I have often stated that at times a single line or word or even SYLLABLE out of the mouth of an artist can tell you something that is special about the singer. During last night's truly glorious Tosca performance by Sondra Radvanovsky, I realized that the "VI" of "Vissi d'arte" (I think that is an E flat) represented the level of brilliance of tone that was so special to me, and of course that voice last evening had to be the most glamorous since my olden "Antonietta Stella' days.
Mme.Radvanovsky has grown into one of the most brilliant sopranos in my memory, and the tone just cuts through in middle,upper middle, and top (enormous up there) that is so thrilling you sit there in amazement;this from the supposed jaded Charlie,who has seen a few good Toscas over 60 years.
If you take a section beginning "L'innamorata Tosca e prigioniera" in act one, where the tone just radiates through the house, or the end of the Vissi d'arte, which often kills a soprano, with remarkable control, you realize that there is an effortless stream of sound that is worthy of the ovation she received, and remember, I am the guy who usually says, "that audience knows nothing."
When Tosca kills Scarpia in this staging, she stabs him over and over on each "muori," causing me to think of a certain soprano named Vera at a company called "Gran Scena" who does a bit more stabbing. Radvanovsky was on fire here, and let go with some angry outbursts (also as in "sogghigno di demone," and later "Aiuto!" as Scarpia is on top of poor Tosca on the floor.
In sum, she was fabulous, even after all the superb Toscas you know I have seen!!!
Marcello Giordani was his usual brilliant self, singing top notes ("La vita mi costasse' and "Vittoria" reminiscent of a Corellian brilliance, and he sings the "E lucevan" with some beautiful pianissimi and amazing breath control. I am glad he will do Radames next season and thankfully in act two,unlike Mr.Alagna, he WILL sing the top notes. I found it lots of fun that when the two of them sang the B on "diffonderem!" in act three, the two voices were so equally brilliant that I long for the two of them in the Andrea Chenier act four final duet.
Mr.Gagnidze was a very exciting Scarpia,singing and acting with great emotion and power;it is not a great voice, but in this role he was able to sustain the level of "evil" and he was extremely effective, especially dancing with the three hookers.
I find it an extra blessing that the Met uses John Del Carlo (not a buffo voice) as the Sacristan, Eduardo Valdes, a bright-voiced tenor, as Spoletta, and Richard Bernstein,who should be elevated to larger roles, as Angelotti.
Thankfully, the olden days of having so-called "voiceless comprimarios" is gone, and even in smallish roles, these artists make a mark.
So you see, even after having heard some of the truly great Toscas, I was thrilled that I could enjoy an evening where i could resonant with many bravoes for a fine cast. GREAT NIGHT!!!! As ever, Il puzzo del giardino.