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55 years and Counting!

Staatsoper Vienna
06/11/2012 -  & June 14, November 16, 19, 23, 2012
Giacomo Puccini: Tosca
Norma Fantini (Floria Tosca), Johan Botha (Mario Cavaradossi), Zeljko Lucic (Barone Scarpia), Clemens Unterreiner (Cesare Angelotti), Lars Woldt (Sagrestano), Wolfgang Igor Derntl (Spoletta), Marcus Pelz (Sciarrone), Il Hong (Carceriere)
Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera, Chorus of the Vienna State Opera, Stage Orchestra of the Vienna State Orchestra, Children’s Chorus of the Vienna State Opera, Martin Schebesta (chorus master), Philippe Auguin (conductor)
Margarethe Wallmann (stage director), Nicola Benois (set design)

Z. Lucic & N. Fantini (© M. Pöhn/Vienna Staatsoper)

55 years and almost 555 performances ago Margarethe Wallmann’s staging of Puccini’s Tosca was premiered at the Vienna Staatsoper. 555 Toscas - Renata Tebaldi, Grace Bumbry, Hildegard Behrens, Leonie Rysanek, Montserrat Caballé and Maria Guleghina, to name just a few – have since jumped off the Staatsoper’s Castel Sant’Angelo. 555 Scarpias, sung by great baritones like Tito Gobbi, Walter Berry, Hans Hotter, Ruggiero Raimondi, Samuel Ramey, Renato Bruson and Eberhard Waechter, have been brutally stabbed. 555 times have legendary tenors like Giuseppe di Stefano, Franco Corelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Jose Carreras, Plácido Domingo and Giacomo Aragall died tragic stage deaths after singing “E lucevan le stelle.” And 555 times have parents waited anxiously backstage while their offspring sang the shepherd boy at the start of the 3rd Act.

Nicola Benois’ lavish sets have been lugged 555 times from the storage facility on the outskirts of Vienna onto the Staatsoper stage and back. 555 times hordes of stage workers have performed a little miracle and built Rome in a matter of hours. 555 times has the table been laid in Benois’ Palazzo Farnese, and 555 times the stage manager has had to make sure Tosca finds the knife to stab Scarpia. 555 times has a stagehand checked the matrasses behind the scene so Tosca lands safely after her jump. Over 5 decades zealous tailors have readjusted costumes to fit both larger than life Luciano Pavarotti as well as athletic Franco Corelli. These seamstresses have also had to make sure all the Toscas, from Hilde Zadek to Montserrat Caballé, look stunningly beautiful in the costumes that Nicola Benois designed in 1957.

During these 55 years, one generation of musicians of the Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper has passed on their musical traditions to the next. For over 5 decades they have played this Tosca in the pit of the Vienna Staatsoper under legendary conductors like Herbert von Karajan, Rudolf Kempe, Josef Krips, Giuseppe Patané and Alberto Erede. Plácido Domingo so far is the only one who not only sang the role of Cavaradossi, but also conducted the opera. 555 times has the Vienna Staatsoper programmed Margarethe Wallmann’s staging of Puccini’s Tosca. 555 times has this Tosca production enchanted its Viennese audience.

The most memorable moments of this particular night belonged to Johan Botha as Cavaradossi. Botha has recently gravitated in his repertory more towards Wagner. After the many Lohengrins and Tannhäusers, singing Cavaradossi may seem like a walk in the park. His Cavaradossi, obviously well fed on pastas, was virile, cultured and well balanced. Both his famous arias “Recondita armonia” and “E lucevan le stelle” were a feast for the ears.

Norma Fantini as Tosca may not have had her best evening. She performed with the necessary pathos, but her voice at times sounded shrill and insecure. Zeljko Lucic’s warm and noble baritone was sometime unable to project over the orchestra pit. His portrayal of Scarpia lacked malignity. All the smaller roles were, as is usual at the Vienna Staatsoper, excellent. Particularly noteworthy was Clemens Unterreiner as Cesare Angelotti. The Orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper sounded lush and luxurious. Conductor Philippe Auguin did a respectable job. He wasn’t always able to achieve dynamic subtleties, with the orchestra at times covering the singers. The Chorus and the Children’s Chorus of the Opera sounded gorgeous, as usual.

Margarethe Wallmann, the ballerina turned stage director, who gave the Viennese this staging of Tosca in 1957, passed away in 1992 at the age of 90. Her Vienna Tosca has already outlived her 20 years. May this Tosca see many more years to come!

Staatsoper Vienna

Wiebke Kuester



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