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Tosca – Montpellier – Review

Reviewing a production, whose qualities and weaknesses we have said, a few months apart, allows us to deepen its ins and outs, especially when its director has stuffed the proposal with references, parallels and we have an incomplete Rosetta Stone. This Tosca Pasolinian has been reworked and everything is more accentuated there than in Brussels. This reinforces its qualities: the SM scene that is the second act reaches awkward heights – which will encourage an untrained spectator to claim the head of Rafael R. Villalobos just before the start of “Vissi d’arte”, not bravo monsieur – the direction of the actor, much sharper, carries much more the intrigue of the libretto than the parallel drawn with the life of Pasolini and what resonates with Puccini’s masterpiece. Thus, Tosca who appears in a religious chasuble at the end of the “Te Deum” and turns around to reveal a skull, symbol of his faith already lost. Her ceremonial red coat of the following acts, close to the homespun of cardinals, transforms her into an allegory of avenging goddess, support of the oppressed artist. Because it is the other angle that Rafael R. Villalobos makes more readable in Montpellier. The relationship between Pasolini and Cavadarossi, both Roman artists persecuted by the conservative institutions of the Italian capital and the Catholic world. To achieve this, a spoken monologue was added before Portofino’s song (see Brussels CR), which underlines the disturbing voice of the artist. It illuminates just as much as it weighs down or even annoys. Especially since the torture of Cavaradossi by Scarpia takes place for much less political reasons than to exert sadistic pressure on Tosca. There remains all the homoeroticism of the show (and we are not talking about the naked bodies which find all their meaning in the second act, no offense to the grumpy) which are always stuck strangely on Tosca and still multiply the references. It’s smart, for example, to reproduce a scene from the film La mala education during the sacristan scene, but what coherence can this find in the already radical angle chosen by the director? If we add the curtain of the precipitate before the third act representing Judith and Holofernes (obvious reference) and the very strong pictorial illustrations of Santiago Ydanezyou always get that head-spinning potpourri feeling that lessens the impact of a show that says too much.

© Marc Ginot

In the pit, contrary to Alain Altinoglu’s nervous reading and full of colors in Brussels – at the head of an orchestra still reduced for covid-related reasons – the direction of Michael Schonwandt offers a slow and heavy reading, seated on an opulent orchestra, well structured and never faulted. Yet this thickness in no way hinders the conduct of the drama. On the contrary, it gives it a sticky temporality that perfectly suits the staging.

But it sometimes places the singers in a situation of discomfort and even more so when the excellent choirs – in Brussels, sent back to an adjoining room and retransmitted indoors again because of the infernal virus – find themselves placed in the corridors of the first balcony of the Corum. The poor Marco Caria can’t but. He is the weak link in the trio and not just because he lacks the power and projection of his comrades, even acknowledging that the fantastic setting ofEmanuele Sinisi loses sound in the hangers (which did not happen at the Mint). He borders on accident as soon as he bursts into the Church and will simply not reach the treble of the role repeatedly. It’s a shame because the line is racy, the scenic and vocal incarnation close to the sadistic cruelty desired by the staging. The supporting roles are all excellent, in particular the excellent androgynous shepherd of Leopold Gilloots-Laforgethe comic Sacristan of Matteo Law or the vile Spoletta of Yoann Le Lan whose vocal power and bitter timbre are quite appropriate. The love duo finds singers-actors more well invested in Montpellier. Amadi Lagha overflows with power and breath, which allows it to deafen the 1600 spectators of the Corum of “Vittoria” held with force and brilliance beyond reason. But we must also salute the beautiful phrasing deployed from “Recondita armonia”. However, one cannot help noticing that in the dialogue scenes its support and its precision fall apart. Ewa Vesin finally has almost the entire range of the best Toscas: a warm and opulent tone equal over the entire range, power to spare and a scenic and vocal temperament that moves you right away. A few nuances and technical effects would still need to be perfected, which more sophisticated breath management should allow without difficulty.

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