středa 6. prosince 2017

Spectacular Tosca at Leipzig Opera

I have to confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for Puccini's Tosca. It was the first opera I have  ever seen live on stage. It was back in 2004 at New York City Opera – an event I shall never forget. Leipzig Opera production was my 15th live production I have seen and I must say it was one of the most beautiful on many levels.

First of all I'd like to point out that the saying you can do so much with so little is the proper way how to introduce Leipzig production. Warm, intellectual staging of Act 1 takes us inside of the church where at the back of the stage we can see dozens of lit candles while in front of the stage Mario prepares for his work – finishing his painting of a portrait of St. Mary. When his friend and escaped prisoner Angelotti appears on stage, Mario greets him and hides him in the wooden box next to his working place. Tosca enters. Always suspicions diva and Mario's lover who is trying to find why it had taken Mario so long to unlock the door... Tosca appears in a stunning gown (all her gowns are by the way absolutely beautiful and show a lot of resemblance of dresses Maria Callas used to wear as Tosca). After the lovers’ scene, the man of the hour appears. Ever hated and horrible Scarpia who wants everything he sees no matter the price and consequences. Baron Scarpia's Te Deum is a mix of total madness and religious power represented magnificently by angles, saints and other religious figures appearing from below to the top of the stage while standing on massive organ. One epic scene!

Copyright: Andreas Birkigt

Act 2 takes us to Scarpia's residence where he first tries to convince poor Tosca to give him information about Angelotti, escaped prisoner, and confess that her Mario is quilty of helping him. She denies but after seeing the torture of his beloved she confesses without of course knowing anything about it. Mario is sentence to death but there is a way to save him. Tosca should give herself to Scarpia. After her heartbreaking plea in aria Vissi D´Arte she agrees to do whatever Scarpia desires. When she sees a knife on Scarpia's desk, she acts quickly. She grabs the knife and kills Scarpia who dies in her arms. And again there is a tremendous resemblance with Madam Callas' heroin – both in acting performance as well as in singing.
A little unusual moment is the payment refusal from the prison guard that I have never witnessed before (in all production the guard would always exept Mario's ring as a payment for pencil and paper). However, the most interesting and surprising moment of Act 3 is the actual execution of Mario when he is shot by flying Angels of Death. Another memorable scene cleverly done!
The Gewandhouse orchestra conducted by maestro Tobias Engeli played beautifully with great passion. The string section was wonderful especially in aria Vissi D´Arte and Mario's final scene O Dolci Mani Mansuete E Pure.

Copyright: Andreas Birkigt

Karine Babajanyan was the ultimate diva! I was very impressed with her wonderful singing technique, her lyrical and yet powerful voice reminded me of already mentioned young Maria Callas. I hope to hear her in other Puccini roles which I believe she was born to sing.
Don't we all love the opera vilans! How wonderful  to see and hear such versatile singer like Finish bass-baritone Tuomas Pursio in such amazing role! This is the first time I heard his wonderful colorful voice and was so surprised to hear him the next day as Vodnik in Rusalka. Totally different singing / acting, and yet in absolute control in both characters.
Leipzig Opera has always so much to offer. I am very much looking forward to experiencing more performance in this wonderful house that has such special energy.
You can find more info on other Leipzig Opera production on