shepherd boy at the beginning of Act 3. He appeared dressed as a sheep at the back of the stage, and lip-synched to a recorded version of the boy’s song, which was played from a speaker on the balcony. This made no sense, besides being musically disconcerting (the sound coming from a different direction than the character ostensibly singing it, the music over-amplification in a non-amplified live performance, and the lack of an obvious reason for it).
But on the whole it was a very satisfying evening.