Patricia Racette as Tosca (SF Opera Photo)
To Tosca last week, with Racette, Jagde, Delavan/Luisotti. I had a subscription ticket to see Gheorghiu, and swapped for Racette even before the show opened. You can see why in one of the interviews I read with the two sopranos: Gheorghiu loves singing Tosca because the character is Gheroghiu. Racette loves singing Tosca because she is such a different personality to explore.
Well, Gheorghiu seems to do the diva thing, or her idea of the diva thing, even in concert, from what I hear. That's not so interesting.
The staging this time around, again by Jose Maria Condemi, was far better than last time. So was the conducting and so was the drama; Nicola Luisotti kept things moving along nicely, and while there were no revelations, I also didn't want to kick him. To the extent that there was any slumping, my sense was that he was being good to Brian Jagde, who needed some help, or he was keeping the volume down a bit.
Brian Jagde. SIGH. According to Racette, the late Salvatore Licitra was originally in the cast. He died in September, 2011, and Jagde must have been swapped in before the January, 2012 season announcement. Along the way, he also picked up some Cavaradossis in Santa Fe, after the tenor there dropped out.
He needs a lot more seasoning before he will be a good Mario. "Recondita Armonia" was square rather than liquid; he had power but no bloom at the top and went out of tune all too often. Ugh. He was better in the more conversational scenes, but "E lucevan le stelle," which got off to a nice introspective start, lay right on his vocal break. You could say that I'm sorry that he's in as Pinkerton in the summer, 2014, run of Butterfly, especially with an otherwise admirable cast headed by Patricia Racette, who is a great Cio-Cio-San. I know who I would have liked to have as Cavaradossi in this run, but unfortunately he was in Los Angeles singing Pinkerton.
Mark Delavan was a whole lot better than the last time I saw him, making an impressively slimey and sadistic Scarpia. I still think his voice is too soft-grained, without much squillo, but whatever. He was fine.
Racette is, indeed, a little underpowered for Tosca, but sounded really good 98% of the time. The other 2%, well, I worry about her: there is more flapping on sustained high forte notes than three years ago in Trittico. But otherwise all was well vocally, with beautiful tone and a fine Italianate line. Dramatically, she was a wonderful Tosca, tremendously appealing, human, complex, changeable, a delicious flirt, jealous but not too jealous, fiercely brave in her act II confrontation with Scarpia. Oh, and very sexy: she looks fantastic in a black wig, with her beautiful skin and the particular makeup she was wearing. She was certainly the most convincing Tosca I've seen; I can't help but think that all those other sopranos trying to put her across as a tigress are missing the boat: she comes across as a caricature, not a human.
On balance, then, a satisfying evening.