After needing to get an usher to eject someone from my seat, I enjoyed my second concert performance of Puccini’s Tosca in two months, tonight with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra under Eduard Topchjan.
Hasmik Papian (the Vienna-based soprano I have only heard in Yerevan) headed the billing as Floria Tosca, providing a solid strong-willed heroine, who dropped into a delicate “Vissi d’arte” aria when at her most vulnerable moment. She showed a clear chemistry with the two male leads, Hovhannes Ayvazyan as Mario Cavardossi and David Babayants as Baron Scarpia. Both of them demonstrated tremendous expression in their voices, even if those voices did not display the same size as Papian’s. Nevertheless, when it mattered during the second act Tosca-Scarpia duet and the third act Tosca-Cavaradossi duet, the combination excelled.
Maestro Topchjan kept everything together and well-paced, as usual, on the podium. The orchestra did not sound big in the first act, but it grew throughout, without overwhelming the singers (as can happen in a concert performance). By Yerevan standards, this was worth a strong ovation, with Topchjan the evening’s true catalyst.
As for my seat, I actually felt sorry for the older couple (the husband was in my seat, so he got ejected), but I did pay for my ticket in a full house, and their tickets were obviously fake (two seat numbers written by hand on a concert flier – someone must have sold this fraudulent paper to a poor unsuspecting older couple, all elegantly dressed up for a night of culture). The wife gave me nasty looks for a while, but eventually settled down (she tried to make small talk, but we have no common language although neither of us thought to try Russian). Her husband wandered around and seems to have found some empty seat somewhere else (the usher threw him out of the seat, not out of the hall). The next two seats between her and the aisle were reserved for the Italian ambassador and his interpreter, making an obligatory appearance at an Italian opera (he went on stage before it began to thank Topchjan and the Armenian Philharmonic for programming Italian opera), although he seems to know little about opera since he had his interpreter lean over to me after the second act to ask me (in Armenian! I don’t know if she spoke English, so once I figured out what she wanted I answered in Italian) if it was over and time to go. He seemed slightly disappointed he had to sit politely through another act.