JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tosca is played by Pamela South in the first scene of Hawaii Opera Theatre's "Tosca," finale of the 2006 opera season at the Blaisdell Concert Hall.
'Tosca' delivers rich range of roles
The Italian-themed season of the Hawaii Opera concludes with Puccini's high-voltage "Tosca," a bold tale of trickery, passion and violence, in which all characters are somehow ambiguous.
Presented by Hawaii Opera Theatre.
When: Continues at 4 p.m. today and 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Place: Blaisdell Concert Hall.
Cost: Tickets are $28 to $100.
Call: 596-7858 or visit hawaiiopera.org
Sometimes for convenience or political beliefs, other times for love or pure wickedness, each character has a double predicament. This complexity, the theatrical coups, vocal challenges and musical intensity make the glory of the work.
Soprano Pamela South conveyed the complexity of Tosca's predicament in Friday's opening-night performance. First, she was wonderful in her burst of jealousy at her entrance, looking at the painter Cavaradossi's work ("La vedi? T'ama?"). After, she turned witty when urging the painter to change the color of the woman in the portrait. Then South revealed Tosca's light and sweet side, describing her small house.
But the soprano showed her real strength in the second act, when true dramatic interpretation is needed. Tosca confesses, kills ("Muori!" and "The whole of Rome trembled before him"), forgives and ponders her life in "Vissi d'arte." The soprano delivered this aria with all the due changes of volume, expressive colors and "messa di voce."
Finally, in Act 3, Tosca's tragic quandary reached its peak with the cry "Mario!" Here South's voice gave the audience a chill.
The painter Cavaradossi loves Tosca, but also likes the blonde Marchesa Attavanti. He is a hero and an artist, but calls Tosca a traitor. Well, we love him anyway.
Tenor Richard Crawley in the role of Cavaradossi had good moments Friday, but weaker ones as well. In the first aria "Recondita armonia," his voice was not as strong and "Italianate" as the part suggests. Maybe the projection of his voice was not effective because he was singing from the top of the scaffolding? His duet with Tosca was lovely, but with the "Vittoria" outburst in Act 2, Crawley established the character with stronger voice and theatrical presence. He appeared more persuasive in "E lucevan le stelle" in Act 3, when he delivered the "openness" of Puccini's music with command.
Bass-baritone Jamie Offenbach in the role of the fugitive Angelotti had good scenic impact and his voice was large and clear. Angelotti is always in the run, and uses women's clothes to disguise himself -- another deception. Bass Wilbur Pauley in the Sacristan's role (he lies, too) was witty, funny and pleasantly adapted for the role.
The star of the night, however, was baritone Jake Gardner in the role of evil Scarpia, one of the great bass-baritone roles in opera. No need to describe the character's perversion and treacherousness -- it is there to enjoy.
Scarpia's part appears less complex than the others, as he is the villain from beginning to end. But not overdoing the wickedness is the biggest theatrical challenge. Gardner was sophisticated in his evilness, a true criminal. His rock-solid voice, coupled with his booming entrance line, was fantastic and his voracious pursuit of Tosca was frighteningly realistic.
Gardner just appeared in "Trittico" in the parts of Michele and Gianni Schicchi. What a talent, to be so diverse yet so consistent in his interpretations!
The chorus and the children's chorus had the perfect impact; their choreography and costumes were especially harmonious with the set.
The orchestra under Antony Walker's baton was in tremendous shape. The conductor was agile and accurate, the impetus was there and the instrumentalists participated in the action as much as the singers did.
Helen Rodgers' costumes and Peter Dean Beck's light design were a feast for the eyes, but Neal Peter Jampolis' scenery was especially exquisite.*
A magnificent round "tiled" floor with hints of green and Roman shapes delighted the eyes during the three acts. The scaffolding and the large paintings in Act 1 suggested the height of the church of Sant'Andrea della Valle. In the second act, Scarpia's quarters in Palazzo Farnese faithfully reproduced an opulent Roman room of the 1800s. In the last act, a large angel clasping a sword, like the one on the top of Castel Sant'Angelo, dominated the scene, reminding us of Tosca's predicament: a woman with an angel's voice empowered by the will of a swordfighter.
Valeria Wenderoth has a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where she also teaches.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
» Neal Peter Jampolis designed the sets for Hawaii Opera Theatre's production of "Tosca." A review on Page A2 Sunday included the wrong name.