BBC Music Magazine - - Reviews -

Tosca (DVD) Anja Harteros, Alek­san­drs An­to­nenko, Lu­dovic Tézier, An­drea Mas­troni; Bach­chor Salzburg; Staatskape­lle Dres­den/chris­tian Thiele­mann; dir. Michael Stur­minger (Salzburg, 2018)

C ma­jor DVD: 748308; Blu-ray: 748404

120 mins

It’s a moot point whether all Puc­cini operas up­date well, and Tosca can seem rather tied to its spe­cific his­tor­i­cal pe­riod. Ref­er­ences to Bon­a­parte’s vic­tory raise an eye­brow or two in Michael Stur­minger’s pro­duc­tion for the 2018 Salzburg Easter Fes­ti­val, re­lo­cated to present-day Rome. Get be­yond such qualms, how­ever, and this pro­duc­tion does a fine job of un­der­lin­ing just what a res­o­nant opera Tosca is for our times.

Stur­minger’s sets are not so dif­fer­ent from those in a stan­dard Tosca, at least for the first two acts, but cos­tumes and di­rec­to­rial de­tails bring the ac­tion up to date. Psy­cho­log­i­cal re­al­ism is to the fore. Scarpia is a mafia god­fa­ther made dou­bly sin­is­ter by the fact that he could pass for your boss: a white­haired, be­spec­ta­cled, over­weight busi­ness­man in a cheap suit who likes to ride his ex­er­cise bike be­fore in­dulging in ca­sual work­place ha­rass­ment. Lu­dovic Tézier es­chews the usual pan­tomime-vil­lain ap­proach for some­thing more sub­tle: ut­terly com­mand­ing of voice yet cold be­hind the eyes. Anja ★arteros is a chic, grown-up, no-non­sense Tosca who lit­er­ally wears the trousers. She is on top form vo­cally, par­tic­u­larly rich in the dra­matic chest regis­ter yet also giv­ing us an ut­terly serene ‘Vissi d’arte’ that for once doesn’t seem like an in­ter­rup­tion to the ac­tion. Alek­san­drs An­to­nenko as a smock-clad Cavara­dossi is a weaker pres­ence both dra­mat­i­cally and mu­si­cally; his pe­ri­od­i­cally wa­ver­ing in­to­na­tion is par­tic­u­larly dis­con­cert­ing. Chris­tian Thiele­mann and the Staatskape­lle Dres­den pro­vide sym­pa­thetic sup­port to the pro­ceed­ings.

No­body in this pro­duc­tion is like­able; ev­ery­one is con­trol­ling some­one else. Stur­minger’s use of chil­dren in the ac­tion in­ten­si­fies the opera’s dark­est shades: most shock­ing is the forcible use of boys from a dis­rep­utable Catholic board­ing school to do the mafia stooges’ dirty work. This is a bit­ter­choco­late thriller of a pro­duc­tion, with a hell of a plot twist at the end. Alexan­dra Wil­son



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