■ Aušrinė Stundytė (Tosca) and Andrea Carè (Cavaradossi) in Christof Loy’s new staging of Puccini’s opera at FNO
unconvincingly tried to explain that there are two time frames in Tosca, in that ‘Cavaradossi and Scarpia represent two completely different worlds’. But the whole drama emerges from the characters representing opposing forces at the same time in the very same world.
The all-white sets did have the advantage of making the characters dressed in black stand out. Tosca (Aušrinė Stundytė) first appeared in the church in a black dress that could have been designed by a Roman fashion house in the 1950s. By the second act she had changed into a dress in a more 19th-century style; after Scarpia had torn this he could enjoy watching her go around in a tightly fitting black negligée. Toward the end of the act she covered herself in Scarpia’s bright red cloak, and in this flashy attire she then went to explain the new situation to the imprisoned Cavaradossi (Andrea Carè). Both Stundytė and Carè were strikingly good looking; if only their voices had been of equal beauty. Carè’s ‘Vittoria’ was duly impressive, but ‘E lucevan le stelle’ sounded more like a pathetic cry of desperation than a lyrical farewell to life. Neither did Stundytė’s ‘Vissi d’arte’ function as the showstopping moment of emotional expression called for. She has great potential as an actress, but Loy did not really succeed in eliciting from her a truly captivating performance.
Cavaradossi’s simple ‘prison cell’ had no door and people went freely in and out, including the ‘shepherd’ in the form of a little girl dressed up as a small early-secondact Tosca. The transition to the top of Castel Sant’Angelo happened behind a painted red front curtain, and Tosca and Cavaradossi’s final dialogue took place in front of this reminder of theatrical artifice, as if to emphasize still further the idea that to the very end Tosca lived her life as if performing a theatrical piece.
Matias Haakana was an excellent Spoletta, Heikki Aalto a mellow Sacristan. This was a musically enjoyable evening, even if not one of great voices. Under Patrick Fournillier, the Finnish National Opera Orchestra sounded as professional as ever. henry bacon
Opera, December 2018