[Met Performance] CID:279860

New Production

Metropolitan Opera House, Mon, March 11, 1985

Debut : Giuseppe Sinopoli

Tosca (678)
Giacomo Puccini | Luigi Illica/Giuseppe Giacosa
Hildegard Behrens

Plácido Domingo

Cornell MacNeil

Italo Tajo

Anthony Laciura

James Courtney

Russell Christopher

Melissa Fogarty

Richard Vernon

Giuseppe Sinopoli [Debut]

Franco Zeffirelli

Costume Designer
Peter J. Hall

Lighting Designer
Gil Wechsler

Tosca received eleven performances this season.

Production a gift of Mrs. Donald D. Harrington

Review 1:

Review of Martin Mayer in Opera June, l985

At the end of the first act of the Metropolitan Opera's remarkably lavish new "Tosca" (March 11), I was licking my chops in anticipation of a good solid quarrel with my colleagues, who had disliked the production pretty strongly. Yes, the real Sant'Andrea della Valle was never like Franco Zeffirelli's, never so sunny or so pretty, and maybe not so big: and so gorgeous a collection of costumes never paraded through it. And Giuseppe Sinopoli's conducting was a little slow and loud and heavy, overconscious of the Germanic influences that really are in the score. The orchestra played rather coarsely for him, too. Still, we had Domingo, a convincing Cavaradossi singing very beautifully; and we had Hildegard Behrens, solidly on pitch and musical. She was a surprisingly effective and charming coquette, self-absorbed, a simple soul, cheerful in art and love, easily turned to jealousy and religiosity. Cornell MacNeil's Scarpia directed traffic efficiently; if his voice no longer gives much pleasure, it did not cause any pain in Act I. And the crowd scene at the end was truly impressive.

The set for Act 2 reinforced the good impression: I liked the idea of Scarpia's room as a library, and the bookshelves worked well to constrict the stage for what is an essentially intimate scene. But after that [first} moment, everything went downhill: MacNeil's standard-issue evil was not so much unconvincing as boring, and Behrens proved quite unable to handle the dramatic demands of the role. She doesn't know how to be vulnerable; as her world collapsed around her, she just stood there. Callas could do this effectively, and one suspects that Zeffirelli was trying not ignobly to recapture the Callas triumph for Behrens. But he should have seen that it didn't - couldn't - work. Behrens is a very great artist, but she is not Callas. And she lacks the "fila di voce" to rouse the enthusiasm others create with "Vissi d'arte." Once she decided to kill Scarpia, she seemed herself again, though some of her gestures were perilously melodramatic.

For Act 3, Zeffirelli used one of the great resources of the Met, the second stage that can be lifted into view from below. After the [previous] scenes he brought up the

dungeon where Cavaradossi was being held, and the reunion of Tosca and her lover was played in these surroundings before they walked up the stairs together to the denouement. My instinct is to prefer Cavaradossi on stage somewhat earlier, because I think the music after the Shepherd's song describes what passes through his mind (there isn't much excuse for it otherwise); but there is certainly warrant in the stage instructions for what Zeffirelli has done, and it is highly effective at the end. Sinopoli in this act was very pretentious - the horn call was straight out of "Gotterdämmerung," and the music couldn't bear the weight. Behrens again had nothing to do during the sections of the duet when Domingo was singing, and seemed rather lost behind what had now become a rather unfortunate grin. But Domingo's "E lucevan le stelle" was pretty nearly worth the price of admission.

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