[Met Performance] CID:170220

Metropolitan Opera House, Thu, December 8, 1955

Debut : Peter Mark

In revising the sets for Puccini's opera, Fox utilized elements from the previous production designed by
Mario Sala and Joseph Novak.
Tosca received seventeen performances this season.

Review 1:

Review of Irving Kolodin in the Saturday

Five-Star 'Tosca'

Can "Star" opera also be ensemble opera? That question ranks with "How old is Anne" among perennial brain-teasers, but it is having one of its rare affirmative answers in the Metropolitan's current "Tosca." Those who doubt the possibility should run not walk to the Met while Richard Tucker, Renata Tebaldi, and Leonard Warren are responding to the authority of Dimitri Mitropoulos's conducting, pursuing the logical plan of Dino Yannopoulos's stage direction, and enjoying the spacious, cleanly designed scenery "salvaged" by Frederick Fox from the Salla-Novak originals dating back thirty years.

Actually, I doubt that much more has remained in this "revised production" than the same old knife with which Tosca stabs Scarpia, but Fox has achieved some of the solid look of his "Andrea Chenier" on a much scantier budget. If the board of directors is content with the result and is not prone to ask probing questions, I'd say that Rudolf Bing has rarely achieved so much with so little.

Tucker and Tebaldi had sung their roles here previously, but in the general reworking of a score that goes with the appearance of a new conductor they each exceeded their previous best by a substantial margin. Tucker is floating some beautifully resonant sound this season, and Tebaldi's richness and fervor of voice were subtly shaded in accord with Mitropoulos's well-shaped direction of the orchestral score. A little more abandon might have been developed at a climax or two, but complaints for accomplishment on this level would have to be called captious.

Few would have believed from Warren's vocal solidity and dramatic competence that this was his first Scarpia. Serious artist that he now is, he already had a tight grip on virtually every vocal problem (some parlandos in the interchanges of Act II were slightly muffled) built on a ground plan of an interesting characterization (revolving around his ogling of Tosca at every convenient and some inconvenient moments through a lorgnette). A good physique for the role, a becoming makeup and wig plus finely tailored costumes (the red clocks on the black stockings were a mite gay for the fearsome police chief) all add to a feeling that something so well begun can be elaborated into one of his best parts. Having worked his way through a galaxy of Verdian roles from Amonasro to Iago, Warren brings to the most Verdian of Puccini's creations a vocal displacement not sunk by its tonal tonnage, a poise, in the face of substantial orchestral outbursts, uncommon among new Scarpias.

Tebaldi seemed more at ease as a Metropolitan Tosca than she had been last spring, and did some of the best vocal work in her local career to date. "Vissi d'arte" was a notable vocal highlight, and she had ample range of mood to deal with the coquetry of Act I as well. Her costumes were also an improvement and she sustained a well- bred contempt for Scarpia that marked him for the morgue from the moment she snatched her hand away from his at their parting in Act I. In a sequence of post-Jeritza Toscas that have offered some strong and weak points by Albanese, Rigal, Welitsch, Resnik, Tassinari, Grace Moore, Kirsten, Lehmann, and sundry others, Tebaldi is by far the most rounded.

This was a limited, not an all-out new production, so the Yannapoulos direction had to deal with minimum rather than maximum objectives. Some of the comings and goings through the numerous doors and windows of the new set were a little contrived, and the "Te Deum" at the end of Act I was rather disorderly, but he managed the tricky business of Act II in a spirit of melodrama, not burlesque. When you have done that you have given Puccini as much as he needs to make his music convincing.

Production photos of Tosca by Sedge LeBlang.

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