Tosca - San Antonio Opera

Rave alert.

Congratulations to Opera San Antonio for a spectacular Tosca. This is traditional grand opera done right. Every detail was beautiful--- gorgeous sets and costumes, a stunning lighting design, terrific wigs and makeup. Dottie Randall chorus sounded amazing and acted beautifully --- not surprisingly, as they are largely comprised of the best singing actors the greater Austin-San Antonio corridor has to offer, many of them soloists in their own right. The children's chorus were total pros. The direction was terrific. The orchestra was luminous. And the singing ... it's been a long time since I heard a cast this excellent across the board. Not a single weak link. Far from it. Every singer embodied his or her character fully in every way, and the singing was gorgeous, exciting, fulfilling.

The supporting roles were not cheated. They were each taken by substantial artists who each gave master classes in what thoughtful, detailed, well-crafted work can bring to a performance--- and shows how the lack of them robs a production of richness. I walked away last night a great admirer of Joel Sorensen, who was positively riveting as Spoletta. Philip Cokorinos was, of course, a wonderful Sacristan and complete luxury casting. Andrew Ward did a marvelous job as the Jailer, showcasing a robust bass. Alan Higgs is an up-and-comer to watch; he pulled double duty as Angelotti and Sciarrone with an authoritative baritone and convincing acting in both roles. (Alan was my Gregorio in Atlanta and will always be one of my beloved stage sweethearts --- he is a sweetheart on stage and off!) Even the little Shepherd Boy was joyously lovely, and I especially loved that he was onstage for his sweetly sung little arietta.

And now, the principals. Jennifer Rowley was an impetuous and charming Tosca. Her gleaming voice, filled with pathos, brought down the house after Vissi d'arte, but of course the role is more than that. Her relationship with Rafael Davila's Cavaradossi was playful, passionate, tender, and real; they received a long and well-deserved ovation after the opening duet. Tosca's jealousy can make her seem shrewish; in Rowley's hands, and with Rafi's depiction of Cavardossi's sweet, rueful, loving acceptance of his darling diva's flaws, it came across as a rather lovable quirk.

Rafi, who I've known since YAP days, showed why he is in demand for Cavaradossi. He was charming, he was heroic, and he sang his arias with a loving intensity and sensitive detail that pulled you in. His adoration of Tosca and understanding of her foibles was endearing and made him so much more than the standard cardboard opera hero. And his top was so effortless than for a moment, I questioned whether he were really singing high notes.

Michael Chioldi quite simply owns the role of Scarpia. Not only did he sing magnificently with his thrilling, utterly masculine baritone, but he gave us a Scarpia that the audience loved to hate. He gave us elegantly understated villainy, with an occasional glimpse at the vulnerability of a disturbed soul that desires love without really understanding it, and therefore perverts it. I believed that this Scarpia was really in love with Tosca, as far as he was capable of understanding love (which was not very far); intelligent enough to know that something he wanted was forever beyond his grasp, he settled for what he knew he could get: violence, the passion of hatred instead of love, and rape. The audience cheered --- not only applauded, but cheered --- each time Tosca stabbed him, and thoroughly booed him at the curtain call. To be clear, they were booing Scarpia, not Michael.

Folks, if you missed this Tosca, quite frankly, you missed one of the best operas of the season. Opera San Antonio, congratulations,and keep up the excellent work!

Cindy Sadler, Cindy Sadler
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