For my Music: Analysis and Criticism class, we had to write a review for Lyric’s production of Tosca. We are currently in the “opera” unit, but instead of studying Tosca, we are studying Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. This is the review I submitted for class, which got an A – woot 😀
Tosca at the Lyric Opera: A Review
Tosca by Puccini was a wonderful experience, especially since it was my first time seeing a full-fledged opera production. Combined with the fact that it was at the Lyric Opera in downtown Chicago and that we were sitting in main-floor seats, I thought the entire night was incredible! Anyways, there were some noticeable differences between the music of Puccini and that of Mozart. I believe, in Puccini’s music, there were multiple musical themes that were interwoven throughout the acts, similar to a recurring motif. For example, in act I, Cavaradossi’s famous “Recondita armonia” (which is best sung by Luciano Pavarotti, in my opinion), made its way back into the audience’s ears several times throughout the act. Then in act III, Cavaradossi’s “E lucevan le stelle” was also interwoven throughout the final act. This marked a quite different change from the techniques of Mozart in that Mozart, at least in Le Nozze di Figaro, did not really have overarching musical themes interwoven throughout the entire opera. This is a result of the fact that Puccini employs a “continuous” operatic structure, whereas Mozart employs the “number opera” style. I also felt that Puccini’s music was more dramatic, dark, and serious, whereas Mozart’s music tended to be more light and spirited, due to the fact that he was composing an opera buffa, which is supposed to be comical.
The staging, in my opinion, could have been improved. For example, right when the curtain opened for the Act I, the curtain became caught on the large apparatus that had the broken pieces of Cavaradossi’s painting, which was a minor distraction seeing as someone had to climb up the stairs to remove the curtain. Also, there was not enough gore, in my opinion, for this opera, even though they placed a large amount of blood on the curtain at the beginning of the act for foreshadowing effects. However, the story was very dramatic and thus, interesting to watch for the three hours we were there for.
I believe that the only solid singer during the opera was Brian Jagde, who played Cavaradossi, as his performances of “Recondita armonia” and “E lucevan le stelle” were both powerful and emotional, and he did not miss a note (from what I heard). Tatiana Serjan was okay as Tosca; her rendition of “Vissi d’arte” was fine, but I thought she struggled in some parts of the opera with the higher notes. I thought one of the weaker singers in the opera was Annie Wagner, who played the Shepherd, as her voice was quite off-tune during her one solo in the third act. Also, I didn’t really enjoy how sometimes the orchestra overpowered the voice of Evgeny Nikitin, who played Scarpia. It was as if there was a competition between the orchestra and Scarpia to see who could be louder, but the orchestra was the clear winner, which was not good for the opera.