Jonathan Kent’s production of Puccini’s ‘shabby little shocker’ has done sterling service since it was unveiled in 2006. Now sensitively directed by Andrew Sinclair, together with Paul Brown’s designs and Mark Henderson’s lighting, these ingredients come together in harmony with the story and music to be blessedly novelty-free and ensure that the staging’s shelf-life still has some time to go.
Of course, each revival (this is the second cast this year) brings different singers and conductor, although here soprano Martina Serafin returns for her third stab (as it were) at the title role. The singing from all three main protagonists was good, if without fully establishing their respective characters. Serafin caught opera diva Floria Tosca’s pragmatism and loyalty, less so her jealousy, and her rendition of one of the opera’s hits, ‘Visse d’arte’ (‘I Have Lived for Art’), was simply too loud, lacking prayerfulness and inwardness.
Decibels were also a consistent problem with tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko – as Cavaradossi, Tosca’s lover and revolutionary on the run – who, while vocally warm and attractive, shouted at times and presented the painter as brusque and bluff; a man difficult to love, one might think. Meanwhile, baritone Scott Hendricks sings competently, but he never quite gets near the black-hearted devilry of Scarpia, the corrupt chief of police.
In the pit, the ROH Orchestra plays with seasoned easefulness under conductor Daniel Oren. Indeed, it is his conception of the score that gives the most consistent pleasure of the evening, from his spacious and flexible approach to Act I, in which every detail is teased out, through to the Act III finale, in which the horns are magnificent and dynamic, and the clarinet solo wonderfully wistful. Colin Anderson