Puccini, Tosca

While its wonderful neo-Persian Opera House is still undergoing renovations (after almost four years since it closed, the renovations are almost done by the look of it), the Tbilisi State Opera continues to perform in other venues.  Tonight it did a fantastic concert version of Puccini’Tosca in the Tbilisi Conservatory.

Tosca‘s music alone has enough drama to survive unstaged, but it certainly helps to have a team like tonight’s that could make the drama unfold without the benefit of a staging.  The State Opera Orchestra produced a full sound under the steady baton of Giorgi Zhordania.  The climax of the first act nearly blew the roof off the Conservatory, whose main hall really is not that large, all the while keeping a very fine sound, swelling and ebbing as required to enunciate the plot.  I’d love to pack them up and take them back to Yerevan with me.

From the cast, Giorgi Oniani as Mario Cavaradossi and Nikoloz Ligvilava as Baron Scarpia excelled.  Oniani’s piercing tenor also effortlessly switched over to mezza voce as often required in this opera but not always achieved by many singers, although sometimes his voice lapsed into dry patches.  Ligvilava gave a menacing portrayal of the villainous Scarpia, in control of the plot right up to the point that Tosca murders him (but then, of course, getting his revenge beyond the grave).  Both probably speak Italian, or at least have sufficient familiarity to act their roles convincingly in the absence of a staging – they did not merely sing the notes, but also demonstrated they knew what they sang.

Unfortunately, Maqvala Askanidze did not do the same justice to the role of Floria Tosca.  Her voice failed to hit notes cleanly, wobbling around each note instead.  To overcome this failing, she often resorted to screaming, which had the benefit of lacking the wobble but simply became unpleasant.  We got stuck with her right to the end: Tosca has the last line.  Still, the title role aside, the stars shone for tonight’s performance.

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